Step one: Get a group of buddies together, make it the kind of people who’d enjoy traveling First Class together, or maybe sharing a really nice men’s room somewhere. You don’t want trashy, low-income types — people who don’t know how to use a bidet, that kind of thing.
Step two: Give your group an upbeat, friendly, chi-chi sounding kind of name, like, uhm, “Building A Better Colorado,” or maybe “Raise The Bar.” Hey, that’s a winner!
Step three: Hold “grass roots” get-togethers around the state. Demonstrate to everyone that you really respect their input, even though you’re mainly asking for help with a problem you already figured out with your wealthy business buds and lawmaker pals.
Step four: Never forget that you’re a winner. Remind people that your ballot item is good because THEY helped make it good! They sat enraptured as you demonstrated how “obscene” the number of citizen ballot initiatives has been. They stared wide-eyed as you detailed the suffering and misery of the kind and sincere lawmakers, the very ones who couldn’t ensure that you would have a stranglehold on the Colorado constitution unless you got Amendment 71 on the ballot.
This is the King Shit of all amendments; the amendment to end all amendments — literally!
Let’s be clear: I wouldn’t be doing my curmudgeonly gadfly-tistic best at complaining, if Amendment 71 were simply labeled “the voter self-disenfranchisement act,” because that’s exactly what it is. Alternatively, it could be called the “protection of entrenched interests act.” If you vote for it, you are voting to devalue your own vote — to have it count less than it normally would in some future election where you otherwise might actually favor a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment.
For those who feel like they may be one step behind the curve, passage of 71 would make it more difficult to place a citizen-based constitutional amendment proposal on the ballot, which would then be required to get a 55 percent super-majority to pass. Presently you need roughly 100,000 valid signatures to get on the Colorado ballot — and those have never been easy to get.
Under 71, the proponents of an initiative would also be required to get 2 percent of the electors in each of 35 senate districts in the state. That may not sound like much, but in several districts you’d be very lucky to get those signatures without spending 20 bucks or more per signature, certainly a lot more than a citizen-based “public interest” initiative is likely to raise — and exponentially more than the one to two dollars per signature generally rated as a necessity these days.
The cause of the price jump is pure logistics. Senate districts aren’t neat little parcels of land. In portions of the state you’d have to hire drivers and people with research skills to even certify for yourself which district you were getting signatures from.
With current levels of gerrymandering, it’s more than likely that a few of those districts will be nearly impossible to tackle — and all that’s needed is one district where you failed to meet the 2 percent requirement to have ALL of your signatures become worthless paper. The Secretary of State’s office alone would need a legion of workers just to handle the certification process.
This issue alone makes 71 not a “raising” of the bar, but an actual dropping of the bar on the heads of anyone who dared think the citizen amendment process was the way for frustrated groups to deal with an intractable legislature.
Let’s stop and consider, for a moment, just HOW intractable. Prior to Amendment 64, there were constant attempts by cannabis activists to create some level of change through the legislature. There was year-round lobbying, there were constant talks on the criminal justice reform front — there was no traction ANYWHERE for any kind of meaningful change.
In 2006, Colorado activists made a push with Amendment 44, with the glum result of only 41 percent voting in support. That might have been the end except for the determination of people — some of whom happen to be personal friends of mine — who decided to come back for another try in 2012… and guess what?
I don’t want to hear amendment proposals from people whose main goal is to deceive. The purpose of 71 is not to “improve the process” of amending the constitution. It’s not to defend the meek and lowly legislators against the imprecations of private outside interests. In point of fact, the funders of 71 embody all of the “worst” private interests Colorado has on its register. We’ve got frackers, drillers, a water group that says it objects to control of water resources as a way to limit growth — we’ve got realtors — we’ve got dairy farmers out of Utah — on and on. And these are people altruistically working with our best politicians to “build a better Colorado?” Are you kidding?
One note: The 71 crowd will be airing a charming (and expensive) television ad campaign during Bronco games in the coming weeks. If you know how bad 71 is — if you know it as the pre-emptive strike against future initiatives that challenge entrenched interests that it actually is; or if you see the deception of telling people your group has “grass roots” when it’s all actually overpriced astro-turf — then you need to say something. Think: Having the option to actually pass an initiative on a level playing field — it might be a good thing.
Rob Smoke is a former commissioner of human relations for the City of Boulder.
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.