The Home Front: Across Colorado, voters opened their wallets for schools, cops and housing, approved public broadband, and curbed drilling

Your post-Election Day roundup of stories from the front pages of newspapers across Colorado

The Home Front: Across Colorado, voters opened their wallets for schools, cops and housing, approved public broadband, and curbed drilling

Voters across Colorado chose public broadband access despite a flood of big money against it and opened their wallets for sales, pot or property tax hikes to pay for schools, public safety, workforce housing, fire, and fairgrounds. In Cañon City, voters approved a 10-year TABOR timeout, but voters in Pueblo seemed to sink a tax for a new jail. Cities and municipalities will get new mayors, including in Manitou Springs where The Centrist Project plowed thousands into the race to unsuccessfully keep an incumbent. In Broomfield, voters overwhelmingly voted to beef up their town’s stance against oil-and-gas drilling. In Colorado Springs, voters for the first time in nearly 20 years voted to hike taxes for a school district.

Here are the post-election headlines gracing the front pages of newspapers across Colorado:

“Denver voters on Tuesday unleashed a decade of roadwork and improvement projects at libraries, parks, city buildings, and health and cultural facilities with their resounding support of the city’s $937 million bond package,” reports The Denver Post. “The city’s largest-ever bond program — and the first sent to voters in a decade — was passing strongly. Support for each of seven ballot questions ranged from nearly 66 percent to 73 percent as of 11:30 p.m., with the highest margin for the transportation package. The Denver Elections Division still was processing tens of thousands of ballots that came in on Election Day but said the results so far likely reflected the majority of votes. In a low-turnout election, voters delivered a big victory to Mayor Michael Hancock and other city leaders who took a gamble by proposing the high-price tag project list. Hancock said during an election night party downtown that the results made for ‘a very special night in the life of our city.’ It was the culmination of a monthslong community committee process that whittled down 4,000 suggestions from the public before Hancock and the City Council finalized the list.”

“Voters in El Paso County shed their anti-tax reputation Tuesday, giving landslide approval to using $14.5 million in tax dollars for transportation and other projects, bringing new stormwater fees to Colorado Springs and granting a $42 million property tax increase for School District 11, unofficial results showed,” according to The Gazette in Colorado Springs. “Manitou Springs chose a new mayor, and the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority won the OK – with about two-thirds of the vote – to spend up to $10 million of its money on the widening of Interstate 25 between Monument and Castle Rock, according to totals with about 85 percent of the ballots counted.” (It was the first time voters passed a tax increase for the city’s largest school district in 17 years.)

“Fort Collins residents want access to super-fast internet service, and they want it sooner rather than later,” reports The Coloradoan in Fort Collins. “Voters on Tuesday approved a city proposal that would permit the City Council to establish a telecommunications utility to provide broadband services. Unofficial, partial returns as of 12:42 a.m. showed the measure passing with 57.15 percent of the vote. Ballot Question 2B does not require the council to create the utility. It gives council flexibility in setting up a business model for providing high-speed internet, including entering into a partnership with a private company.”

“Broomfield voters overwhelmingly supported Issue 301 — an amendment that proponents said would strengthen Broomfield’s stance on oil and gas development — by a nearly 15 point margin,” reports The Boulder Daily Camera. “As of 10:40 p.m., 11,646 people had voted to add language to the Home Rule Charter regarding large-scale industrial developments; 8,605 people had voted against. The win came despite a Herculean effort by an issue committee, which received funds from oil and gas groups, spending more than $200,000 to defeat the issue. In contrast, Broomfield Health and Safety First, a Project of LOGIC, spent about $3,500 supporting the measure.”

“A proposal to increase Longmont’s municipal sales tax for public safety spending, as well as a measure that would impose a new sales tax on purchases of marijuana, were on their way toward easy victory Wednesday morning based on unofficial but still partial vote totals,” reports The Longmont Times-Call. “A third Longmont ballot question, one seeking voters’ authorization for the city to issue up to $36.3 million in bonds for a water storage project, also was heading toward approval in those early Wednesday vote counts, but by a lesser margin than the tax measures.”

“Sheila Henderson was all smiles at a downtown watch party Tuesday night when she learned Steamboat Springs voters were backing a tax proposal that is expected to provide safer, more convenient housing opportunities for the low-income clients Henderson works with every day,” reports The Steamboat Pilot. “‘For our clients, it’s all about safe living environments for people living in poverty,” the Integrated Community executive director said. “This means more housing supply.'”

“From somewhere in the corner of the room of the Kress Cinema and Lounge late Tuesday came a raw, cathartic scream,” reports The Greeley Tribune. ‘Oh my God, yeah!” The election results had just flashed across a big screen TV, and backers of a measure to raise money for Greeley and Evans schools learned they had finally achieved what for almost a decade was impossible. As of the final count Tuesday night, Ballot Issue 3A, a property tax hike to fund Greeley-Evans School District 6, passed 59.21 percent to 40.79 percent. “This is why I came here,” said Superintendent Deirdre Pilch in a tearful victory speech, ‘because we can make a difference in the lives of the kids in this community.'”

“Shock. Happiness. Relief. Joy. Those were the emotions flooding Citizens for School District 51 Campaign Chairwoman Kelly Flenniken’s mind Tuesday night after voters approved a pair of tax measures — a $6.5 million mill levy override and a $118.5 million bond measure — by 10 -point margins,” reports The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. “It’s the first time voters approved tax increases for District 51 since 2004. Funding measures were rejected in 2008 and 2011. Unofficial results showed Issue 3A, the mill levy override, passed with 21,794 votes, compared to 18,160 against it. Issue 3B, the bond measure, passed with 22,423 votes, with 18,361 votes against it. Cheers and shouts filled a room at Factory as supporters of the measures — including teachers, students, school district staff and local government officials — watched as early election results were posted.”

“More help is on the way for the Pueblo Police Department as voters Tuesday night were approving a ballot measure that will bolsters its officer ranks,” reports The Pueblo Chieftain. “As of 12:49 a.m. Wednesday, voters were overwhelmingly approving ballot measure 2B 13,752 to 7,544.” But voters also seemed unwilling to hike taxes for a new jail. “The measure asked for a 0.45 percent of one cent per dollar countywide sales and use tax increase to pay for a new 270,041 square-foot detention center and to turn the current jail’s dorms into a detox and substance abuse treatment center.”

“Shoppers will continue to pay an extra 15 cents tax on every $100 for another 20 years to support The Ranch, the county’s fairgrounds complex,” reports The Loveland Reporter-Herald. “Larimer County voters on Tuesday approved continuation of the existing sales tax after it expires in 2019 to pay for expansions and enhancements to just about every facility at the complex. A new master plan, which will be supported by this tax, outlines changes to the traffic structure, new outdoor facilities, the possibility of a natatorium and upgrades to the Budwesier Events Center, First National Bank Exhibition Hall, Thomas M. McKee Community Building, livestock pavilions and arenas.”

“Eagle County has its own marijuana tax, following months of proponents jonesing for it. Ballot Issue 1A won in a landslide, with support from more than 73 percent of voters,” reports Vail Daily. “Eagle County voted to save lives. It was a bipartisan effort to put this over the top,” said Andrew Romanoff, CEO of Mental Health Colorado. The tax on recreational marijuana could generate an estimated $2 million annually for county coffers. Of that, the first $1.2 million is supposed to be spent on mental health and substance abuse programs in the Eagle River and Roaring Fork valleys.” Voters in Eagle County also “overwhelmingly approved broadband ballot questions” in the towns of Eagle, Gypsum, Avon, Minturn and Vail, the paper reports.

“A property tax increase for the Durango Fire Protection District won by a landslide Tuesday,” reports The Durango Herald. “About 73 percent of city voters supported the increase, and 70 percent of La Plata County voters in the fire district supported it, according to unofficial results. Election results become official after county canvass boards meet. About 4,000 city residents cast a vote on the question, and about 4,800 county residents voted on the issue. “This is a huge statement from the community that they support what it is that we’re doing and they believe in us,” Fire Chief Hal Doughty said Tuesday night. City and county voters inside the district saw two different questions on their ballots, but they approved equivalent tax increases.”

“Cañon City voters approved a 10-year Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights ‘timeout’ during Tuesday’s election,” reports The Cañon City Daily Record. “The city now will be permitted to retain and spend all revenues, from any source, collected by the city between Jan. 1, 2020, and Jan. 1, 2030, without the application of the limitations imposed by TABOR. Cañon City Mayor Preston Troutman said there have been no refunds in four of the last eight years the city has been under TABOR. The other four years have resulted in refunds of as much as $200,000 spread among residents, Troutman said, but most years have been less than $100,000, he said.”

“Fears that some Garfield County’s historical societies may have to close and others would struggle were not enough to sway voters toward a property tax increase in Tuesday’s election,” reports The Glenwood Springs Post-Independent. “Garfield County reported the final vote at 5,755 against the tax and 4,721 in favor. The property tax was proposed to support seven historical societies that fear for their future without the stable revenue. A coalition of historical societies and museums approached the Garfield County commissioners in July to put the measure on the ballot. Each of the commissioners expressed support for the tax proposal, though they doubted its chances with tax-weary voters.”

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About the Author

Corey Hutchins

is a journalist in Colorado, and Columbia Journalism Review's Rocky Mountain correspondent for the United States Project. Follow him on Twitter @CoreyHutchins and email him at CoreyHutchins [at] gmail [dot] com.

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