What has happened to our country? The answer, in part, is that George W. Bush made a deliberate choice to rub raw the divisions among us as a way of “motivating the base” and crushing the rest of us, a sharp departure from his predecessors, who mostly tried to govern from the center.
As the Republicans moved further to the right and gained more power, they made increasingly catastrophic decisions. At the same time, they left room in the center for Democrats to move in. A centrist government that honors the principle of separation of church and state would, at this point, be a blessing. (Irony intended.)
America has never been so partisan, and that’s a shame. But given how badly Republicans have governed, it is perfectly rational to vote a straight Democratic ticket. Who can argue with the logic that a vote for a Republican is a vote for George Bush’s America? The Republicans have enabled him.
The State of Colorado began to reject domination by the Republican right in the last election, when Democrats won control of the Colorado General Assembly for the first time in a generation. The pendulum appears to be swinging to the middle still in this year’s election, as gubernatorial candidate Bill Ritter appears headed for a landslide. Ritter is hardly liberal – he is anti-abortion, for example – but notably centrist. In this context, that simply means he believes that government can actually do some good things for people, and is not the enemy that should always be strangled for funding, and we have endorsed him enthusiastically. We have likewise and in the same spirit endorsed Congressman John Salazar, not only to help swing control of the House of Representatives to the opposition Democrats, but because he has served us well – as a centrist in a polarized state.
We hereby endorse incumbent Colorado State Sen. Jim Isgar in the same spirit. Isgar has represented Southwestern Colorado since 2001, and has staked out a broad list of issues that he has worked on. For example, he cosponsored legislation to give additional rights to owners of property who do not control the underlying mineral rights. He supported last year’s Referendum C, temporarily relaxing the state’s fiscal restrictions imposed by the TABOR amendment, and has fought for environmental protections and additional funding for education.
Most impressively, from a narrow parochial perspective, he has been a frequent visitor to Telluride, taking the time to become knowledgeable about local concerns, including the “Telluride Amendment,” which he opposed, and which sought to make it impossible for Telluride to acquire the Valley Floor by means of condemnation. (The noxious law has since been ruled unconstitutional.)
Isgar is opposed by biochemist Ron Tate, who has stated that his political philosophy derives “first and foremost” from his religious faith. “Biblical principles are how I make decisions in my everyday life,” he told a Montrose forum. “Does that mean that Christianity directs government? No. But I do believe that faith has to be the conscience of government.”
Well, we favor a bit more separation of church and state than that. Isgar’s dedication and common sense approach to government make it easy to endorse him for another term.
Most of the questions on the state ballot issues come from a far rightwing place, and we hope they are rejected, in the spirit of restoring common sense in our government. Term limits for judges? No. Let us preserve the independent judiciary. Write distaste for gays into the state constitution? No. Let us oppose bigotry. Permit even easier access to the ballot for initiated petitions and referendums? No. Let us support representative government. Force school districts to focus more narrowly on the three Rs? No. Let us instead support the principle of local control. Punish immigrants? No. Let us be humane, instead.
There are three measures on the ballot promoted by liberal interests. We oppose a constitutional amendment to raise the minimum wage. Yes, the minimum wage should be increased, but not this way. Let us hope a new Democratic Congress does it at the federal level. We oppose Amendment 41, seeking to impose new ethics standards on public officials, not because we favor ethical laxness, but because this is too complex a matter to be addressed in a ballot question, and should not be written into the constitution in any case. It should be handled by our elected representatives.
We support Referendum I to allow domestic partnerships for same-sex couples, however. Here is the initiated petition process working correctly: not to amend the state constitution but to create a law, and for an eminently reasonable purpose.
In Mountain Village
Mountain Villagers face what is possibly the biggest no-brainer on the ballot. They can simplify their government by approving the consolidation of the Mountain Village Metro District and the town government.
As town residents know, their government is complex, with entities handling different matters. The Metro District predates the town’s incorporation, and was created to handle public works: streets, sewage, water and so forth. These are functions normally handled by a municipal government’s public works department.
There is no way for Mountain Village to further consolidate its government by folding the Mountain Village Owners Assn. into the town. Too bad. But dissolving the Metro District and incorporating its activities into the town is a sure step in the right direction.
What of the questions that The Watch has chosen not to endorse or oppose? We are silent on the races for local county officials, for example. The offices of county clerk and county treasurer should not be elected; they should be appointed, because these are not political offices. These officials are not supposed to be creating policy, or carrying it out. The only basis for appointing people to these jobs should be their competence and skill set, information best gleaned not from reading campaign literature but by somebody’s conducting a serious job interview.
In Colorado, this could be achieved only by amending the state constitution – and there are powerful vested interests, the elected officials currently holding those positions statewide, who would oppose such a move – or by converting our own county to a home rule form of government. Under a home rule charter, the county commissioners could hire and supervise the offices of the county treasurer, county clerk and county sheriff. But there are challenges in going home rule, too. So we are left with a popularity contest. Unable to truly understand the qualifications of the candidates, we punt.
How about Democrat Brian Ahern versus incumbent Republican State Representative Ray Rose? Rose has been a reasonable representative, and took the time to learn about our Valley Floor issue and oppose the Telluride Amendment. And yet, he fashions himself first and foremost as a champion of gun owners’ rights and a proud supporter of the NRA. We just can’t go there. Ahern, for his part, is completely sincere in his interest in politics, but seems to have some anger management issues that have utterly dogged his campaign. We punt.
Just so, we punted on the grand issue before the Telluride voters. How many millions for the Valley Floor? Because we rejected a reasonable compromise that has left us no alternative? Maybe so.