Many ballot issues will have direct impact on area
In 1994 voters statewide passed an amendment to the Colorado Constitution that put term limits in place for elected officials.
But counties have the power to remove those term limits, and this year Moffat County voters will be asked if they want them removed for five county offices.
Those offices include clerk and recorder, treasurer, assessor, sheriff and coroner all offices except county commissioner.
Tim Jantz, chairman of the local Republican party who brought the question forward at the request of the party, explained why county commissioners were excluded, and why the party thinks term limits should removed for the other offices.
“At the local level it is tougher to find people that can get away from their day to day lives to run for office,” he said. “These jobs are career jobs, not political jobs. It’s like getting hired as a supervisor at the power plant and after eight years have them say ‘see ya.'”
Resident John Ponikvar, who circulated a petition signed by 471 people to influence the commissioners to place the question on the ballot, said term limits are not needed.
“We don’t see any reason why good people should be forced out of office,” he said. “If they are doing a good job they should be able to stay. Term limits are already in place with elections every year.”
The question of whether to remove term limits was asked of voters in 1996, but was defeated by a vote of 2,971 to 1,621.
But there is one key difference between the question asked in 1996 and the question asked of voters this year the commissioners were included in the question in 1996 Ponikvar said.
“The commissioners create policy versus the other positions where people enforce policy laid out by statute,” he said. “People don’t see these other positions as political positions.”
Since term limits were implemented in 1994, 49 of the 64 Colorado counties have either removed or extended term limits on one or more county office, according to Colorado Counties, Inc.
Since the local debate started earlier this summer, some have expressed their opposition to the removal of term limits.
Moffat County Commissioner T. Wright Dickinson voted against placing the question on the ballot when it was brought before the commissioners.
“The voters need term limits for their protection because they do not have enough interaction with elected officials,” he said. “I voted for everyone that is in office, but I don’t believe that they should have more than two terms.”
Tim Christensen, chairman of the Moffat County Democratic party, said he thinks term limits are necessary.
“I can’t speak for the entire party, but in my opinion having term limits is a wonderful idea,” he said. “I don’t think our founding fathers had the idea of people serving lifetime terms in mind.”
The decision made by voters in 1994 to have term limits speaks for itself, he said.
“I think what’s good enough for the state ought to be good enough for the county,” he said.
Whether to remove term limits for each of the five offices will be asked in five different questions on the ballot.
While the question of whether to remove term limits for five elected county offices is the lone Moffat County only question on Tuesday’s ballot, local officials have a number of other ballot questions on their radar.
The question of whether Colorado schools should be required to place non-English speaking students in a one year English immersion program has the attention of local Superintendent Pete Bergmann.
“At first I didn’t think this would have a big effect on us,” Bergmann said last week. “But after researching it further I believe it would be very costly to the district and would require significant change. I believe it would have a negative impact on the district and I would recommend people to oppose the amendment.”
Right now non-English and limited English speaking students in the Moffat County School District spend about a half hour a day in an intensive English program and spend the rest of the day in the regular classroom.
But under the model laid out by Amendment 31, local schools would be required to place those students in an all day English program a change that would cost the district anywhere from $200,000 to $300,000, Bergmann said.
The 145 students in the district’s English Language Learner (ELL) program does not justify the program requirements that would be passed down by the state under Amendment 31, Bergmann said.
“This is not a problem for Jefferson County with enough ELL students to make reasonably sized classrooms work,” he said. “But our ELL numbers are too low to create a valid program with this model. If it’s passed we have to have immersion in every building and this puts us in an extreme bind as a rural community.”
School board member Steve Hafey said he thought the system the district has in place works.
“I like the immersion policy but I don’t think the way they’re going about it is correct,” he said. “I think we’re doing pretty well here. I’m opposed to Amendment 31 as it is written even though it is good philosophically.”
Randy Phelps, administrator of The Memorial Hospital in Craig, hopes the referendum passes that allows health care agencies to partner with public or private entities to purchase equipment and services.
“We want to get it passed because it gives us the opportunity to be equity partners with private entities,” he said. “A case in point is when Northwest Health Specialists envisioned bringing an MRI machine to town and asked us for a joint venture. But we could not do it. This could enable folks in Craig to receive services they would otherwise have to travel for.”
Gary Davis, vice president of government affairs with the Colorado Health and Hospital Association said rural communities would especially benefit.
“Those who primarily benefit will be rural communities with public hospitals. Your hospital is a perfect example of one that could benefit from this,” he said of TMH.
According to the 2002 Ballot Information Booklet, an argument against the referendum reads:
“New partnerships and the private companies involved in these partnerships will not be subject to the same laws and level of public scrutiny as local governments. For example, laws on open public meetings and records and conflict of interest will not apply.
Despite the argument that says public’s access to records might be compromised through the agreements, the Colorado Press Association has not taken a stance on the issue.
“We’re going to watch and see what happens and monitor the implementation of it,” said Gregg Romberg, a lobbyist for the Colorado Press Association.
Josh Nichols can be reached at 824-7031 or email@example.com.
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