Unintended Consequences

Let’s talk about Amendment 71 on your ballot. In this video from Grassroots St. Vrain, it’s explained that Colorado works differently than EVERY OTHER STATE!

Because of Colorado law, everything that happens in Colorado has to go to the voters on your November ballot. Everything. The voters are in charge of amendments to the constitution and funding, not our elected officials. So, election day has become the most important day for Colorado because we chose to tie the hands of our legislators. Maybe this would be fine if Colorado voters were incredibly engaged and knew the facts. Clearly, this isn’t the case or we wouldn’t be receiving such a large number of questions regarding ballot initiatives every year.

Everyone can agree that there are ballot initiatives every year that they don’t like. Certainly there’s plenty of merit in giving our citizens more control in the legislative process. However, Amendment 71 does make it more difficult to get an initiative on the ballot for voters to make these decisions.

Take the Colorado Priorities initiative that didn’t make it on the ballot. We supported this potential issue and nearly every person engaged in education did as well. While we spent our summer gathering signatures for this, due to funding, a lack of volunteers, and other issues, it isn’t on your November ballot. It would have been a welcome sigh of relief for all involved in education and we are disappointed that we don’t have the opportunity to vote on this. It’s not easy to get something on the ballot, it takes a lot of work because, as the video above explains, it’s a bottoms up process. It starts with volunteers.

To get an Amendment on the ballot you must have lots of volunteers and/or lots of money. Knowing that this is a difficult process and knowing that out of state corporations have put items on our ballots that were not good for Colorado, think about the potential impacts of this change.

Like the Colorado Priorities initiative, any potential ballot issue would require lots of volunteers but now your volunteer base must be spread out across the state. There’s merit in wanting buy-in from everyone across the state, but it also means that if even one community doesn’t actively participate and do their fair share of the work to make changes, nothing will happen.

Anyone who has volunteered for anything big understands the lack of other volunteers to share the work (please think about volunteering, it makes a difference!) Corporations and political entities with millions/billions of dollars in resources to fund an initiative can hire people from Craigslist and/or bring in paid troops from out of state to do the work. We saw this last year with an out of state, Rhode Island corporation, wanting control of an Aurora neighborhood to make profits on a casino/race track. The community members didn’t want this change to their neighborhood, nor did anyone living in the area, but someone in Rhode Island did and they put it on the ballot. Thankfully, the community was awake and worked together to do what was right for Aurora and not Rhode Island. Should we have to defend our neighborhoods from out of state corporate interests? Probably not, but that’s the way Colorado works.

There’s a lot of talk about TABOR and how it is negatively impacting our state budget in all areas. Education advocates in particular will talk to you about this endlessly. Written by an individual who was anti-tax and has since gone to jail a few times, voters didn’t completely understand the implications and most still don’t. A Taxpayer Bill of Rights and not allowing “big government” to waste our money sounds good on the surface but that’s not really what was in the Amendment. It’s okay to not like taxes but if you don’t want to fund things and don’t want to pay for them, you have to find another way. Just ending public services isn’t good for communities.

There are two things to think about in the Amendment 71 initiative. Certainly, terrible Amendments like TABOR would be harder to get on the ballot without a lot of extra money. But also certainly, if voters decide to make it harder to get something on the ballot it could ensure that no one without big money will succeed in getting anything on the ballot and undoing damaging initiatives like TABOR will also be nearly impossible for real Colorado citizens.

When you look at your gigantic blue book, you can see the overwhelming amount of initiatives that more than half the people in Colorado are only just now hearing about. And it’s confusing with pro and con statements. For instance, you can submit a con statement for school funding that says “vote yes because ducks swim in water” or “vote no because kids carry germs” and that’s okay under the law. Odd but also allowed and there are lots of false statements that get mailed to voters every year.

For every Amendment, please vote. Please read and please ask questions. Many of them have unintended consequences, just like TABOR is negatively impacting all of Colorado.

We aren’t taking a position on this but we want you to think about the potential impacts. We’d like to see Colorado Priorities on the ballot eventually, will you be there to do the work or do you have a couple million to help fund it?