It's an odd-numbered year, elections aren't on my mind, but here's this ballot in my mail and no clue which candidates believe as I do.
The Regional Transportation District in metro Denver is Colorado's fourth largest government as measured by spending. Its power is immense, yet the 15-member board has a low political profile and elections remain nonpartisan despite efforts by some of us to help inform voters by identifying candidates with the Republican or Democratic or whatever party brand (corresponding roughly though not exactly to more or less fiscal discipline and respect for markets). With help from my conservative friends Natalie Menten, a current RTD director; Neil Quinlan, a former director; and Dennis Polhill of the Independence Institute, we've pegged the following 2014 board candidates as Republicans. The list is alpabetical by district. Francone is the one I'm really high on.
District J - Larry Hoy District K - Rich Monroe District L - Lorraine Anderson District N - Tina Francone
Centennial's city council, at its 13 August meeting, authorized a November ballot proposal allowing the city to "retain and spend excess revenues." TABOR, our Taxpayer's Bill of Rights in the Colorado constitution, permits a government to retain a limited amount the prior year's revenue increased by the inflation rate plus the percentage increase in real property valuation. Revenue collected above that threshold must be returned to the taxpayers. About 65% of Centennial's revenue is already exempt from that revenue cap. The remaining 35% is temporarily exempt as well. The exemption expires on 31 December 2013. The city's ballot measure would seek to make that expiring exemption permanent.
Several obvious paths should be considered before voters approve granting the city permanent exemption on all of its revenue.
* While continued economic recession still depresses the city's revenue, voters could approve another temporary waiver. Granted that elections are costly, but the city holds elections every other year anyway for city council members and every fourth year for mayor.
* If the amount to be returned is unreasonably small for the cost and effort needed, voters could allow the city to retain excess revenue until the return amount reached some practical, cost-effective figure.
* Rather than asking permission to retain excess, Centennial could lower its taxes and fees. Thus the city would not have the problem of excess revenue.
Lower taxes and fees would promote economic growth and jobs, thus increasing both the city's revenue and the people's well-being. Even the IRS refunds over-payments.
Despite the wrong-headed Colorado statute barring party affiliations from the ballot in local elections, we all know it matters a lot whether any office in the land, high or low, is held by a Democrat or a Republican. Democrats generally favor government solutions, unions, collectivist approaches, taxes and spending. Republicans are more generally skeptical of those things. This can end up making a huge difference.
This year's election that closes on Nov. 1, earlier than usual, will present voters with numerous "Who's that?" moments as no-name candidates parade across the nonpartisan ballot in a season of minimal publicity and low turnouts.
Here's a rundown of the GOP (or school reform) candidates just a few metro-Denver localities. In Aurora, Republicans running for Mayor include businessman Jude Sandvall, Councilman Ryan Frazier, and former councilman Steve Hogan. Sandvall is the only one who opposes the massive taxpayer subsidy to Gaylord Entertainment Corporation. He has my strong support.
In Centennial, where I live, Republicans seeking city council seats include Sharon West in District 1, Craig Klosterman in District 2, Ken Lucas in District 3, and Stephanie Piko in District 4.
In Cherry Creek Schools, my local district, the board election was cancelled for lack of any challengers to the incumbents running again. Pathetic, and evidence of a clever game the insiders play; but that's a discussion for another day.
School board races that are being contested, and with very high stakes for choice, charters, high standards, and pushback against the unions include these: Douglas County - The Republican slate is Justin Williams, Craig Richardson, and Kevin Larsen.
Jefferson County - The Republican slate is Preston Branaugh and Jim Powers.
Denver County - The sole GOP contender is John Daniel, running at large. The reform slate consists of Happy Haynes in the at-large race along with Anne Rowe and Jennifer Draper Carson in the two district races.
Elizabeth - Chip Swan is running against two Democrat-backed candidates.
Adams County, District 12 - Republicans committed to reform include Norm Jennings and Mark Clark. In a third race it's complicated because Richard Ezo, the U candidate, is more of a reformer than Max Willsey, an R who is union-funded. So vote carefully there. Everyone in Adams 12 can vote in all three races.
If your community is not covered in the above listing, it only takes a few quick inquiries by phone, email, or web search to find out who the local Republican candidates are.
Don't vote by guesswork or hearsay. Take the time to find out which team jersey is which, under the generic shirts they're all forced to wear. You will be glad you did!
The blunder of the decade in Colorado government was Bill Ritter’s edict to unionize all state employees. Why on earth would his fellow Democrat, Rebecca McClellan, consider the same idea for all county employees as she runs for Arapahoe County Commissioner? Maybe it has something to do with all the contributions she’s quietly taken from union organizations – some out of state – for several election cycles now. That, and McClellan’s glaring lack of business experience or business support. She simply has no context for understanding how to run a productive payroll or how to foster economic growth.
What a contrast with Mayor Nancy Sharpe – an experienced businesswoman, proven executive, and the only candidate talking about jobs. No wonder McClellan is full of phony indignation about Sharpe’s donations from developers. She has to distract voters from the unflattering matchup of pro-union liberal vs. pro-jobs conservative at a time when most of us in Arapahoe County are tired of the recession and looking for leaner government.
Mayor Sharpe has been endorsed by every member of the city council that serves with her – Democrats and Republicans alike. These are her colleagues who know her best, and they support her even across party lines. Four past county commissioners here in District 2 have also endorsed Nancy, as have the founders of the City of Centennial, the South Metro Denver Realtors Association, and the Home Builders Association.
That’s easy to understand, because her conservative credentials are strong. In the private sector, Sharpe oversaw multi-million dollar budgets and a hundred employees. As Mayor, she ELIMINATED ALL CITY DEBT, created a rainy day fund, and REDUCED SPENDING while maintaining service levels -- all without raising taxes. Few other elected leaders have comparable bragging rights these days.
McClellan, lacking much of a record and weak on the issues, has based her campaign on attacking Sharpe’s character and frightening the voters about transportation. That’s not credible because, after all, it was Nancy Sharpe who led the effort to secure $4 million for current improvements to I-25/Arapahoe to reduce congestion and help KEEP CARS OUT OF NEIGHBORHOODS. I’ve wasted too much time, as you probably have, in the slow crawl on Arapahoe Road, so it’s to see this work finally occurring.
Poor Rebecca is flailing. Her alarmist rhetoric, liberties with the truth, and melodramatic “emergency meetings” have community leaders shaking their heads. I’m concerned that her tactics could poison the whole issue and threaten any future improvements to the intersection – just around the corner from where I’ve lived since 1974.
That offends me, and it offends McClellan’s colleague in Centennial government, Mayor Pro Tem Ron Weidmann. “Don’t believe the personal attacks, misinformation, and mudslinging by Sharpe’s Democratic opponent about the redevelopment of I-25 and Arapahoe,” he warns. “It’s all created as a political tool to further her career.”
Jim Dyer, who is retiring as commissioner in District 2, told me that based on his firsthand knowledge of both contenders, “Nancy Sharpe is the candidate you can trust to bring real solutions and not play politics with the facts. She’s the one who secured those millions from T-REX for widening the Arapahoe interchange.”
So we have one candidate who brings real solutions and the other who simply cries wolf. In the faceoff between Sharpe the conciliator, conservative and pro-jobs, and McClellan the divisive pro-union liberal, I choose Steady Nancy.