Take, for example, Referendum A: This was a blank check for water that the governor wanted us to sign over to him, essentially to promote more sprawl. Unlike the majority of our elected leadership, most Coloradans don't want more sprawl, they don't want secret deals and they defeated the measure 2-1.
In trying to wheedle votes for Referendum A, Colorado Gov. Bill Owens used the tired old tactic of automated phone calls to people across Colorado, leaving them a prerecorded message, in essence saying "Hi! I'm Bill Owens and I want you to vote for my water deal so it all doesn't flow downstream into the mouths of thirsty Democrats!" A few years ago, these computer-generated phone calls were a real novelty, as in, "Hey Martha! Listen to this! The guv'ner's on the phone!" But now these crank calls are just annoying, unwanted solicitations, especially for so many of us who signed up in droves to Colorado's do-not-call list.
Speaking of offensive uses of the mass phone bank, the campaign to pass bonds for the Pikes Peak Library District also delivered a blind dial-up -- from former librarian and First Lady Laura Bush herself! -- talking about how great the nation's library system is. The campaign also sent out a full-color glossy mass mailer starring the First Lady, who was quoted saying "I want people to rediscover the magic of libraries" and included no fewer than five photos of her. At the 11th hour, the library's board also vowed to name one of the library branches after Laura Bush.
The sudden rush to promote the First Lady also coincided with the announcement that library district director Jose Aponte has just been nominated to serve on a national library committee. The Laura Bush-is-our-local-librarian campaign was just bizarre, though, and voters rejected it by 57 percent.
And then there was county question 1A, the property tax to benefit the developmentally disabled. Well-paid campaign advisers Sarah Jack and Bob Gardner decided it would be a really neat trick to say horribly mean and offensive things about people with mental retardation and other disabilities, presumably to shock people into approving the tax (their campaign tactic was exposed in this column on Oct. 23 and can be read online at www.csindy.com). The Resource Exchange, the nonprofit organization that would have benefited from the tax, and that spent upward of $170,000 on the campaign, may as well have flushed the money down the toilet as the proposal failed 60 percent to 40 percent.
And how about Amendment 33, the gambling dog that a British company wanted us to pass, presumably to increase tourism and create jobs? Oh gee, now that's the kind of economic recovery we're all hoping for -- the opportunity to work at a racetrack where we can schlep drinks over to people who are staring glassy-eyed at video monitors while they pump their cash in -- the proceeds of which will be shipped off to England. That went down 81 percent to 19 percent.
There was only one big winner this year: Colorado Springs voucher-obsessed developer Steve Schuck, who continues his march toward total world domination. Barreling over a largely-mute teachers' union, Schuck's four candidates for the District 11 Board of Education seized the majority of the state's third largest school district.
Willie Breazell, Eric Christen, Craig W. Cox and Sandy Shakes were all the recipients of $4,000 worth of mailers from Schuck, as well as a nice little plug from Gov. Owens himself -- who endorsed the slate of four.
The candidates also shared many of the same campaign contributors -- a veritable who's who -- including $950 donations from Denver businessman Ed McVaney, who was the co-sponsor, along with Schuck, of 1998's failed Amendment 17 statewide voucher proposal. Denver businessman John Saeman and his wife Carol handed over $950 donations to the Colorado Springs school board candidates and other contributions came from former U.S. Sen. Bill Armstrong, former Congressman Bob Schaffer, state Sen. Andy McElhany, lobbyist and political operative Steve Durham and the Englewood-based Realtor's Political Action Committee. Local developers David Jenkins, Bruce Shepard and Ralph Braden also got in on the effort.
So congratulations, Mr. Schuck. And our condolences to all the losers. As for us voters, the good news is the election is over. The bad news is there's another one in just 12 months.