12 October 2005: Ballot Issues & Values

Ballot choices reflect community values

“What could be worse than being blind?” Helen Keller was once asked. “Having no vision,” she responded. Another Helen, Idaho Springs resident Helen Buck, may be 90 years old and her eyesight may not be as sharp as it once was, but she still has incredible vision. For you see, Helen has agreed to donate 7.5 acres, situated across Clear Creek from the Port of Entry and valued at $200,000, for an animal shelter to serve the needs of Clear Creek and Gilpin communities. The challenge has become all the rest—planning, designing, and fundraising—for the final price tag could run as high as $1,230,000.

Stepping up to the plate is a committee of eight women, including the super-energetic Beth Luther, Cindy Neely, Wendy Anderson, Marni Krueger, Mary Williams, Annie Venderwerken, Elaine Hayden, and Jael Dale, feverishly working to put the rest of the pieces together. Collaborating with officials from both Clear Creek and Gilpin, creating fundraising events, soliciting donations, applying for grants—in short, doing everything possible to raise the money—the committee has come close to its final goal, but still needs about $200,000 to seal the deal. To raise that, they are appealing to our, the good folks of Clear Creek, generosity by anteing up $8 per $100,000 of property value for one year only.

Clear Creek voters are being asked as well to approve a permanent increase to their property taxes that would initially provide the school district with $250,000 of additional revenue for transportation cost. Essentially, 3A is a de-Brucing act, the cost of which annually would be less than $10 per $100,000 of property value, similar to one Summit County voters approved a few years back. While not fully funding all of the transportation needs of the district, it would free up that amount in the general fund to avoid further increases in class sizes and student fees.

This is a tough year, no doubt about it. Spiraling energy costs for a gallon of gasoline and home heating are pounding the poor and middle class. Health care costs continue to soar, while income remains stagnant. Patti Mulvihill, helping to spearhead the 3A campaign, points out our schools are in a similar, if not greater bind, as those same and sometimes higher costs are multiplied when factored into a school district’s budget.
When I talked to Beth, I told her this would be a tough year for any request with the statewide vote on Referenda C and D and with economic times getting tougher. “What can you do?” she shrugged. You got to admire her and her teammates’ pluck. The timing may not be the most propitious, but the need is immediate and the opportunity is at hand.

We are but custodians in this time and place, caretakers of the land and our community until we pass it on to the next generation. Not all adults elect or are able to have children, yet most of us willingly contribute to the raising and support of others’ such as by providing a free public educational system, understanding that we are a community and our youth are our future. Likewise, that it is true about our relatives in the animal world, especially those abused, lost, abandoned, or put up for adoption. As Beth puts it, “How we treat our domesticated animals is a real indication of a community’s values.”

For the vast majority of property owners, the cost for both tax initiatives for 2006 will be less than a tank of gas or a night out for dinner, and less than that in the year 2007 and beyond. How we respond with our votes will demonstrate the kind of community we are—for it is easy to be charitable when the money is rolling in. It’s when times are tough and money is tight we can truly measure the depth of one’s humanity. As I wrote in my previous article about Referenda C and D, your vote comes down to your core values—where you fall on the continuum between “it’s all about me” and “we’re all in this together”—that is, crass individualism versus a healthy, cooperative community.

For Georgetown residents: Another tax issue on your ballot is, happily, primarily not a matter of raising your taxes to support your community, as it is a matter of reallocating taxes you may be paying to another city should you undertake a major construction or remodeling project. This one is almost a “no-brainer.” It comes down to whether you prefer your sales tax dollars going to Georgetown or perhaps to Golden, Arvada, or other locale where you might pick up your materials.

Program note: Advocates for each of the local issues, including Beth Luther, Patti Mulvihill, and Chuck Stearns, will be my guests on Western Exposure on KYGT on October 22 at 3:00. The show will be rebroadcast throughout the week, so check the KYGT website www.clearcreekradio.com for programming schedule.

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