If you are registered to vote in Colorado Springs, you should’ve received a ballot in the mail this past Monday. The election is Nov. 7, so you should fill out your ballot and put it in the mail by early next week, or you can drop it off with CC Votes near the mailroom before Nov. 7.
Though not as exciting as a presidential or congressional election, it’s important that you educate yourself on the issues and vote accordingly. The phrase “All politics is local” is certainly not true, but it is true that as residents of Colorado Springs, even if only for four years, we should be paying attention to the issues that matter to the city. Anyway, that’s enough proselytizing about the importance of local civic engagement for one day. Here’s my take on the ballot issues:
Mary Coleman is running unopposed for a two-year term. You could vote for her, or not. It doesn’t matter because she’s going to win either way.
There are four candidates running for three seats with four-year terms. I will be voting for Julie Ott, Shawn Gullixson, and Jim Mason, which leaves Morgan Chavez as the odd one out.
In a survey by Ballotpedia, the candidates were asked to list seven issues in order of importance. Morgan Chavez listed “expanding school choice options” first and “closing the achievement gap” sixth, while the other three candidates all listed “expanding school choice options” last and “closing the achievement gap” either first or second, with “balancing or maintaining the district’s budget” high on the list as well.
Ott, Gullixson, and Mason were all endorsed by the Colorado Springs Education Association, the Colorado Springs Independent, and Unite Colorado Springs, whereas Morgan Chavez has received no notable endorsements. With this said, however, the candidates have very similar views on most of the issues, and all of them will likely do well as members of the school board.
El Paso County – 1A
Question 1A is relatively self-explanatory—the county would like to keep $14.5 million in excess tax revenue in order to do maintenance on I-25, rebuild infrastructure damaged during floods or other disasters, and improve parks, trails, and open space.
I am going to vote yes. The county’s infrastructure, particularly with regards to roads and parks, is in rough shape because they are constantly underfunded. Keeping this excess tax revenue, while ultimately insufficient, would be a step in the right direction. If the measure fails, El Paso County taxpayers will receive a one-time tax credit that comes out to about $40 for a family with a $250,000 home.
City of Colorado Springs – 2A
The City of Colorado Springs is currently being sued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its inability to adequately deal with storm water runoff. Pursuant to that lawsuit, the city has promised to spend $460 million over the next 20 years to deal with the problem.
Ballot measure 2A is the city’s effort to make good on that promise. It would impose a fee of $5 per residence per month for individuals and $30 per acre per month for businesses for the next 20 years, which would raise $17 million a year and $340 million in total.
I wrote my views on the issue more extensively in an op-ed published in The Catalyst during Block 1, but they boil down to this: I will begrudgingly vote yes on Question 2A. I believe the fee is structured in a regressive way, because people in one-bedroom apartments pay the same as people in mansions. Also, the storm water problem is so bad partially because developers have never been forced to address the storm water problems created by the impermeable surfaces on their property, and this fee doesn’t force them to either. But the city urgently needs to do something about storm water, and if 2A doesn’t pass, it’s unclear if that will happen.
School District 11 – 3E
Question 3E is the most consequential of the ballot measures, rivaled only by 2A in my view. The ballot question is a mill levy override, or in other words, a measure to impose a tax, in order to provide $42 million in additional funding to D11 schools. The money will go towards a variety of things including giving teachers a raise, improving and modernizing infrastructure and technology, hiring more school counselors, and paying off debt. The tax will cost most D11 property owners between $5 and $12 per month.
In my mind, this one is a no-brainer. D11 teachers haven’t gotten a raise since 2000, and the schools are in need of updates and repair. Colorado is 42nd in the nation in per pupil spending on education, and D11 spends $200 less per pupil than the state average. That’s pretty abysmal, and 3E gives us a chance to do a little better.
Pikes Peak Rural Transit Authority – 5B
5B would allow the Pikes Peak Rural Transit Authority to use up to $10 million of the budget they already have to improve the four mile stretch of I-25 just north of Monument. The stretch of I-25 it focuses on is frequently the site of backups, which is likely the impetus for the ballot measure. I will vote yes.