The Colorado Municipal League’s Election 2013 roundup
Ryan Summerlin November 6, 2013
Seventy-eight cities and towns held general and special elections on Nov. 5. Five municipalities canceled their elections due to a lack of candidates: Cripple Creek, Greenwood Village, Lamar, Las Animas, and Victor, while Lochbuie voters rejected a recall of two town trustees. Other elections this cycle include Rifle, which holds its general election in September, and Deer Trail, which will hold a special election on Dec. 10 to address shooting at drones.
Following is a summary of some of the trends from this election, as well as some of the issues decided.
Oil and gas
Fracking bans passed in Boulder and Fort Collins, and were narrowly defeated in Broomfield. Lafayette voters approved a broad-based “community right-to-know” style initiated charter amendment addressing fracking, as well as numerous other aspects of oil and gas regulation.
• In addition to overwhelmingly approving Proposition AA at the state level, local voters approved the taxation of marijuana for recreational use in all 12 cities and towns where the question was posed. Eagle voters also said “yes” to the sale of marijuana, while Englewood voters said “no.”
• Voters in Basalt, Black Hawk, Commerce City, Firestone, and Longmont approved $282 million in debt. In Commerce City, $166 million was approved for parks and street improvements, and while $45 million was approved for broadband development in Longmont. Two measures in Avon and Bennett failed.
Since 1993, 68 percent of all municipal debt questions have been approved.
• Only two of eight property tax increase questions passed, both dealing with fire protection services, one in Glenwood Springs and the other in Silver Plume.
• Voter approval of sales taxes fared better than property tax issues. Only three of the 11 increase or extension measures were defeated — those in Bennett, Georgetown, and Leadville. The others eight measures were approved.
• Since 1993, 56 percent of municipal tax policy changes have been approved by voters.
Miscellaneous taxes and fees
•Lodging taxes were defeated in Littleton and Platteville.
• A sugar-sweetened beverage tax was defeated in Telluride.
• Black Hawk increased its gaming device tax.
• Lafayette voters defeated the substitution of an occupation tax for a franchise tax; instead, voters approved that City’s franchise fee and agreement with Xcel Energy.
• Dillon’s voters defeated an admissions tax.
• Paonia voters approved a $3 monthly utility charge for sidewalk improvements.
Measures dealing with retaining excess revenues, otherwise known as de-Brucings, passed Fountain, Frederick, and Paonia. Similar measures were defeated in Leadville and Mead.
• In Platteville, Thornton, and Walsenburg, voters defeated efforts to relax or repeal term limits, while Wray voters approved term limit requirements.
• Black Hawk voters approved the extension of municipal employee retirement benefits to the mayor and councilmembers.
• Boulder had two competing municipal electric measures on the ballot. One to restrict municipal entry failed, and the other passed, and both by wide margins.
• Boulder’s charter also was amended to allow for negotiated bond sales.
• The clerk in Castle Pines will now be appointed rather than elected. However, in Walsenburg, voters rejected efforts to appoint both the office of clerk and that of treasurer; these will remain elected offices.
• Animal regulation ordinances passed in Broomfield (backyard chickens) and Fort Lupton (backyard chickens and bees).
• Centennial voters approved city entry into broadband through a public–private partnership. State legislation requires such a vote before a municipality can enter into offering this technology.
• Durango voters rejected an attempt to repeal a plastic bag fee previously approved by the council.
• Durango voters approved a fire service merger with an adjacent fire protection district.
• Fountain voters rejected a net metering requirement on the city’s electric utility.
• An attempt by Thornton to lower the age requirement for service as an elected official (from 25 to 21 years of age) was defeated.
• Fraser and Littleton both had land use questions on the ballot. An annexation question in Fraser was defeated, and changing the process by which zoning measures advance was approved in Littleton.
• Greeley may be the only home rule charter in the nation requiring a retention vote on the city manager, and the retention vote for Roy Otto passed.
Next April, voters in 158 Colorado statutory towns will be going to the polls.
CML is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization established in 1923 and represents the municipal interests of 267 cities and towns at the State Capitol. For more information on the Colorado Municipal League, please visit www.cml.org or call 303-831-6411.