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2015-10-20 12.18.15

As a family, we sit down and discuss the issues on the ballot, my son, husband and I. These are our ballots for this year.

Here are my thoughts about this year’s selection of questions for the Denver ballot.  Disclaimer: I eschew neoliberal policy without question.

Denver 1A: Intergovernmental Agreement with Adams County

Supposedly upon passage, “the measure would open up 1,500 acres of land around Denver International Airport (DIA) for development,” and Adams County would split the proceeds of any tax revenue.

Does this mean that fracking will be allowed on this land?  The ballot language makes no stipulations either way.  We do know that the City government does favor creation of low-wage, part-time jobs and touts it as “job creation.”  Who would want to live around noisy DIA, one of the busiest airports in the nation?

Potential fracking and more Walmart-type jobs?  We voted NO on 1A.

Denver 2A: College Affordability Sales Tax

To me, it’s noteworthy that, according to the supporter website FAQ sheet, a primary component of this program is “scholarship reimbursements for scholarship
organizations supporting eligible Denver students in college.”

Also, some of this money is supposed to go to pay for “services (that) include tutoring, mentoring, financial aid assistance and academic counseling.”

Isn’t this what the Denver Scholarship Foundation (DSF) is supposed to handle? Their website says they “provide our scholarship recipients with extra financial aid and ongoing support to help them succeed and ultimately graduate” and “also provide critical support services, such as mentors, special seminars and tutors to help our scholars succeed.”

I notice that DSF has operated at a loss for at least the last four years.  I also notice that among the supporters are the current and former executive directors of the DSF, the DSF itself and at least one of its major donors.

I even notice that there is a panoply of supporters from among the elected officials of the area, including those state legislators whose job it is to ensure that college is affordable for all Colorado’s students.

My son Devin read the ballot question and immediately said, “why do they get to decide when I need help with student loans, whether I’m 25 or younger?”  He points out that not everyone stops going to college before age 25.  Additionally, the household income cap in this program, for those eligible to receive assistance is up to $90,000 a year.  That translates to around $43/hour wages.  Who do you know that makes that much an hour and needs a student loan bailout?

What I don’t understand is that if we already have a nonprofit, independent organization that already deals with college affordability and support, why does the City need to duplicate its efforts?  And why do we have to pay for it, when DSF already depends on private philanthropy (albeit they need more!)?  Why isn’t the legislature cranking down on the rampant costs of attending college in Colorado, so that no one has to depend on private charity?

And why the heck can’t we have free public university tuition in Colorado yet?

There is something hinky here.  We voted NO on Denver’s 2A.

 Denver 2B: Marijuana Tax Retention

There are no stipulations as to how this tax retention would be spent, therefore it all goes into the Denver general fund.  This means that I have to take the priorities of the city government as presented by the Mayor’s proposed 2016 budget, the largest piece of the pie going to “safety.”

From Mayor Hancock's Proposed 2016 Budget

From Mayor Hancock’s Proposed 2016 Budget

Only 10.3% of the budget going to public works?

Only 6.6% going to human services?

But 20.7% going to “safety?”

These are not the priorities of our household, not when we are also having to pay for repeated cash settlements to victims of brutality meted out by the Denver Police and Denver Sheriff’s departments.  Not when the streets in my neighborhood are dotted with potholes all the time, or when the waitlist for Section 8 vouchers is stretching years.

These are not my budget priorities.

We voted NO on Denver’s 2B.

 Denver 2C: Revenue Bonds and Tax Extension for National Western Center and Colorado Convention Center

We’ll let Thad Tecza tell you what we think.

We voted NO on Denver’s 2C

Colorado Proposition BB: Retain (Marijuana Tax) Revenue in Excess of Blue Book Estimate

If this measure passes, the tax revenues will be retained by the state government to pay for certain things like “school construction” and various anti-marijuana related initiatives and programs.

We don’t believe in “marijuana education and prevention campaigns” or “substance abuse screening, intervention, and referral” for marijuana use.  Marijuana is not an addictive substance, and already too many people (primarily of color and working class) are being attacked by a prohibitionist attitude from law enforcement, the courts and employers.

On the issue of “school construction,” it should be noted that money for “school construction” has already been accumulated under Amendment 64, the recreational marijuana bill passed a few years ago.  As of the 2013-14 fiscal year, “the state collected nearly $15 million in marijuana-related taxes and fees.”

Additionally, there’s already a state-administered grantmaking program for school construction, the BEST program, which is already funded by State Land Trust revenue from rental income, land surface leases, timber sales, and mineral leases;  Colorado Lottery Spillover; Marijuana Excise Tax; and Interest from monies in the assistance fund. (see here, page 7).  BEST will likely be funding around $67 million in projects around the state.

When we talk about “underfunded schools,” we usually mean that there isn’t enough money for teacher salaries, arts and music, books, etc.  That sort of thing, school OPERATION, is funded differently, via a mix of local property taxes and funding from the state general fund.  How does money get into the general fund?  Via sales taxes, primarily.  None of the money held back from Proposition BB goes to the operation of schools.

We have to keep in mind that in Denver, “school construction” money means paying for the renovations of an existing school building that is going to share space with a charter school…then the district mysteriously has money for bathroom upgrades, paint, etc.  No thanks.

If you want money for school operation, vote NO, get your $8 refund, buy something that has sales tax, and VOILA!  The general fund has money for school operation!

We voted NO on Proposition BB.

Let me know if you have questions or comments in the box below.  Just say no to neoliberal, prohibitionist policy which benefits the 1% and their cronies in office.