Election Time in the Rockies

There’s snow up in the high country, so it must be election time in Colorado.  It’s an odd-year election, but there’s always something interesting on the ballot here.  Voting has become very convenient in Colorado as well, although there’s no solid evidence that even the combination of interesting and convenient has done a lot to increase turnout.  Anyway…

First there’s the race for mayor and part of the city council rotation.  Local campaigns in my Denver suburb are actually pretty boring this year.  The development questions are all about what will happen around the three light rail stations that will open next year.  One looks to be a light industry hub; one higher-end apartments/condos, a hotel, restaurants and other retail; one has the local community college’s health care program and whatever builds on that.

The school district board election is more interesting.  Two seats are up in the regular rotation.  Colorado is a recall state, and for the other three seats, there’s a recall issue.  I’ve written about this before, and maintain my previous position: course content is within the proper purview of the board under the Colorado constitution, but people who are dumb enough to take on the suburban AP history students and their parents over a college-prep course are probably too dumb to be on the board.

Colorado’s also a referendum state, and under the state constitution, there’s the notion of “excess” revenue that must be refunded unless there’s a vote of the people to allow the state to keep it.  Newly legal recreational marijuana sales are taxed heavily.  Sales have been good, generating excess revenue.  The state legislature has referred a ballot item to the people [1] asking to keep that excess revenue to spend for specific purposes.  In this case the money is fungible — not always true in state and local budgets — and the excess would simply free up some General Fund dollars that can be spent on anything.  Still, tossing in some “it’s for the children” spending items doesn’t hurt.

Colorado’s an initiative state as well.  There’s a local initiative on the ballot.  During the last recession, the county commissioners broke long-standing promises and diverted some of the tax money that has always been earmarked for the library system for other uses.  The initiative asks for a small property tax increase whose revenue would be dedicated to the libraries and immune from commission action in the future.  I admit to being biased — I use library resources extensively, particularly the inter-library loan system, which provides me with access to the stacks at at least seven research universities and some smaller specialty schools.

Finally, Colorado is an almost-exclusively vote-by-mail state.  Every registered voter gets a paper ballot in the mail [2].  Ours arrived last week.  My wife and I sat at the kitchen table after supper one evening, debating the issues and marking the ballots.  Checking the county clerk’s web site, I can tell that my ballot has been received and processed.  Vote-by-mail is enormously popular here.  Asked the question “Should Colorado keep its vote-by-mail system?” more than 75% of both Republicans and Democrats say yes [3].  No one locally believes that there’s fraud going on (although I regularly read East Coast pundits who claim it must be there and we’re just too dumb to find it).

What’s on your ballot, and how convenient will it be for you to vote?


[1] Control of the legislature is split, with the Democrats holding a 34-31 advantage in the House and the Republicans 18-17 in the Senate.  Both chambers approved the ballot item.

[2] You can go to one of the (not many) voting centers in the state and cast your ballot in person if you like.  There’s same-day registration, which also requires you to go to one of the voting centers.

[3] There’s nothing else that both sides agree on to that extent.  Except possibly that Texans shouldn’t be allowed into the state.  People are still upset about the Texan who bought property up in one of the high valleys and then shot some of his neighbor’s buffalo.


Staff Writer

Michael is a systems analyst, with a taste for obscure applied math. He's interested in energy supplies, the urban/rural divide, regional political differences in the US, and map-like things. Bicycling, and fencing (with swords, that is) act as stress relief. ...more →

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33 thoughts on “Election Time in the Rockies

  1. People are still upset about the Texan who bought property up in one of the high valleys and then shot some of his neighbor’s buffalo.

    Were they wild, or was the guy raising them?

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    • The neighbor raised them. It was a bad winter and everyone’s livestock was wandering in search of better forage. The Texan hired hunters who killed 32 buffalo, mostly pregnant cows, some of them on US Forest Service and BLM land. The carcasses were left to rot. Even if they had all been on the Texan’s land, under Colorado law — dating back to the 1880s — you can’t kill loose livestock.

      Part of the problem was that the Texan got bad legal advice. He was an Austin IT millionaire, and used a Denver attorney who specialized in securities litigation and arbitration. Probably not the lawyer I would have chosen to consult on open-range statutes and case law.

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      • Fencing laws are really interesting. In Virginia, and I gather in most states, the original laws on the books are Fencing Exclusion laws. That is, you need to fence the areas you *don’t* want livestock to graze. It seems counter intuitive on two counts: 1) Most farmers fence their properties to keep their cattle in areas where they can manage them – so it gives the appearance that they are responsible to fence their cattle, and 2) most people assume that cattle on their land are a nuisance, and therefore the cattle owner is responsible for damages – not so.

        It gets all sort of complicated when you look at the sections pertaining to bulls and shared fences… but the primary law in VA (not including new laws in towns/suburbs) is that if you don’t want livestock eating your petunias, better build a fence.

        I had a crash course in fencing laws trying to get the railroad to pay for half of the half-mile fence we needed to keep our sheep from wandering onto their tracks through 50-yr old decrepit fences. They eventually split the cost.

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      • I’m still a bit confused as to why, if the Buffalo weren’t on his land, he decided it would be a good idea to kill them & leave them to rot?

        Kill them for the meat, I could understand, bad advice & all. But just for shits & giggles? WTF?

        Hopefully he got sued or charged or something…

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  2. Surprise, surprise, the big parts of the SF Ballot this year deal with housing, housing, and more housing.

    They are pretty basic props. The most interesting one was targeted at making sure landlords could not take units and turn them into short-term Air BnB rentals. Air BnB is dead set against this Prop. They took out ads which backfired in the most amazing way possible.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/23/business/media/airbnb-ads-flop-in-san-francisco.html?_r=0

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  3. Not that it really matters, but the image on the old post you link is gone. Based on the URL of the replacement, I suppose knows why; is it possible to restore the images?

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        • No memory issues – that concern or supposed concern was based on a misapprehension. In general, authors should go as big and bountiful with rights-cleared images as they can. It was the threat of a lawsuit (ill-founded, but potentially costly to defend all the same) that prompted the decision not only to go conservative, a policy that also respects the work of photographers and other artists, but to purge old images en masse, since going through all 11,000 posts and crediting or replacing image by image is obviously impractical. The only other practical alternative would have been to purge the posts themselves rather than preserve them in the archives.

          The “Image Removed” image is provided by a plug-in that I wrote that automatically replaces broken image links (produced by deleting the image but not replacing the HTML that links to it). Old posts can be restored to their former glory, but have to be handled one by one as exceptional cases.

          Policy is that even thumbnail images should be credited, but since there is actually an exception in the law for thumbnail images, we’re not as conscientious on them. There should be an image credit for the featured image on this post, too, to be a stickler.

          At some point we’ll produce a document on image policy and how to get good, usable images, with some instructions for authors on using a nifty tool called “Image Inject” and on getting credited, rights-cleared images from other sources. Authors who ignore policy when they draft their posts will be featured in the weekly floggings.

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  4. Virginia does their full legislative elections the year before the Presidential ones, so everyone in the Old Dominion is up right now. I’m in an area with a Democratic lock. The one interesting race is for my city’s mayor (which is a council – city manager form of government, so it’s not that powerful a position). The 4 term incumbent was ousted in the Dem primary by a narrow margin, and the winner running in the general unopposed, but the incumbent has pushed for a write in campaign a la Murkowski.

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  5. Houston’s got, I believe, some sort of ballot initiative trying to overturn the recent equal rites ordinance.

    I have been wanting to slap people, because the proponents of this initiative have been airing ads about how the law was designed so men could lurk in the women’s restrooms and leer at them.

    It really wasn’t. It was designed to ensure that men got to use the men’s room and women’s the women’s room. It’s just some idiots are a little confused as to what constitutes ‘man’ and ‘woman’. (I really feel for people transitioning. It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t issue with the restrooms. Hence the ordinance that basically says ‘If you’re transitioning, you get to use the restroom of the gender you’re transitioning to’. Because there’d been some actual issues there.).

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    • Texas has some constitutional amendments on the ballot, the first of which is pretty important (the one concerning highway funding). There’s also an amendment to remove the constitutional requirement that officials elected to statewide office live in Austin, which is good, because the fewer people we have moving here the better.

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        • Only after.

          The provision was originally placed in the state’s constitution because the state is so damn big that communication and travel to and from the capital could take some time, but there are people who still think it’s important for legal reasons. That is, Travis County (Austin’s county) has legal structures in place to investigate and prosecute corruption by state officials (and Texas, while not Illinois, is a pretty corrupt place), and the worry is that corrupt state officials will just take up residence in counties without such structures, or worse, with prosecutors who are unwilling to prosecute for political or personal reasons.

          I don’t really buy this, if for no other reason than that the Travis County folks aren’t particularly good about prosecuting corrupt officials anyway, but that’s the argument I’ve heard for not amending the constitution.

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      • There’s also an amendment to remove the constitutional requirement that officials elected to statewide office live in Austin…

        Should be good for local property values, but a raw deal for those poor schmucks in Houston, DFW, and San Antonio who won’t be able to unload their undesirables on Austin that way anymore.

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  6. Re: footnote [3]: I’ll never forgive them for colonizing Creede. It’s a shame what they’ve done to the place, flying those damn flags and all.

    The MJ tax refund was an interesting one to read about since the estimate for MJ tax revenue was above the actual amount collected ($67m projected, $66m collected) while total revenue projections were below actual collections by $270m. I can’t make head or tails of how they came to the conclusion that the $66m – and only $66m! – is subject to a refund initiative. (I’ll vote for the state to keep it.)

    One other measure I need to read more about is the anti-fracking initiative. Haven’t quite figured out what’s at stake with that one yet.

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    • One of the interesting things about being on the staff for the state legislature’s budget committee — for certain “take me out back of the building and beat me with a baseball bat because it will be less painful” values of interesting — was figuring out what was excess revenue that had to be refunded and the proper form of the refund.

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  7. During the last recession, the county commissioners broke long-standing promises and diverted some of the tax money that has always been earmarked for the library system for other uses. The initiative asks for a small property tax increase whose revenue would be dedicated to the libraries and immune from commission action in the future. I admit to being biased — I use library resources extensively, particularly the inter-library loan system, which provides me with access to the stacks at at least seven research universities and some smaller specialty schools.

    “Why don’t you ask us to fund the things you paid for by stealing library funds?”

    “We know that that ballot item would fail 93-7.”

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    • I do hope you know we’re all on tenterhooks for the results. And by “we” I mean, of course, Mark Thompson, Will Truman, and I since I don’t think anyone else is willing to admit that they are geeky vexillophiles.

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