Schools money-hungry & thin-skinned

Editor: Conservative gadfly Tom Graham of Arvada scored a media coup with his satirical "why vote yes" entry in the Jefferson County election mailer giving arguments for and against a nearly $1 billion education proposal. The kerfuffle was big news in the Denver Post this week, and the Rocky did a similar story. Here is Graham's report on the aftermath. ================================


The campaign supporting 3A and 3B, the big tax and bond package, issued a press release, condemning me for submitting a “pro” statement for the election notice. I was advised that Citizens for Jeffco Schools had already submitted a statement and mine wasn’t needed.

The district feels that the election notice process is their property, not a legal public right, unless someone mirrors their agenda. Districts use strategies such as having staff write both the pro and con sides of an issue. Let someone disagree and a storm breaks loose. Now there’s a movement to change the election notice law to hide their true agenda. I did not imply that I was speaking for the district, and my statements are factual, except for those that are opinion.

The district superintendent stated to the Denver Post, “We did edit out the personal attacks on some of our citizens.” These were called “offensive” in their press release. Evidently they weren’t offensive enough to keep the district from placing them in the Post, with ten times as many readers. These two horrible “attacks,” were a compliment, and a reference to an Obama slogan.

I’ve received 13 media contacts and a number of compliments, some from political leaders, plus one threat. Speaking of attacks, a friend who had no knowledge of the notice, was attacked in a flood of e-mails for merely being with me when I submitted it.

The notice is a forum available to the fixed income folks to oppose repeated tax increases. They have no money for a campaign. One of the district’s political action committees, Citizens for Jeffco Schools, spent hundreds of thousands, contributed by 294 donors. Thirteen donors contributed $5,000 or more each, with three giving a total of $95,000.

These ballots are designed to convince uninformed voters to approve a self-serving agenda. Note the overblown non-teaching segment of their budget, dismal student performance, and teacher union domination. 3A asks for a mill levy override almost double that of the next highest in the state. 3B is slightly less than the state’s highest, Douglas County’s.

A debt service of $754 million, plus a 4.4 mill rate increase, adds up to an additional $103 million looting of the public pocketbook next year, increasing each year, with no sunset provision. Their press release states, “…many Jeffco seniors will actually see a reduction in their school property tax even if 3A passes because of the Homestead Exemption.” This falsely implies a connection between the tax and the exemption.

They state, “A yes vote on 3A/3B will keep our property values strong….” As anyone involved in real estate knows, the opposite is true. Perpetual tax increases price properties and buyers out of the market. Where’s the apology for these misrepresentations?

These ballots are so preposterous that they lend themselves to satire. If anyone over at the district was sophisticated enough to have read Swift’s “A Modest Proposal,” they might have been amused, rather than so uptight.

Email Tom Graham at