And now for the rest of the story…

Originally appeared in the Fort Collins Forum

October 2006
Eric Fried

Last time we discussed ballot issues to raise the minimum wage, establish basic legal rights for same sex couples, constitutionally ban gay marriage and legalize up to one ounce of marijuana. The remaining ballot issues are also important, but not quite as sexy, so let’s plunge right in.

Start with the local tax issues. Measure 5C will create a self-governing library Special District funded by property tax, just like almost 50 other Colorado communities have. We have a great library system in Fort Collins, used by people throughout the county. Only Fort Collins residents pay for the system. A recent letter to the editor from a mom in Wellington opposed to 5C claimed she used the library every week and it seems fine to her. Of course it seems fine to her: she’s not paying a dime for it! The county stopped paying its share to maintain the library years ago, making its budget better and the city budget worse. With library use up and funds down, services like Saturday morning hours and story-time for children have been reduced. A library district will restore services and provide stable, long-term funding so we can have the kind of library system America’s #1 city deserves. It will also finally give the fast-growing southeast side of town its long-promised branch library. If Measure 5C fails, city budget cuts will be even worse than planned.

The jail tax (Measure 1A) is a different story. It is a multi-billion dollar tax increase forever to expand the jail, just a few years after the last tax increase to expand the jail. Most inmates have mental health, drug and/or alcohol problems, and treating them at the jail is the most expensive and least effective way to deal with these underlying issues. America already locks up more people than any other nation in the world (monarchies and dictatorships included) and this proposal is more of the same, with a few nods towards alternative sentencing and drug court. The sheriff and county commissioners have to think outside the box (literally!), and defeating this proposal is the first step.

On the state level, Amendment 38 would expand the ability of citizen groups to propose changes to state and local laws. I generally favor anything that gives citizens more power, but I think this poorly written measure will make our state legislature’s job all-but-impossible. Given the hidden anti-government agenda of the measure’s sponsors, that is precisely the point.

Amendment 40 would limit the terms of Colorado’s supreme and appellate court judges. The ideologues who proposed it want to fire “liberal activist judges” who dare to issue rulings they don’t like. This measure would destroy judicial independence, blow up our system of checks and balances, and lead to hyper-partisan warfare. It is so bad even Governor Owens opposes it. You should too.

Amendment 41 would restrict lobbyist gifts to public officials (which totaled over $200,000 last year), create an independent ethics commission, and establish a cooling-off period of two years before former legislators could begin lobbying. Unlike most states, Colorado does not prohibit or restrict lobbyist gifts to public officials. With lobbying scandals engulfing Washington DC, this is our chance to help clean up our state capitol.

Referendum E would extend property tax reductions originally for senior citizens to fully disabled veterans. Referendum F would move recall deadlines from the constitution to the statutes and require recalls to be in general elections not special elections whenever possible. Referendum G would delete specified, obsolete constitutional language. Sure. Why not? You betcha.

Referendum H would reduce tax deductions to businesses hiring unauthorized immigrants. If it is illegal to hire (and exploit) foreign workers, businesses shouldn’t get a tax break for doing so. Referendum K would require our state Attorney General to sue the federal government to enforce immigration laws. Good luck with that!

Amendment 39 and Referendum J require school districts to spend at least 65 percent of their operating budgets on specific items. Spending less on overhead and more in the classroom is great in theory. Don’t you think local school boards already try to do that? Do we really need state-level one-size-fits-all micromanagement of local school boards? I think not.

Big Ballot Looms in November

Originally appeared in the Fort Collins Forum

September 2006
Eric Fried

Colorado’s November 7 ballot just missed setting a new record for initiatives and referenda we voters need to sort through. Citizens placed seven measures on the ballot and the state legislature added seven more, two shy of the record 16 on the 1914 ballot. Everything from raising wages to legalizing marijuana to banning gay marriage (again!), as well as technical measures on petition deadlines, term limits and obsolete constitutional provisions, will be up for a vote. As a public service, here’s a guide to some of the issues.

Raising Colorado’s minimum wage: Despite giving themselves repeated hefty raises, the US Congress has refused to raise the federal minimum wage in a decade. Stuck at $5.15 an hour, a full-time minimum wage worker earns a princely $10,712 a year – not even enough to lift a small family out of poverty. Amendment 42 would raise the state minimum wage to $6.85 per hour for most workers, and adjust the wage annually for inflation. Contrary to popular myth, most minimum wage workers are not teens, and raising the minimum wage actually stimulates, not hurts, the economy. That’s because low-paid workers will immediately turn around and spend the money in their communities on things like housing, food and clothing, rather than hide it in tax shelters in the Cayman Islands. A recent study by the Economic Policy Institute shows that of the 12 states with minimum wages above the federal level, seven had job growths rates above the national average, with five below. In addition, raising the wage floor has a ripple effect, raising wages for all lower-paid workers. That’s the kind of percolate-up economics – a real rising tide to lift all boats – that America should be all about.

Domestic partnerships and gay marriage: Same-sex marriage is already illegal in Colorado, but defenders of “traditional marriage” want more. Though unable to explain concretely how allowing same-sex couples to wed in any way threatens heterosexual couples (or why Massachusetts has the lowest divorce rate in the US), they want to write this discrimination into the state constitution through Amendment 43. Don’t let them. As somewhat of a counterpoint, Coloradoans for Fairness is backing Referendum I, which provides same-sex couples the opportunity for basic

Northern Colorado’s Largest Paper Endorses Green Candidate Bob Kinsey for Congress

Northern Colorado’s Largest Paper Endorses Green Candidate Bob Kinsey for Congress

October 27, 2004

The Fort Collins Coloradoan, the largest general circulation newspaper in Colorado’s sprawling 4th Congressional District, today endorsed Green Party candidate Bob Kinsey for Congress.

According to the lead editorial in the October 26, 2004 issue, “An honest approach earns Green Party Bob Kinsey an endorsement for the Fourth Congressional District… his campaign’s goal to get people to pay attention to the issues rather than the candidates deserves merit. Kinsey doesn’t couch his responses, nor did he rely on attack ads to blast away at his opponents.”

Kinsey, a former schoolteacher, minister and Marine who was the first candidate to announce back in February, is opposed by Democratic attorney Stan Matsunaka and the incumbent Republican Congresswoman, Marilyn Musgrave. Musgrave has garnered national attention for her sponsorship of the Federal Marriage Amendment to deny marriage rights to same-gender couples.

In an e-mail to supporters, Kinsey celebrated the endorsement and thanked his campaign volunteers. “We have held high the Green Party Values and people have connected with them,” he stated. “I am deeply grateful for the work and support which has made it all possible. Now is the time to move beyond the campaign and into future Green organizing. We should become the replacement for the failed Democratic Party and capture the imagination of the progressives in Northern and Eastern Colorado.

The Coloradoan endorsement may be the first endorsement of a Green Congressional candidate in a three-way race by a major newspaper in Colorado history.

Kinsey for Congress, PO Box 1097, Fort Collins, CO 80522,,