There often is low turnout for odd-year elections.
Without a presidential or gubernatorial race to pique the public interest, turnout can be sliced by half. For example, nearly 11,500 Routt County residents voted in the 2004 general election, and fewer than 5,000 voted in the 2003 election. That's too bad. The reality is that the City Council election, School Board elections and local tax initiatives often have a much more direct effect on our lives than presidential, Senate and congressional races.
On Tuesday, two very different groups of candidates will face off in a Steamboat Springs City Council election that will shape the future of our city. Such an important decision should be made by more than half the city's voters.
Make sure you vote. There is no better way to participate in our democracy.
The Pilot & Today does not endorse individual candidates. But for the benefit of our readers, the following is a recap of our stances on this year's ballot initiatives.
Referendums C and D: Referendum C would amend the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, lifting revenue limits for five years and allowing state tax revenues to catch up from a three-year-old recession. Referendum D would immediately borrow against the anticipated funds from Referendum C to begin highway projects, fund pensions and build schools. We think Referendum C is a solid, bipartisan solution to the state's financial crisis. It appropriately addresses TABOR's ratchet effect while keeping the core of TABOR intact. Vote yes on referendums C and D.
Routt County Referendum 1A: Referendum 1A asks for a 1.5-mill property tax for 20 years to support the county's Purchase of Development Rights program. Currently, a 1-mill property tax funds the program. That tax expires next year. Under the PDR program, the county purchases development rights on qualified ranchland and open space to preserve the land in its current state. It should be noted that the PDR program works in concert with the Yampa Valley Land Trust. Our original editorial indicated the two entities are competitors. We like the PDR program and hope it continues, but we disagree with the decision to seek a 50-percent increase in tax funding and to double the lifetime of the tax. Vote no on Routt County Referendum 1A.
Routt County Referendum 1B: Referendum 1B would implement a 1-mill property tax to fund Horizons Specialized Services. The tax would allow Horizons to serve 11 of the 22 mentally retarded clients on its waiting list. The county has implemented residency and fundraising restrictions to ensure the tax funds are used efficiently to help Routt County residents. We believe in Horizons' mission and think the tax is a reasonable request to fill a clear need in the community. Vote yes on 1B.
Routt County Referendum 5C: If approved, Referendum 5C would lift TABOR revenue restrictions placed on the Yampa Valley Housing Authority. This "de-Brucing" lets the Housing Authority, which does not levy a tax, pursue local and state grant funding at levels necessary to tackle affordable housing projects the community needs. Vote yes on Referendum 5C.
Ballot Issue 5A and 5B: Ballot issue 5B is an $l1.4 million bond issue that would be used by the East Routt Library District to triple the size of Bud Werner Memorial Library. Ballot issue 5A is a 1-mill property tax increase to fund staff and operations to meet the needs of the larger library. During the next 20 years, the two ballot issues will cost taxpayers more than $30 million. The issues would more than double the library district's current tax rate. We think the price tag is too high for something we don't deem a critical need. Vote no on ballot issues 5A and 5B.
Those are our stances. We encourage you to consider them in formulating your own stances. Most of all, we encourage you to vote Tuesday.