When “Let’s put it on the next ballot” is all you got

Craig Hall

It’s almost the first Tuesday in November, and we all know what that means. It’s time to take more money out of taxpayers’ pockets for our schools, roads and the children, this time with a good measure of our water tossed in.

I don’t write that sentence lightly because I know it will come with much criticism from the very folks with which many in this town think I blindly go along. But as things also go with criticism I receive from those who believe I blindly follow, I say this to all: You must not read everything I write.

While I might seem to many like the three famous mice, I call things as I see them. That’s why I pay myself a small business owner’s pittance. Someone has to write a column that stimulates neural activity outside the public relations campaigns promoting the premise the government owns all your money, has the absolute authority over what to do with your money and should be above reproach on what it does with your money.

Government should be the last entity to tell you what to do with your property because it’s every bit as fallible or corrupt or wasteful as anyone to whom you wouldn’t lend a red cent. But I’ll tell you what government is great at: Taxing you in ways you never see because the mortgage company pays it, your employer pays it and retailers collect it. Before you know it, you’re losing 10 bucks a month here, 12 bucks a month there and — voila —a 100 bucks or more a month. Think it’s just a couple cups of coffee? Try asking a friend if they’ve got a grand to loan you. Trust me, they don’t — for the reasons just mentioned above.

All of this leads me to generally vote no on ballot initiatives because those are MY cups of coffee. But this time it’s mainly because these folks should have been planning for these needs all along. Plus, at some point when getting nickeled and dimed, you run out of nickels and dimes.

On Proposition CC, the state already overspent under our governor. So giving it more to overspend is a no. As for Proposition DD, the state of Colorado’s budget is over $30 BILLION a year. If the state government can’t find less than a tenth of 1 percent for a desperately needed — yet never implemented — water plan, I’m certainly not gonna let it run a protection racket for the casinos on sports betting. Plus, gambling, as a foundational building block of this country, should be completely legal.

Closer to home, let’s start with Ballot Measure 4A. Just a few short years ago, we were told our schools were crumbling and if we didn’t pass a measure to begin fixing things, all was lost. Well, we did, and the schools went about fixing things all while ignoring the elephant in the room: a 30-plus-year-old, much-needed replacement for Grand Junction High School (GJHS). Additionally, it seems to have not made fully secure plans with the previous bond monies regarding safety installations it promised for our schools.

This makes addressing the two main points of Ballot Measure 4A difficult at the risk of offending, but they need to be said.

Over the three decades we’ve been told GJHS needs replacing, Mesa County School District 51 has saved zero dollars toward its replacement. Zero. Even harder to address is the fact school violence has increased since Columbine. One would think protecting children at every school would be the top priority for District 51 every year since then. Yet, securing our schools has been an integral part of the last two ballot initiatives?

If these were sudden, out-of-the-blue needs, I’d get behind a ballot initiative. But these are not. And like it or not, District 51 has been lax at addressing them.

This could have been solved years ago with separate ballot proposals for school safety and a new GJHS. How hard would it be to ask, “We need X million dollars to upgrade security measures at ALL of our school buildings” and put it on a ballot? I suggested as much two years ago when safety was part of that ballot measure. Who wouldn’t vote YES? Next, the average high school project in the United States costs $45 million. Why not propose a couple of plans and give citizens a choice on which new GJHS they’d rather have? Put the popular choice on the ballot, and you’d already have a new GJHS.

As for city Measure 2A, it’s much like Proposition CC as a TABOR override. The city has revenues to spend each year and it should budget based on them, less 10 percent in case projections that tend to be off are, indeed, off. The “bonds-r-us” policies of the city need to stop. Put it this way: If you went to your bank and asked to quadruple your debt with basically the same income that could go down depending on the economy, what would your banker say? He wouldn’t override bank policy and hand you a check.

If taxpayers need a strict plan, budget and proof of performance when asking for money, so should the government. I don’t want to write these words, but I just don’t see any of that happening here.

Craig Hall is owner and publisher of the Business Times. Reach him at 424-5133 or publisher@thebusinesstimes.