No matter the ballot results, people care about issues

Craig Hall, Publisher
Craig Hall, Publisher

By the time this edition of the Business Times arrives on my doorstep for distribution, significantly less than 100 percent of eligible voters in Mesa County will have decided two important issues. While that’s how the system works, it doesn’t mean the system works, especially when it comes to understanding the full complexity of these issues.

I know that last sentence seems odd. But my simple take when it comes to writing opinion pieces is that people who vote crave information to make their own, rationed decisions. Frankly, I think this true about people who are active in any arena. They simply want truthful, transparent info when it comes to whatever it is they’re looking at, doing or thinking about.

And in that area, I feel both campaigns for our votes regarding the ballot initiatives fell short. But playing the emotion and fear cards for two initiatives I supported to informed voters usually gets your initiative voted down. That isn’t the fault of these two campaigns exclusively, but rather the result of a long history of many factors that surround government, including not telling people everything they deserve to know, poor handling of taxpayer money, making real information almost impossible to research, benchmarking monies for a specific purpose while taking other money earmarked for that purpose and spending it elsewhere and using the excuse you don’t have enough money as the only excuse ever as to why things aren’t right.

Let’s look at the school bond issue first. Almost every ad I saw or heard contained the underlying message that unless you voted for it, you didn’t support our children, want our kids to have a safe learning environment or care if textbooks are 50 years old. The fact is, for the people I know — and I’ll take the risk of speaking for people I don’t know — nothing could be further from the truth. You might have people who don’t care about the issue. Fair enough. But let’s be honest when it comes to the education of kids in this country, anyone with an ounce of care  cares very much about those issues — but perhaps in different ways.

Here’s my take on their wrong take on Issue 3. As I said, the gist of the campaign was that those who didn’t support it were anti-kid (my take) in some way. For the record, I voted yes on the A part because it was  obvious we have some emergency concerns. I voted no on the B part because no one in their right mind would allow more debt to a business plan that has proven it doesn’t work.

Perhaps I look at it differently than most. My research shows that since 1997, the budget for Mesa County School District 51 has gone up 70 some percent, and at times was double. The district’s debt tripled. And it passed a bond issue to address many of the very concerns it’s bringing up now. So perhaps the folks who started this could address these things more openly in how this time it will be different. Because over the past two decades, our tax dollars have garnered us no new textbooks, a couple of buildings while the rest got older and fell apart and a bunch of new employees while enrollment went up in smaller percentages than the money. So where did the money go?

There’s also the Denver factor (which will never be solved due to votes and dollars), the so-called negative factor and TABOR. All true. But that’s on our reps to battle in Denver and you to explain to the voters you seek. I have no clear idea how TABOR works exactly (government is constantly doing workarounds, so what good is it except when screwing counties with smaller voices?) and no clue on what exactly the negative factor is. Just yelling “we’re losing money” is not a reason to spend more. Also, it also doesn’t help to fund PERA at 100 percent while kids suffer.

I think a better campaign would have been to get the exact facts out about TABOR, the negative factor and some soul-searching between the district and PERA on getting money to the kids — to the point of resigning if you don’t do it as planned if the vote is approved. That way, we ALL have skin the game, not just the taxpayers.

As for Issue 1, I voted yes for one reason: Putting criminals behind bars is a legitimate role of government. I doubt anyone besides criminals disagrees. But if it went down, it will be because supporters failed to get out in front of the issue with a better point of reference. Saying crime is up 500 percent is simply playing on fear because in Mesa County the number of those crimes is small. Also, the 500 percent figure doesn’t give folks perspective, considering major crime was down for most of the proceeding decade. So it’s based on a much smaller number than say, 2000 to 2005.

I would have run the campaign on one word: pot. It’s the major cause of crime going up and a negative, major reason we don’t have more funding, since we don’t get much revenue from it.

But the voters got fear and shame instead of transparency and truth. That’ll get you a no vote almost every time.