Ask First issue on three local ballots

"Hands off workers' paychecks" will become the standard for local government in Centennial, Englewood, and Greeley, if voters agree in the November 6 election. The issue appears on the ballot as Question 200 in all three cities. Here is an oped I circulated as chairman of the Yes on 200 campaign in Centennial. The same logic applies in Englewood and Greeley. It's all part of a movement called Ask First that is gathering strength in localities across Colorado.


It was a proud day for many of us, back in September 2000, when the people of Centennial used a citizen petition to create Colorado’s newest city. This year, Centennial citizens have petitioned for Question 200, a proposed city ordinance supporting fairness and common sense. It deserves your support on our fall ballot.

At issue is whether unions and other dues-based organizations should be given access to city employees' paychecks, or whether these groups should collect money directly from their members. Question 200 would take our city government out of the role as middleman and leave employees' private decisions private.

Right now, there is nothing preventing any group, including political groups, from coming in and collecting automatic deductions from city employees' paychecks. Some people might like the idea of the NRA raising extra money that way, and others the ACLU. But that shouldn't be the role of government.

As long as the money that funnels through the city payroll system can come back to finance a candidate's election or influence her vote on a specific issue, we citizens can lose confidence in our officials. Passing Question 200 prevents the problem.

The city would be safeguarded from making financial transactions for special interests, but would keep deducting the things it's supposed to deduct. Our county commissioners had the foresight to approve this policy, and no harm has been done.

Like Arapahoe County, Centennial's payroll system still will be required to withhold taxes, make payments for health insurance and deposit pension funds, and fill court-ordered obligations to collect alimony and child support.

As for city employees who wish to have deductions made for their favorite charities—be it the United Way, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, or the Humane Society—they will sign a form each year approving the transaction. It's just a courtesy to make sure they're asked first.

All this also means the city payroll department will stay focused on essential services, and only on charitable causes close to the heart of its employees.

Employees who want to give money to associations, dues organizations, or political groups will have the same right to do so. Personal checks and electronic deposits through banks or credit unions give them that right and give them that control, but will keep government out of it. Question 200 is just the right thing to do.