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Kanye West will appear on Colorado’s ballot for president

Rapper Kanye West, who is attempting to mount an independent presidential campaign, has been approved for Colorado’s Nov. 3 ballot, the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office said Thursday.

West has filed paperwork to appear on several states’ ballots, but Colorado’s bar is lower than most — candidates must pay a $1,000 fee, submit notarized statements and obtain backing from nine electors who are registered voters in the state. West received help from at least one Republican operative in the state, and his campaign filed the paperworkWednesday.

Election officials still are reviewing paperwork from other potential candidates and plan to release a list Friday of candidates who have qualified, spokesperson Betsy Hart said.

In the last month, West’s sometimes-public struggles with mental health issues have fueled speculation about his bid. His running mate is Michelle Tidball, a self-described “biblical life coach” in Cody, Wyoming, where West has a ranch.

Read more via The Denver Post.

President Trump signs Great American Outdoors Act, a $3B-a-year plan to boost conservation, parks

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump signed legislation Tuesday that will devote nearly $3 billion a year to conservation projects, outdoor recreation and maintenance of national parks and other public lands following its overwhelming approval by both parties in Congress.

“There hasn’t been anything like this since Teddy Roosevelt, I suspect,” Trump said, seemingly comparing himself to the 26th president, an avowed environmentalist who created many national parks, forests and monuments that millions of Americans flock to each year.

Supporters say the Great American Outdoors Act is the most significant conservation legislation enacted in nearly half a century. Opponents countered that the money isn’t enough to cover the estimated $20 billion maintenance backlog on federally owned lands.

At a White House bill-signing ceremony, Trump failed to give Democrats any credit for their role in helping to pass the measure, mispronounced the name of one of America’s most famous national parks, blamed a maintenance backlog that has been decades in the making on the Obama administration and claimed to have deterred a march to Washington that had been planned to tear down monuments in the nation’s capital. No such march was ever planned.

The Great American Outdoors Act requires full, permanent funding of the popular Land and Water Conservation Fund and addresses the maintenance backlog facing national parks and public lands. The law would spend about $900 million a year — double current spending — on the conservation fund and another $1.9 billion per year on improvements at national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and range lands.

Trump in the budget proposals he has sent to Congress had previously recommended cutting money allocated to the fund, but reversed course and requested full funding in March.

Interior Secretary David Bernardt said the law will help create more than 100,000 jobs.

The maintenance backlog has been a problem for decades, through Republican and Democratic administrations. Trump falsely claimed it was caused by the “last administration.”

The House and the Senate cleared the bill by overwhelming bipartisan margins this summer, including significant support from congressional Democrats. No Democratic lawmakers attended the ceremony and Trump, in his remarks, credited only Republicans.

Asked why Democrats weren’t recognized, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said it was because Democrats and Republicans — including the administration — have yet to agree on extending now-expired coronavirus relief payments and protections.

Her answer focused on Senate Democrats’ rejection of a proposal by Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., for a one-week extension of a special federal unemployment benefit. She ignored that Senate Republicans themselves are divided over how to proceed on a larger relief package.

“The only thing we’re recognizing about congressional Democrats right now is how appalling it is that there are Americans who are going without paychecks because they refused to partner with Martha McSally, Republicans and the president in ensuring that those payments go out.”

Among the bills’ congressional champions are Republican Sens. Cory Gardner of Colorado and Steve Daines of Montana. Both are among the Senate’s most vulnerable incumbents, and each one represents a state where the outdoor economy and tourism at sites such as the Rocky Mountain and Yellowstone national parks play an outsize role.

Daines and Gardner persuaded Trump to support the legislation, which Gardner has made the cornerstone of his reelection campaign.

Democratic Sens. Maria Cantwell of Washington state, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Tom Udall of New Mexico all were instrumental in getting the bill passed. Cantwell has spent years working to reauthorize and fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and she worked with Gardner and Daines to make it happen.

“For all of us who’ve fought for years to protect our public lands and invest in our outdoor recreation economy, today is a historic win for America’s beloved shared spaces,” Cantwell said in a statement that criticized environmental and public health rollbacks by Trump that benefit the oil and gas industry.

The law’s mostly Republican opponents complained it would not eliminate an estimated $20 billion maintenance backlog on 640 million acres (259 million hectares) of federally owned lands. The legislation authorizes $9.5 billion for maintenance over five years.

Lawmakers from Gulf Coast states also complained that their states get too small a share of revenue from offshore oil and gas drilling that is used to replenish the conservation fund.

Ivanka Trump, the Republican president’s daughter and adviser who supported the legislation, described it at the ceremony as a “great legacy” for the administration as well as the country.

In discussing the beauty of national parks Tuesday, President Trump tripped over one name when he referred to Yosemite’s towering sequoia trees. He twice mispronounced “Yosemite’s” as yoh-SEH’-mytz instead of yoh-SEM’-it-eez.

Trump also claimed an executive order highlighting the threat of up to 10 years in prison for defacing federal monuments was the reason a march to Washington for the sole purpose of destroying statues was canceled.

People protesting racial injustice after George Floyd’s death in police custody in May began toppling monuments around the country of Confederate and other figures considered racist, but no such march to Washington was ever planned.

“They were having a march on Washington to knock down a lot of monuments, and I signed it before the march,” Trump said of the executive order he signed June 26. “We announced it at a news conference that you go to jail for 10 years if you knock down a monument, and the march to Washington never happened. I don’t know — that’s strange how that all works. Isn’t it, though? Isn’t that a beautiful thing?”

The Rev. Al Sharpton is planning a march on Washington for Aug. 28, the anniversary of the 1963 march in the nation’s capital led by Martin Luther King Jr.

Colorado voters may face as many as 11 major questions on November ballot as initiative deadline arrives

Colorado voters appear poised to decide as many as nine major issues on the November ballot — but far fewer than initially expected after the coronavirus made it difficult to qualify.

So far, seven measures are set for the ballot. And the organizers behind four more initiatives said they submitted more than the 124,632 valid voter signatures needed to secure a place on the ballot ahead of Monday’s deadline.

But other prominent campaigns didn’t reach the finish line, including five related to oil and gas and a constitutional overhaul of the state’s tax system. Two of them were voluntarily removed and the others said it was too difficult to get voters to sign petitions amid a public health crisis.

“We announced (our effort) in March, two weeks later the pandemic hit,” said Scott Wasserman, the president of the Bell Policy Center and a leading proponent of Initiative 271 measure on taxes, which failed to qualify. “For me, it’s a tragedy of timing.”

Colorado is one of the easiest states in the nation for citizen-led initiatives to change state law, and ahead of the election advocates drafted more than 300 different proposals for ballot questions. 

Read more via The Colorado Sun.

Vail council ponders ballot measure to exempt town from Gallagher Amendment

The Vail Town Council Aug. 4 will consider a potential ballot question to address local impacts of the state’s Gallagher Amendment. The discussion item is listed as 3.4 on the afternoon meeting agenda which begins at 2:30 p.m. 

The Gallagher Amendment was approved by Colorado voters and adopted in 1982 in response to homeowner concerns over rising residential property taxes. It requires that residential assessed values comprise no more than 45% of the state’s overall assessed value. Non-residential properties, such as commercial and vacant land, make up the remaining 55%. 

While the Gallagher Amendment sets the commercial assessment at a fixed rate of 29%, the residential assessment rate must be adjusted by the Colorado Legislature during years of reappraisal to maintain a consistent ratio between total statewide assessed values of residential and non-residential property.  

According to a staff memo prepared by Vail Finance Director Kathleen Halloran, the current estimate for residential rates is an 18% decrease or an assessment rate of 5.88%. This will represent the third reduction in property tax collections since 2017. The state’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, amendment prevents the town from increasing its mill levy to make up for those losses without voter approval.    

State lawmakers in have voted to refer a ballot question to Colorado voters Nov. 3 asking to repeal the Gallagher Amendment. If the repeal passes, the state will be able to set assessment rates for both residential and commercial properties at any level they deem fit in the future. However, it is uncertain if the statewide ballot proposal will be approved by voters. 

Several local special districts including the Vail Recreation District, Colorado Mountain College and the Gypsum Fire Protection District have been successful in asking voters to “de-Gallagherize” property tax collections in their jurisdictions, most recently in November 2018.

While the town of Vail’s mill levy is typically 10% of a taxpayer’s tax bill, property tax collections make up 8% of the town’s general gund revenues; $5.9 million is budgeted for 2020. The taxes pay for town operations including fire, police, transit, public works, community development, the Vail Town Library and administration.  

During Tuesday’s council meeting, staff will present language for a potential ballot question that would diminish the impact of the Gallagher Amendment by allowing the town to increase or decrease its mill levy in order to effectively achieve a permanent residential assessment rate of 7.15%, the rate currently imposed on residential properties in the town and throughout the state:   

SHALL THE TOWN OF VAIL BE AUTHORIZED TO INCREASE OR DECREASE ITS CURRENT AND ALL FUTURE MILL LEVIES ONLY IF, ON OR AFTER NOVEMBER 3, 2020, THERE ARE CHANGES IN THE METHOD OF CALCULATING ASSESSED VALUATION, INCLUDING WITHOUT LIMITATION A CHANGE IN THE PERCENTAGE OF ACTUAL VALUATION USED TO DETERMINE RESIDENTIAL ASSESSED VALUATION DUE TO ARTICLE X SECTION 3 OF THE COLORADO CONSTITUTION (OTHERWISE KNOWN AS THE GALLAGHER AMENDMENT), SO THAT, TO THE EXTENT POSSIBLE, THE ACTUAL TAX REVENUES GENERATED BY SUCH MILL LEVY ARE THE SAME AS THE ACTUAL TAX REVENUES THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN GENERATED HAD SUCH CHANGES IN THE METHOD OF CALCULATING ASSESSED VALUATION NOT OCCURRED; AND SHALL THE PROCEEDS OF SUCH TAXES AND INVESTMENT INCOME THEREON BE COLLECTED AND SPENT BY THE TOWN AS A VOTER APPROVED REVENUE CHANGE IN 2020 AND IN EACH YEAR THEREAFTER, WITHOUT REGARD TO ANY SPENDING, REVENUERAISING, OR OTHER LIMITATION CONTAINED WITHIN ARTICLE X, SECTION 20 OF THE COLORADO CONSTITUTION OR SECTION 29-1-301, COLORADO REVISED STATUTES, AND WITHOUT LIMITING IN ANY YEAR THE AMOUNT OF OTHER REVENUES THAT MAY BE COLLECTED AND SPENT BY THE TOWN?

For the question to be included on the Nov, 3, ballot, the ballot language needs to be submitted to the Eagle County Clerk and Recorder no later than Aug. 25. This would require passage of a resolution by the council setting the ballot language for the general election.

To see the staff memo on this topic, go to vailgov.com. To provide public input to the council prior to meeting, email public.input.vailtowncouncil@vailgov.com. Emails will be accepted until noon on the day of the meeting. To provide public input during the virtual meeting, register to attend at www.vailgov.com/town-council. The meeting is live streamed at HighFiveMedia.org/live-five

Colorado redistricting commission applications available starting Aug. 10

Applications will open Aug. 10 for Colorado’s first Independent Congressional and Legislative Redistricting Commissions.

The group has launched a new website for all things Colorado redistricting:

https://redistricting.colorado.gov. Subscribe to the mailing list for updates, and commission staff will also be tweeting @CORedistricting.

The group is currently soliciting comments about the redistricting commission applications. Draft

applications can be viewed at the website, and there is also a link to provide written comments. Written comments will be accepted through Aug. 5. 

Those wishing to testify in person about the applications may do so at a July 31 public meeting with commission staff. The meeting is set for 10 a.m. at the Old State Library in the Colorado State Capitol.

Social distancing practices will be followed for this hearing, and anyone wishing to testify can sign up in advance on the website.

Commission staff is also seeking partner organizations to promote the commission applications and encourage participation from diverse communities. For more information, email colorado.redistricting2020@state.co.us.

Both Cory Gardner and John Hickenlooper claim credit for Colorado’s economy. But how much do they deserve?

For a decade before the coronavirus crisis, a wave of economic growth swept through the United States, and Colorado was at its crest. The state’s economy outpaced the nation in key indicators like gross domestic product growth and unemployment, data points that earned recognition as the best economy in the nation. 

It’s a compelling tale that Sen. Cory Gardner and former Gov. John Hickenlooper are invoking in the U.S. Senate contest. Both claim partial credit for creating the economic boom during their time in office, whether through votes or policies, and both say they are best to help lead the state out of the current recession.

Gardner, the Republican incumbent, credits deregulation and tax cuts he supported in the U.S. Senate for creating expansion. “I helped cut taxes,” Gardner told The Sun. “I helped stop reckless regulations under the Obama administration that would have killed jobs, and I helped to make sure we brought new employees to Colorado.”

Hickenlooper, the Democratic challenger, has reminded voters of his economic focus as governor and huge job growth coming out of the Great Recession. “We made this a place where young people want to come, and when young people want to come … it’s the foundation where you attract some of those tech companies,” he said. 

But experts say Colorado’s economic success has been driven by factors disparate from any policy Gardner or Hickenlooper helped put in place.

Read more via The Colorado Sun.

Eagle County districts have seen benefits from removing Gallagher restraints

The idea behind Colorado’s Gallagher Amendment is simple. In practice, the measure is strangling special districts in rural areas. Voters this fall will be asked to repeal that amendment.

The amendment, passed in 1982, mandates that residential property makes up no more than 45% of all property tax collections. Commercial property must pay the rest.

But maintaining that ratio requires residential property tax rates to continually decline as the number of homes grows in Colorado. When Gallagher was passed, commercial property was taxed at 29% of its assessed value. Residential property was taxed at 21% of assessed value. The commercial rate is locked in, but residential rates have to fall to maintain the 45-55 ratio.

Today, residential property is taxed at 7.15%. The next statewide reassessment is expected to require a drop to 5.88%.

In densely-populated areas, the growth of commercial property can make up for the loss in residential tax revenue. The story is much different in rural areas.

Chris Stiffler, an economist with the Colorado Fiscal Institute, noted that the value of his Denver-area home increased 30% in the state’s most recent biannaual assessment of property values. In that case, a 10% cut in the tax rate won’t have much of an impact.

But the Gallagher amendment applies to the entire state. If values in a rural area increase only 2% in a two-year period, a 10% cut in the tax rate is potentially devastating.

Commercial property hit hard

Conversely, there’s a disproportionate hit to owners of commercial property.

The next Gallagher-mandated drop in residential property tax rates will push the rate from 7.15% to 5.88%.

“If you’re a fire district that’s all homes, that’s an 18% decrease,” Stiffler said.

Dylan Roberts, who represents Eagle and Routt counties in the Colorado House of Representatives, said the impact to rural areas was a driving force in the Colorado Legislature putting a Gallagher repeal on the November ballot.

While special districts in the area have often gone to voters asking for either mill levy increases or permission to leave tax rates where they are, Roberts said that isn’t sustainable.

Roberts said he’s heard often from special district directors and board members saying “Gallagher is crushing us; we can’t keep going back to the voters.”

Roberts was a co-sponsor of the Gallagher repeal bill. That bill had to pass both the Colorado House and the Colorado Senate with two-thirds majorities. That meant both Democrats and Republicans had to vote for it.

In addition to sending the repeal measure to voters, Roberts noted the legislature passed companion legislation freezing current property tax rates for four years. That gives the legislature time to either come up with a new formula, or go to what Roberts called a “market-based” system seen in most other states.

Not a tax hike

And, Roberts added, property tax rates still can’t be raised without voter approval, thanks to a 1992 amendment called the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, or TABOR.

Chris Montera, executive director of Eagle County Paramedic Services, noted that the clash between TABOR and Gallagher has made the state’s property tax imbalance worse over the years. Districts can’t easily recover coming back from bad times due to the amendments limits on revenue growth, he said.

The valley’s ambulance district in 2018 asked voters to remove that district from Gallagher-required tax rate cuts. Voters approved that request.

The Eagle-based Greater Eagle Fire Protection District in 2018 received similar relief from voters.

Greater Eagle Chief Doug Cupp said Gallagher-mandated cuts are especially difficult for public-safety districts.

“If they reduce funding because the assessment rate went down, we still have to provide the same level of service,” Cupp said, adding that Gallagher’s requirements make long-term planning difficult.

The repeal effort is “a really big deal, especially for mountain communities,” Cupp said.

Montera was in Colorado when the Gallagher Amendment passed all those years ago. It was a good idea at the time, he said. But times change.

“As you look at now, and then layer that with TABOR, it’s just a mixture for disaster,” he said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com.

Poll shows Gardner gaining on Hickenlooper, Biden beating Trump in Colorado

The latest poll in Colorado’s U.S. Senate contest shows a tightening race, with Democratic candidate John Hickenlooper ahead of Republican Sen. Cory Gardner by six percentage points.

The Morning Consult survey of more than 600 likely Colorado voters shows less of a contest in the presidential race. Democrat Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump by 13 percentage points, 52% to 39%, in the Centennial State.

Polls dating back to last year have consistently shown Hickenlooper, a former governor, with a double-digit lead over Gardner. Tuesday’s poll shows a much narrower contest between the two political heavyweights with 98 days to go. Hickenlooper received 48% of support to Gardner’s 42% in the poll.

The good news for Gardner is that it shows him outperforming Trump, which he will almost certainly need to do by a sizable percentage Nov. 3 if he is to win a second term in the Senate. Trump remains unpopular with a majority of Coloradans but Gardner’s campaign is hoping Biden voters will be willing to vote for him over Hickenlooper.

The poll also has plenty of good news for Hickenlooper. Not only does he lead the incumbent Gardner as July comes to a close, but unaffiliated voters who were polled favor Hickenlooper over Gardner by 13 percentage points, 48% to 35%.

Read more via The Denver Post.

Lauren Boebert beat a Colorado congressman. Is she the next GOP star?

Ever since the Democratic wave of 2018, Travis Oliger, chair of the La Plata County Republican Party, has come to expect low turnout at the candidate meet-and-greets he arranges.

But earlier this year, when he looked out at a meet-and-greet crowd in his Democratic-leaning southwest Colorado county, there were a lot of young, unfamiliar faces and they were there to see a little-known candidate for Congress named Lauren Boebert.

“It was kind of like with Trump,” Oliger recalls of that unusually large gathering. “People showed up and came out to support Trump and they would tell me, ‘I’m not here to support the party, I really don’t like the Republicans, but I’m for Trump’ and it was like, ‘Wow, really?’ This is very similar.”

Boebert, a 33-year-old restaurant owner, pulled off the summer’s biggest political upset on June 30, toppling incumbent Republican Rep. Scott Tipton in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, a massive area that spans the western half of the state, along with southern Colorado. The political novice is now the front-runner to win Nov. 3 over Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush in this Republican-leaning district.

“She brings a certain amount of excitement to the Republican Party on the Western Slope that I don’t know we’ve had for a while,” said Kevin McCarney, chair of the Republican Party in Mesa County, where Boebert dominated Tipton.

Read more via The Denver Post.

Ivanka Trump visits Rocky Mountain National Park to celebrate Great American Outdoors Act

Grand Lake’s mayor pro tem represented the town during Ivanka Trump’s visit to the eastern side of Rocky Mountain National Park on Thursday.

Trump, who is both senior advisor and daughter to the president, came to Rocky along with Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt to celebrate the passing of the Great American Outdoors Act through Congress.

Mayor Pro Tem Jonah Landy was at the event just a month after Grand Lake Mayor Steve Kudron attended a similar occasion on the eastern side of Rocky with second lady Karen Pence.

The Great American Outdoors Act has made its way through the House and the Senate with strong bipartisan support. The act will guarantee the Land and Water Conservation Fund is fully funded, along with providing an additional $1.9 billion per year for five years to address the backlog of maintenance on public lands.

Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt speaks Thursday at Rocky to celebrate the Great American Outdoors Act, which is expected to soon be signed by President Donald Trump. The act gives more funding to federal lands like Rocky.
Courtesy Jonah Landy

New Edwards plan waiting on water

“That helps with the backdated maintenance that needs to happen along with improving and increasing campsites,” Landy said. “It’s more access for people that want to go to the park.”

President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill in the coming week.

“We are extremely excited for this upcoming bill to be passed by Trump and excited to see all the benefits that Grand Lake and surrounding communities as well as residents and guests will be able to enjoy,” Landy added.