Thursday, October 17, 2013

Calling the election before votes are cast

Ballots for the upcoming election came to the Rice Estate last week, just as campaigns for and against the most important ballot question in the history of public education in Colorado got under way. I dragged out my crystal ball, a gift from my wife on graduating from journalism school all those years ago, and prepared for some serious gazing. The three ballot issues have the potential of changing Colorado’s future and my crystal ball tells me that voters probably will stumble into decisions that do no real harm but very little good.

The big question, of course, is Amendment 66, which is a tax increase to fund public education. It’s a very good idea because while Colorado’s state taxation rate is 45th in the country, according to a CNN/Money magazine analysis earlier this year, the quality of our education is ranked at 35th in the nation, according to Education Weekly. The old adage is true; you get what you pay for. And Coloradoans are notoriously stingy when it comes to public education. We don’t have anything against it, necessarily, we just don’t want to see any money spent on it. It’s not even that we don’t want to spend our own money on it. We don’t want anyone’s money spent on it, including the oil and gas companies’ money. We had a chance to nick the fat cats pulling oil and natural gas out of the Colorado ground a couple of years ago and spend the money on education, but we are so loathe to fund education we even turned that down.

We’d rather spend it on prisons, I guess.

For reasons no one can really understand, the Logan County Commissioners included a referendum on secession from the state even though there was virtually no interest expressed in it anywhere in Logan County. Judging from the number of CDOT trucks, tractors, and humans I saw in the Sterling area when the South Platte rampaged through here, it would make sense that anyone with a keen sense of survival would vote against that one, too. For one thing, we’re more than happy to keep our rural snouts in the state trough when it comes to roads and bridges. And for another we should be smart enough to know that a state comprised of just the eastern third of what is now Colorado wouldn’t have a trough nearly big enough to fix what broke in September. Unfortunately, the vote on this question won't have anything to do with smart, as I'll explain later.

That brings us to the third big ballot question, the 25% tax on marijuana. I have to confess to mixed feelings about that one. As a once and future partaker of the magic weed, I wince at such a steep levy on a vice I would very much like to make my own. On the other hand, as a die-hard tax-and-spend liberal, I am eager for the state to get its hands on all that disposable income that will come pouring out of the tonier neighborhoods of south metro once the bud legally goes on sale.

As we get closer to election day, friends and acquaintances who know my stellar record in predicting elections – I once said, “Americans will never elect a president whose name ends in a vowel,” and I was right; Rudy Giuliani never had a chance – will be asking me how I call this one. I’ll save the local media the bother of covering the election call the decisions right now.

On the school tax, the nays will have it with at least 60 percent of the vote. It’s a tax on everybody, and people who flock to the polls (it’s just a figure of expression – this is a mail-in vote) vote against any tax that might touch them.

On the other hand, the Mary Jane tax probably will pass but it’ll be a squeaker. The voters, overwhelmingly conservative, want to punish all those potheads who made the damn stuff legal, so they’ll vote to tax the bejesus out of it.

That leaves the secession vote. I think it will die on the vine, as it should, but it will be a close vote, and here’s why: About a third of the voters will think the thing is so stupid it doesn’t deserve a vote. That’ll leave the other two thirds to actually vote. Of those, almost half will vote yes, a handful because they’re not in full possession of their minds, and the rest just for giggles and to see what happens next. But a few more than that will vote no on it because they just vote no on everything. In other words, a massive outbreak of irresponsible voter behavior will result in a decision that vaguely resembles common sense. they'll get it right but for all the wrong reasons.

There are other questions on the ballot, but only one will require an actual vote. One of the Re-1 Valley School District Board of Education seats is up for grabs in a three-way race. I started to research that so I could make a prediction, but then I realized that it really doesn't matter. In a few years the board won't have any money to operate with anyway.

Lordy, I do love elections!