Funding for growth-control proposal continues to climb

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— Promoters and detractors of growth control Amendment 24 have accumulated dramatically different war chests to publicize their views on the issue, but the names of local contributors are noticeably absent from the lists of campaign contributors maintained by the Secretary of State's office.

Coloradans for Responsible Growth have accumulated more than $632,000 to promote passage of the amendment, but Coloradans for Responsible Reform have amassed $5.1 million to urge Colorado voters to reject the amendment to the state's constitution.

The only local name that pops up on the list of contributors to Coloradans for Responsible Growth is John Spezia, who contributed $50. Spezia moderated a local debate on Amendment 24 last week on behalf of Environment 2000. Other Steamboat residents may have contributed to Coloradans for Responsible Growth indirectly through several large environmental groups that have made sizable contributions to the issue committee. The Colorado Environmental Coalition has contributed more than $113,000, the National Wildlife Federation has contributed $100,000, the Wilderness Society $5,000 and the Sierra Club $3,600.

The Web page maintained by the Secretary of State indicates there have been more than 1,800 different contributions on behalf of Coloradans for Responsible Reform; however, the site has only enough room to list the first 1,000. Steamboat residents B.L. Haselman and R.S. Hubring are listed as having made a single contribution of $100.

Many of the largest contributions to Coloradans for Responsible Reform have come from large homebuilders such as U.S. Home, which has given $100,000 and is based in Florida.

Those large contributions give credence to claims by Coloradans for Responsible Growth that the opposition's is not a grassroots campaign but a campaign of big money interests. And while the majority of the funds have come in large amounts, a thorough scan of the contributions on the Secretary of State's Web site reveals a large number of contributions of $5 or less many of them in increments of $1 and $2 from private individuals.

Individual Steamboat Springs Realtors may have contributed to Coloradans for Responsible Reform at the request of the Colorado Association of Realtors. The Association of Realtors, together with the Colorado Realtors political action committee, has contributed about $200,000 to Coloradans for Responsible Reform.

Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors Vice President David Lacey said the Colorado Association of Realtors initially asked for a mandatory $20 contribution from all of its member Realtors in the state, but it's his understanding that after a number of Realtors complained about the "mandatory" portion of the fund-raising effort, it was made optional.

Lacey said he doesn't believe anyone should support Amendment 24 because it is too "extreme." He said he disagreed with the remarks of former Denver Planning Director Bill Lamont during last week's local debate. Lamont said Amendment 24 would put local officials and citizens at the forefront of planning Colorado's future. Lacey said the average citizen deserves to have a say in planning issues, but lacking expertise in planning, citizens do not belong at the forefront of those issues.

City Councilman Ken Brenner said he doesn't have a problem with allowing people to have a say in planning issues, and as a city councilman, he's prepared to deal with the consequences of this issue.

Brenner is a member of the board of directors of the Colorado Municipal League, which is an advocate for Colorado cities at the state Legislature.

Officially, Brenner is supporting the CML's vote to go on record opposing Amendment 24 but not necessarily because that's his personal position.

Brenner said he would prefer the CML officially take no position on Amendment 24 and devote its energies to educating the public about its potential impacts.

Brenner is a board representative on the CML's Growth Committee that voted 17-6 last summer to take no position. He was among the 17 voting in favor of neutrality. The growth committee includes other elected officials who are not on the board as well as city staffers from around Colorado.

Brenner, however, was in the minority when the 18 full board members met later in the summer and voted 14-2, with two abstentions, to oppose Amendment 24. Brenner said only he and President Pro Tem Greg Clifton, the city attorney in Montrose, voted against the motion to oppose 24.

"I had a problem going hand in hand to the ballot with the development community," Brenner said.

He said he understands people who argue that Amendment 24 circumvents representative democracy.

"Certainly, I don't favor voting on every issue," Brenner said. But he added that when other board members stood up to say, "This is about maintaining local control," he and Clifton responded by saying, "What could be more about local control than letting the people have a say?"

Brenner drew a parallel to the Taxpayers Bill of Rights. He pointed out TABOR allows local voters to approve or deny any increase in taxes.

Councilman Bud Romberg is strongly opposed to Amendment 24, but when he made a motion Oct. 10 urging the City Council to go on record in sharing his opposition, that motion died for lack of a second.

"We should have taken a position and said this is not for us," Romberg said. "We don't need it. I was really disappointed the other council members didn't feel the way I felt, but that's what happens in a democracy."

Romberg said his opposition to Amendment 24 is based on three positions. First, he believes a constitutional amendment is the wrong way to go about creating new tools to manage growth.

"I think that's counterproductive," Romberg said. "It is a terrible burden to correct anything passed by a constitutional amendment."

Romberg also believes the language of the amendment is sufficiently vague that it will be tied up in court for years. And finally, Romberg believes the cost of implementation for communities such as Steamboat, which have already instituted comprehensive plans, is "onerous."

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