- Illustration by Elena Trapp
No excuses. You live in one of the freest societies on the planet (yes, even today) and that didn’t happen by accident. So on Nov. 5, be sure your votes have been cast, as it’s Election Day, and if you live in the Pikes Peak region, you have some decisions to make.
The Indy’s editorial board has done its best to take the guesswork out of this election. We’ve looked into issues such as the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights as it relates to Proposition CC. We’ve done our homework on the legalization of sports gambling. We’ve researched and made endorsements on issues in Manitou Springs and spent time with both mayoral candidates. We sent our questions to school board candidates throughout the region and published their responses at csindy.com.
From education to transportation to parks and recreation, we’ve dissected issues that will impact southern Colorado. And while this is not a presidential election year, voting in off-year elections can have a significant impact on local legislation.
We’ve made it as easy on you, the voter, as possible. So fill out your ballot. Get it in before Election Day. Do your duty as an engaged citizen.
Local Ballot Issues
- David Shankbone
Issue 2B: Retain Revenue for Parks and Recreation
Issue 2B or not 2B? As if that were even a question.
There’s, frankly, no reason not to support Issue 2B this November. It asks whether the city should be allowed to keep and spend up to $7 million in existing tax revenue that would otherwise have to be returned under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. It does not raise or impose new taxes.
The plan, with voters’ blessing, is to spend the money on parks, sports and cultural facilities and trail-improvement projects. Specifically:
Repair, restoration and improvements to Acacia, Antlers, Monument Valley, Palmer and Panorama parks;
Repair, restoration and improvements to Alamo Square and the Pioneers Museum;
Repair, restoration and improvements to Cottonwood Creek baseball fields, the Leon Young Sports Complex, Boulder Park sports courts and Thorndale Park sports courts;
Trail improvements to the Homestead, Mesa, Sand Creek and Legacy Loop trails;
The Repair and repaving of Evergreen and Fairview cemetery parking areas; and
The preparation of a master plan for Coleman Park. It’s hard to imagine a more equitable distribution of citywide funding, or to think of a better way to positively impact the physical and emotional health of our community.
Parks and recreation options provide environmental, aesthetic and recreational benefits to our city. They can enhance property values and attract new residents of all ages.
The money is already there, and parks, trails and sports complexes are in need. Invest in our community by letting the city keep this revenue. Vote yes on 2B.
- Vote Yes
Issue 2C: Road Improvements
In 2015, voters passed the original 2C with 64.72 percent of the vote, finally addressing decades of neglected repairs and maintenance on the city’s roadways. Without passage of the 2C extension, the work that began in January 2016, focusing on main arterials, will end in December 2020. This second round of taxation is designed to bring much-needed repairs to “residential streets, park and city golf course access roads and cemetery roads.”
- City of Colorado Springs
The original 0.62 percent sales tax has generated about $50 million a year, which, as of Sept. 30, has paid for 783 resurfaced lane miles, 609,033 linear feet of curb and gutter, 1,287,633 square feet of sidewalk and 4,055 pedestrian ramps. The 2021-25 version of 2C carries a slightly lower price tag — 0.57 percent (5.7 cents on a $10 purchase).
The beauty of 2C is its transparency. Beyond the fact that taxpayers can SEE the progress (frequently forced to slalom through forests of orange cones on their way from Point A to Point B), the city’s website lets us follow the work plan by year — coloradosprings.gov/2cpavinglist. That same web page lists streets proposed for improvement under the 2C extension. You can see the distribution of work at tinyurl.com/2C-extension-map.
Beyond fixing potholes, 2C funds are designed to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements by adding pedestrian ramps and establishing passable routes, making the city’s paved environment usable by all of its citizens.
- Vote Yes
Manitou Mayor: Co-Endorsement
- Courtesy Pikes Peak Bulletin
- Alan Delwiche
Our board is split between two very similar, rock-solid candidates, Alan Delwiche and John Graham. Both are: Dependable. Level-headed. Smart. Honest. Long-time residents. Retired computer executives. Neither has served on council, but both have done much for Manitou via decades of service on city boards and commissions as well as local nonprofits.
Graham (pictured on the right) is a self-proclaimed action-oriented individual who wants to get needed things done. He’ll take the time to get community input, but he wants to implement solutions as quickly as possible. He asks insightful questions based on historic knowledge he acquired as editor/publisher of the Pikes Peak Journal, which his family owned for generations until its sale in 1999. Also a longtime AdAmAn Club member, he’s on top of issues related to the Cog Railway, Manitou Incline and Barr Trail. The more extroverted Graham would be a better ambassador and spokesperson for the town.
- Courtesy Pikes Peak Bulletin
- John Graham
Delwiche is more patient and process-oriented. After the contentious conflicts recent mayors and councils have had with one another as well as with other community members, Delwiche has the steady temperament and collaborative expertise to bring the community together. He’s already shown that with more than two decades of continuous service on city boards and commissions, including as chair of Manitou’s Planning Commission for the past 12 years. That, plus his time on the Housing Advisory Board, makes him more knowledgeable about the city’s inner workings.
Whatever the outcome, Manitou Springs will be well served if both Graham and Delwiche stay involved with the city for years to come. No matter whom you vote for, Manitou will be the winner.
Issue 2E: Transfer Leftover Funds to Downtown Improvements
- Visit COS.com
This request would transfer $182,000 left over from a recently expired 2004 bond measure. The extra funds are largely due to sales tax revenue generated by the city’s two recreational marijuana shops. If approved, this money will pay for needed downtown projects. Makes sense to us.
- Vote Yes
Issue 2D: Manitou Springs Arts, Culture and Heritage Initiative
Manitou Springs has led the region in so many trailblazing ways. It was one of the first communities to actively embrace its LGBTQ residents and visitors, adopting the rainbow as the town’s symbol and flag. It was the first to pass a small tax to buy and maintain local trails, open space and parks (TOPS). The first to have a single residential trash hauler, specifically to reduce costs, reduce truck traffic and lower its carbon footprint. The first — and so far the only — community between Pueblo and Denver to allow the sale and taxation of recreational marijuana.
Manitou may soon lay claim to another first. This time community members seek to become the first city in our region to pass a dedicated tax to support the arts, culture and heritage attractions that do so much to keep Manitou authentic and vibrant. The tax would generate between $300,000 and $400,000 annually through renewing a recently retired 0.3 percent sales tax. That’s just 30 cents for every $100 spent, much by visitors.
About two-thirds of the money raised would support some of Manitou’s major assets: Carnegie Library, Manitou Art Center, Manitou Springs Heritage Center, Miramont Castle and Hiawatha Gardens parking. The remaining third, anticipated to be between $100,000 and $140,000 a year, would fund a competitive process of mini-grants to local arts and cultural nonprofits. With likely guidance from a proposed citizens advisory committee, City Council would determine which nonprofits receive funding each year.
Not only do we strongly endorse this proposal, we also hope Colorado Springs someday will enact a similar initiative.
- Vote Yes
Lewis-Palmer School District D-38 Bond
When Lewis-Palmer School District 38’s bond issue didn’t win over voters last year, it was amid criticism that the ballot language constituted a “blank check” to be spent on whatever the district wanted, rather than the construction of a new elementary school as promised. In 2019, the district has revised ballot language to specify that its requested $28.985 million bond would be used “solely for the purpose of: constructing and equipping a new elementary school in Jackson Creek.” This plan would include turning Bear Creek Elementary School into the district’s second middle school.
The district hopes to address growing capacity needs as development continues in the Tri-Lakes area, easing pressure on teachers and students in already-crowded classrooms.
We at the Indy support this bond issue, which would not impact every homeowner — it would increase taxes for business and residential properties valued at $400,000 or more. How? Steadily decreasing district debt on past projects (Prairie Winds Elementary and Palmer Ridge high), higher home values in the district (meaning increased property tax revenue) and an increasing tax base due to new development make possible what D-38 is calling “the most conservative bond proposal.”
While other arguments against suggest that this funding would free up even more money for the district’s selective-admission charter school, Monument Academy (which does not face overcrowding issues), we believe the promise of alleviating capacity woes at the district’s public schools outweighs such speculation.
- Vote Yes
Disclosure: Editor-In-Chief Bryan Grossman’s wife is a teacher at D-38, and three of publisher Amy Sweet’s children graduated from D-38 schools. Both live in the district. Grossman recused himself from conversations regarding this endorsement.
Proposition CC: Retain TABOR Refunds for Transportation and Education
Colorado’s Proposition CC effectively “de-Bruces” the state of Colorado, allowing it to keep excess revenue and use it for transportation and education, instead of refunding it to the residents of Colorado.
It’s a measure that keeps the best part of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which requires that voters approve any new taxes by any local or state governmental body. But it ends the complicated and onerous formula that demands that the state return excess revenue based on population growth and inflation. Typically, the state returns between $26 and $90 to each taxpayer annually during growth years. During recessions, the state must curtail certain services, because TABOR ties the General Assembly’s hands when it comes to being able to save adequately for those inevitable economic downturns.
With this extra money — about $310 million in 2019-2020 and $342 million estimated for 2020-2021 — we could improve roads across the state, ending traffic jams on Powers Boulevard, which is a state highway receiving little state attention. We could ease summer traffic to the mountains on Highway 24. It could end the inevitable hours-long stops on Interstate 70, the winter gateway to many ski resorts. And it could improve educational outcomes for students. Colorado is woefully behind in state funding for education, consistently ranking near the bottom in measure after measure. Investing in education is investing in the future. We have a growing workforce skills gap, and voting for Proposition CC is a means to develop skills for the future that match the needs of Colorado businesses.
An added safeguard: The state auditor will hire a third-party auditor to make sure the money is used as promised. And it’s allotted this way in the ballot measure: $103 million to public schools; $103 million to public higher education and $103 million to state and local highway and transit projects. The next year, those figures rise to $114 million each.
Remember, Colorado Springs has its own TABOR measure. This proposition won’t affect local laws. There’s no need to be concerned about overreach or overspending by City Council or the mayor’s office. Voters will continue to decide whether to allow the city to keep excess revenue for specific projects.
Proposition CC frees the decisionmakers in the state legislature to do what we elected them to do: Govern. Because it limits the funding to transportation and education, there won’t be any wild spending sprees in Denver. Instead, we can look forward to smoother commutes and brighter educational futures.
- Vote Yes
Proposition DD Legalize Sports Betting with Tax Revenue for Water Projects Measure
The horse has already left the gate, so to speak, when it comes to Proposition DD, the ballot initiative that, if passed, would legalize sports betting in the state and create tax revenue for water projects. The Indy endorses Prop DD for several reasons.
First, both legal and black market sports gambling are nothing new — nearly $5 billion went through Las Vegas casino sports books in 2017 alone, according to the UNLV Center for Gaming Research. Passing Prop DD would keep some of that money in Colorado while taxing it and using revenue to ensure Colorado’s water sustainability.
The passage of Prop DD would result in the implementation of a $29 million tax on casinos’ sports-betting proceeds “to fund a systematic and bipartisan effort to preserve Colorado’s water future,” according to the group Yes on DD. “A small portion of the revenue from the tax will be used to regulate and enforce gaming, and the vast majority of the proceeds — 93% in all — will be used as a down payment to fund ‘Colorado’s Water Plan,” the group states.
Second, Prop DD has bipartisan support. It was introduced by representatives Alec Garnett, D-2, and Patrick Neville, R-45; and senators Kerry Donovan, D-5, and John Cooke, R-13.
Finally, the U.S. Supreme Court recently overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which means individual states can determine if they want to legalize sports betting. Gambling on sports will be legal in Colorado next summer whether or not Prop DD passes. In addition, voters in municipalities with casinos will also be able to determine whether those casinos will be allowed to participate.
There is limited opposition to Prop DD, but the Indy points out that its passage would allow easier access to sports gaming, which would likely exacerbate gambling-related social issues.
Ballotpedia.org points out that, “Of the millions in potential revenue, only $130,000 each year is dedicated to gambling addiction services, and this amount does not grow with an increase in sports betting activity.”
Ideally, funding for gambling addiction interventions would be greater and grow in proportion to betting. But ensuring an adequate water supply as the state’s population booms is a gamble we’re willing to take.
- Vote Yes