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October 8-November 3, 2009

editorial@boulderweekly.com

October 8 - November 3, 2009

• Vote 2009 Index

• Vote 2009 Q&A 1
• Vote 2009 Q&A 2
• Vote 2009 Q&A 3
• Vote 2009 Boulder County Ballot Issues
• Vote 2009 City of Boulder Ballot Issues
• Vote 2009 Other Ballot Issues
• Vote 2009 Layfayette City Council
• Vote 2009 Longmont City Council
• Vote 2009 Louisville City Council
• Vote 2009 School Districts


• Don't ignore your ballot, your say

• County's election forecast: smaller turnout, fewer glitches than in '08

• Ageton, Appelbaum, Cowles, Hoffman and Plass

• Garnett wants DA to have three terms - We don't




Don't ignore your ballot, your say

Last year, people flocked to the polls. This year, many won’t even take time to fill out their mail-in ballot. While it’s true that last year we were deciding on a leader for our country, who leads our cities is no less important. It’s on the local level that citizens arguably have the greatest influence. If you ignore your ballot, you’re leaving it up to others to decide who’ll be making decisions for your community for the next couple of years.

For example, Longmont’s City Council is poised to shift hard to the right or to remain somewhat progressive, depending on which side gets out the vote. If the true “will of the people” is to be known, a majority of registered voters must participate.

In Lyons, voters have to decide whether to increase the local sales tax to replace plummeting city revenues. Regardless of who votes, all Lyons residents will share the outcome.

In Boulder, voters will decide whether to shift the city’s affordable housing tax from residential developers to commercial developers. Only those who vote will have a say in the matter.

From open space to the ClimateSmart Loan Program, the issues on this year’s municipal ballots aren’t trivial. To help you wade through them, we’ve put together our annual VOTE edition, offering you our completely biased take on the candidates and issues you’ll see on your ballot. And here’s how we did it:

Everyone in the editorial department was given a municipality, school district or ballot issue to research. For candidates, this research included questionnaires in some cases, a review of candidates’ websites, research into their past public actions and activities, as well as their past experience and their stance on issues we deem to be important. For ballot issues, we researched the pros and cons and looked at who supports or opposes each issue and why.

This information was brought together at an editorial meeting that included the entire editorial staff and the newspaper’s publisher. The discussion was robust as we worked through campaign rhetoric toward consensus. Political party affiliations were not part of our decision-making process; neither was advertising revenue. For each endorsement we make, we’ll share our reasoning. We do not give endorsements in races where a candidate is running unopposed.

We take democracy seriously and view endorsements as part of a newspaper’s public service. We hope you find the results of our work to be helpful, and we encourage you to research each candidate and every issue independently — and then VOTE!
Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com



County's election forecast: smaller turnout, fewer glitches than in '08
by Jefferson Dodge

The 2009 election is less than a month away, and a host of improvements have been rolled out in the Boulder County clerk and recorder’s office to address glitches encountered in last year’s general election.

And while turnout will not be as big as it was last year, when presidential candidates were on the ballot, the Nov. 3 election could see a bump in the number of Boulder County residents who vote compared to the last off-year, 2007.
That is due to the spike in voter registration in anticipation of last year’s landmark election, when about 90 percent of the county’s eligible voters submitted ballots.

This year, that number may only be 50 percent, but that turnout would best 2007 numbers, when about 40 percent of the electorate cast their votes, Clerk and Recorder Hillary Hall told Boulder Weekly.

This fall, as in 2007, only mail ballots are being accepted. And like 2007, there is no state ballot question to be decided, which Hall says typically means about a 10 percent dip in turnout. But she said that there may be more mail ballots submitted than in 2007 because last year voters were permitted to sign up to receive mail ballots in every election, so there may be some carryover from the huge 2008 turnout.

In 2004, she says, only 15 percent of voters cast mail ballots. In 2007, that number rose to 40 percent. Last year, the figure soared to 67 percent.

Clearly, the ballot-counting process will be much more manageable than it was last year, but election officials still enacted new safeguards in the way that ballots are processed. Last year, an incorrect driver file in the ballot processing system caused scanners to pick up faint bits of toner and dust particles on the ballots, which could have caused ballots to have been misread or rejected. Election officials caught the problem and visually inspected every ballot, delaying final results by a few days.

After the election, the county hired Applied Trust Engineering Inc. to study what went wrong, and after a nine-month investigation, the county issued an Election Process Improvement Report on Sept. 18. In addition to checking, updating and verifying scanning equipment and software prior to the election, the report calls for more pretesting, such as running test scans of ballots to calibrate settings and ensure that no extra marks are showing up.

Hall says that, for the first time this fall, her office even sent a test batch of folded and sealed blank ballots through postal machines to see if the mailing process produced any issues related to ink transfer or fold lines. She says the ballots came out clean and could be scanned with no problems.

Oct. 5 was the last day of voter registration. Hall told Boulder Weekly that ballots will be mailed to at least 183,000 Boulder County residents Oct. 13-16.

She said that in an off-year election, her office typically brings in 10 to 15 temporary workers in the weeks preceding the election and hires another eight to 10 the week of the election. Staffing for a mail-ballot-only election, she says, is a far cry from the hundreds of volunteers needed to staff polls during a presidential election. Hall said the plan is to have all ballots received prior to election day counted the day before, a goal that was accomplished in 2007. Then election workers will just have to worry about processing ballots received on election day. The public can observe the ballot counting on election day at the county’s main election office at 1750 33rd St., Suite 200.

More information is available at www.voteboulder.org, where voters can read the Election Process Improvement Report, check to see if they are registered to vote, or confirm that their ballot was received.
Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com


Ageton, Appelbaum, Cowles, Hoffman and Plass

In the Boulder City Council election, in which 13 candidates are competing for five seats, Boulder Weekly endorses Suzy Ageton, Matt Appelbaum, Macon Cowles, Fenno Hoffman and Tim Plass.

Ageton, Appelbaum and Cowles are incumbents who have served the city well and who express a range of Boulder values. They each have strong experience dealing with city issues. While Cowles has taken criticism for his support of tougher regulations on house sizes, we understand the need to preserve the character of Boulder and its neighborhoods. Appelbaum brings sound judgment and institutional memory, having served three terms on council in the 1980s and 1990s. And Ageton, a voice for recreationists, has the skills and dedication to advance important goals related to renewed financial stability, good government and sustainability. We respect the desire of some citizens to gain new blood and a fresh perspective on the council, but considering the learning curve that new council members face, it is also valuable to keep incumbents who are already up to speed on most of the issues, as long as they are performing well.

We endorse Hoffman because he will bring authenticity and a fresh perspective to the council. His answers to our questions, unlike most of the other candidates’ responses, did not follow the most politically correct, mainstream, conformist views that public officials tend to recite. His experience as an architect and a member of the city’s Downtown Design Advisory Board will be a resource to council, as well. We chose Plass because, judging from his answers to our questions and his experience as chair of the city’s Landmarks Board, he has a strong command of the issues facing the city and shares our perspective on how to deal with most of them.

Boulder is lucky to have so many worthy candidates.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com




Garnett wants DA to have three terms - We don't

Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett asked the Boulder County Commissioners to put a measure on the 2009 ballot that would extend the DA’s term limits from two terms to three, but he says he’s not pushing for that extension because he has anything to gain personally.

He acknowledges that one argument he has heard against Issue 1D, which would allow the DA to serve for up to 12 years instead of eight, is that he is doing it to further his own political career.

Garnett, who is 53 and was just elected last November, points out that if he were to run for another political office, “I’d need to do that a whole lot sooner, because three terms from now, I’d be 65. … Not many people in their mid-60s are starting a statewide political career.”

He says he is enjoying being DA and doesn’t have higher political ambitions. “I wouldn’t rule it out,” Garnett says of running for another office, “but term limits have nothing to do with it. If I were going to run for something, I’d do it a whole lot sooner.”

Colorado voters approved term limits for elected officials in 1994, but since then, 53 Colorado counties have removed or extended those limits, according to equaltermsforda.com.

Garnett argues that the DA was not on the list of elected county officials that saw limits extended from two terms to three in a successful 2005 ballot measure. That measure applied only to assessor, clerk, coroner, surveyor, sheriff and treasurer. Some say the district attorney was excluded in part because the political baggage surrounding the DA position at the time — from the JonBenet Ramsey case to the CU football recruiting scandal — could have sunk the initiative.

Garnett says having the possibility of 12 years instead of eight would provide stability for a DA’s 75-member staff, which includes 27 attorneys and often sees turnover every time a new DA is elected. He also points out that it can take a couple of years for a case to get through the system, and that it takes time for a DA to shape the organization and to focus his or her priorities after being elected.

Garnett says having a DA for up to three terms is also good for the county because it gives that person — typically a Democrat — more time and credibility at the state level when making arguments about issues such as sentencing reform or marijuana use.
“If I have the possibility of three terms, it gives me more opportunity to be a progressive force statewide,” he says. “You need to have a voice that people know is going to be at the table for awhile — it gives you more clout.”

Two other districts have a similar measure on their ballots this fall, and the DAs in those districts are Republicans, which Garnett says makes it important for Boulder County to approve 1D and stay on a level playing field with conservative districts.

Ted Tow, executive director of the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council, said Colorado is the only state in the country that imposes term limits on district attorneys. He added that the judicial districts of Weld and Denver counties have extended term limits to three terms, while in Pueblo the limits were lifted entirely.

However, Scott Starin, chair of the Boulder County Republicans, opposes 1D. “I’m not a fan of increasing term limits for any position,” he says, adding that having regular turnover among elected officials results in fresh ideas.

Starin says politicians who spend decades in an elected post tend to get embedded with special interests and particular agendas. “People tend to establish relationships that may not be in the best interest of their constituents.”

We at Boulder Weekly think voters passed the 2005 measure intending to give elected officials with rare and special skills, such as the coroner, more time at their posts. Although we hear what Garnett says about the issue, the position of district attorney is much more political than that of coroner. We're not persuaded that any DA needs to serve more than two terms.
Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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