Election issues debated
FRISCO – Summit schools were the top topic Wednesday at a ballot issues forum where a last-minute stand-in to debate a special mill levy made quick work of the discussion by endorsing it.Superintendent Millie Hamner appreciated the backing from newspaper columnist Marc Carlisle, but then had to face his challenges about how school renovations would produce better students.That question was directed at the $32.5 million bond issue, Referendum 3B on the Nov. 2 ballot. The $4 million mill levy is Referendum 3A.About 80 people attended the forum at the Summit County Community and Senior Center near Frisco.Referendum 3A asks voters to extend a mill levy to pay for maintenance and technology in schools, which as Carlisle pointed out, frees up general budget money for educational programs. Hamner told the audience that Colorado is 39th in the country for money it spends per pupil on education. She said the mill levy tax money allows the district to use its general fund to pay teachers and thus hold smaller classes. “Our student population is becoming more diverse so we need smaller classes and special programs to serve our students,” she said. Ninety percent of the district’s general fund supports instructional activities, but Hamner said if Referendum 3A does not pass, $2.8 million will have to be trimmed from the budget through 11.6 percent, across-the-board cuts.Carlisle balked at the figures, which he dubbed “scare” tactics. He said he wanted to be “sold” on the issues, not scared about them.When discussion moved on to 3B, the debate between Hamner and Carlisle heated up. The measure asks for $32.6 million for building renovations.
“Show me how building a new building provides better education,” Carlisle said. “Why not just fix the building you have? It’s a big leap to go from replacing lighting to tearing down two-thirds of the school.”The district plans to tear down most of the middle school and create two new sections that will serve about 450 students each. “We have patched it and repaired it and looked at it one more time and decided we can’t put more money into it without spending more money,” Hamner said. Carlisle also questioned plans to add a wing at Summit High.”Who will benefit from a $5.4 million technical education center?” he asked.Hamner replied, “We need more space” at the high school. Carlisle writes a Thursday column for the Summit Daily News.Amendment 36Summit High School students Evan Ratzan and Alec Baker debated Amendment 36, which proposes to change allocation of the state’s nine Electoral College votes from winner-take-all to allocation based on the popular vote, effective this election.Ratzan, who argued for the measure, spoke in favor of the one-man, one-vote philosophy behind the U.S. democratic process.”People no longer have an individual say,” Ratzan said. “(The current system) is undercutting democracy in that people know their votes don’t count and they are less likely to vote.”
Baker said the measure would render Colorado irrelevant in the U.S. presidential election and make it less likely a candidate would win minimum electoral votes required under the current system.He said smaller states would lose representation, rendering them even more moot than at present.”Frankly, it won’t matter who you vote for if you’re in a small state like Montana or Colorado – small states won’t have representation,” Baker said.Amendment 37Environmental attorney Mark Detsky argued for the renewable energy amendment and Gary Ashby from Mountain Parks Electric in Granby argued against it. Ashby called the measure “bad legislation” because it does not put caps on costs and said it’s unnecessary because Colorado is already eighth in the nation in renewable energy production.Ashby also told the audience, “You guys will be paying for it” in electric bills, but Detsky said there will be less than 1 percent change in energy costs to consumers if the measure passed.Colorado currently meets 2 percent of its energy needs with renewable energy like wind power.”This is the first time customers will get to mandate what type of energy they’ll receive,” Detsky said.Ashby argued that solar power is expensive to produce. It is unclear where energy companies will put large solar panels to meet the requirements stated in the amendment.
“I suspect you’re not going to want those in your backyard,” he said.Amendment 34No one spoke in favor of Amendment 34, “because it’s supported by two law firms that made millions a year suing builders and since (House Bill) 1161 passed, it has dried up,” said Phylecia Platte, a local builder and real estate agent who spoke against the measure that aims to remove caps for liability claims on shoddy construction work.She first supported House Bill 1161, which “helps owners and builders resolve differences without going to court,” she said. The construction industry raised more than $1 million to fight Amendment 34, which Platte said would increase claims, insurance rates, construction costs and “be bad for the state economy.”Amendment 35Mike Melanson traveled from Denver to support an amendment to the constitution that would raise the tobacco tax. He also was not challenged during the event. He said the measure would increase revenue for health care to the state’s poorest citizens and at the same time, would reduce health problems because the higher cost of cigarettes would reduce the number of smokers.Kim Marquis can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 249, or at email@example.com.
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