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Municipal elections across Colorado include questions on taxes, bonds, housing and marijuana

Author: Ernest Luning - November 6, 2017 - Updated: November 7, 2017

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A voter places his ballot into a collection box after filling it in at a polling center, on state primary election day, in Boulder, Colo., Tuesday, June 28, 2016. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)A voter places his ballot into a collection box after filling it in at a polling center, on state primary election day, in Boulder, Colo., Tuesday, June 28, 2016. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

Voters in more than 80 municipalities across Colorado are electing members to city councils and town boards, as well as deciding a range of ballot measures covering everything from tax and bond questions to pot sales and high-speed internet, according to data compiled by the Colorado Municipal League.

For the first time since 2009, there isn’t a statewide question on the ballot. Six rural counties without contested races or local measures have canceled their elections entirely — Cheyenne, Dolores, Grand, Hinsdale, Mineral and Washington counties — and voters in some districts elsewhere won’t receive ballots because there isn’t anything for them to decide.

Through Friday morning, election officials reported receiving ballots from 612,589 of the state’s 3.37 million active registered voters. The turnout so far is about one-third what it was a year ago with the presidency, Congress, the state Legislature and county offices up for grabs.

Residents of Aurora, Lakewood, Littleton, Greeley and Pueblo are among those voting for council members.

Denver residents are voting on a $937 million package of bond projects to pay for transportation, public safety and facilities, and Colorado Springs voters are weighing the creation of a contentious stormwater fee, among the hundreds of ballot questions to be decided in the off-year election.

As usual in the typically low-key off-year elections, many questions are exceedingly local — Longmont could borrow $36 million to improve its water system, and Steamboat Springs could authorize letting city council members enroll in the same medical and dental plans available to city employees — while others are local versions of contentious statewide or national issues.

Broomfield residents are considering whether to amend the charter to let the city regulate oil and gas development within its borders. Denver voters are being asked whether the city will require so-called green roofs, which could include solar installations, on new buildings larger than 25,000 square feet.

In Boulder, there’s a measure to approve a tax increase to help pay for the acquisition of its own municipal electrical utility approved by voters in 2011.

Dillon voters are being asked to approve $5 million in bonds to fund affordable housing for the town’s workers. Lafayette is considering whether to keep a building permit cap in place while allowing for affordable housing developments that meet certain critia. Crested Butte could establish a tax on vacation rentals to pay for affordable housing in the mountain community.

Voters in several communities are deciding whether to change how their cities and towns are structured.

Pueblo is considering whether to create the position of mayor and change from from a council-manager to a mayor-council form of government. Castle Rock could establish an elected mayor and eliminate one of its city council districts. Residents of Wray and Red Cliff could eliminate term limits for council members. Aurora wants to increase salaries for its mayor and city council members.

As usual in recent elections, plenty of municipalities are deciding whether it’s OK to grow, sell and tax marijuana in town. Alamosa, Monte Vista and Rocky Ford are considering allowing pot sales and cultivation, while 14 cities and towns — including those three plus Berthoud, Commerce City, De Beque, Dinosaur, Eagle, Federal Heights, Foxfield, Log Lane Village, Longmont, Sheridan and Walsenburg — are deciding whether to approve taxing the stuff. Fort Collins is asking voters whether the city council can change municipal ordinances governing medical marijuana without getting voter approval for every amendment.

This fall, 16 cities and towns are asking residents to OK providing high-speed internet service — Alamosa, Avon, Dillon, Eagle, Fort Lupton, Georgetown, Greeley, Gypsum, Idaho Springs, Louisville, Manitou Springs, Minturn, Monte Vista, Silverthorne, Snowmass Village, and Vail.

Voters in Fort Collins are deciding whether the city will move toward providing broadband service as a public utility and can borrow as much as $150 million to pay for it. Up to this point, voters in 67 cities and towns have approved municipal broadband, although few have started providing it.

Residents are also deciding tax questions across the state, including de-Brucing measures to lift TABOR limits in Cañon City, Greeley, Leadville, Littleton, Lochbuie and Salida. Pueblo and Durango are among cities asking for tax hikes to fund public safety, and Fort Morgan and Northglenn want to pay for roads and infrastructure with new or extended taxes.

Lodging taxes to pay for economic development and to boost tourism are on the ballot in Cañon City, Cripple Creek, Hudson and Lamar, while voters in Wiggins are being asked to approve a lodging tax to raise general municipal revenue.

Ballots were mailed out beginning Oct. 16 and must be received by county clerks no later than 7 p.m. Tuesday. Election officials and the U.S. Postal Service say it’s too late to return ballots by mail and urge voters to deliver their ballots to collection facilities and the secure, 24-hour drop boxes set up in every county. Voters can also cast ballots in person — contact county clerks for details. Go to www.govotecolorado.com for a plethora of election information.

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.