Kennedy: Here’s what my ballot looks like

Sean Kennedy

With ballots arriving for many this week, I thought I’d offer a brief overview of the issues at the local, state and federal levels that voters in Larimer County will have a say in, as well as submit my brief opinion on the issues that matter most for your consideration. Hopefully, this will help to illuminate the local ballot measures some around Fort Collins may be unfamiliar with, as well as raise new factors to consider in voting on certain measures.

Federal

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President

Especially in this year’s race, I feel that the role of the President is pretty well understood. I’m voting for Jill Stein of the Green Party, simply because I feel an obligation to vote in this particular race. Jill Stein is absolutely not qualified to lead our country, having not held political office at even the state level before, however, I believe she would do the least amount of harm to the security of the American people out of any of the four biggest candidates.

Donald Trump does not have the temperament to lead; even without considering his policies, he’s a definitively bad person that will probably leave the world better off when he’s no longer in it, and would do unprecedented damage to our internal and external affairs.

Hillary Clinton represents an extension of the status quo of rule by the elites. While she did do much for the poor and minorities in the way of advocacy early on in her working life, she has since chosen to abandon them in favor of embracing (and later joining) the wealthy elite to fuel her rise in power. Her struggle in this election is not so much due to her gender as it is her (whether fairly or not) being the poster child for the elite ruling class that feels content to trample the poor in America and the Middle East as long as it leads to greater profit margins and global influence. In my view, she is untrustworthy and similarly unelectable.

Those who explain away global warming and would prefer to sell off federal land to private owners are not people that generally receive my support, and Gary Johnson, while otherwise very qualified, is no exception. It is extremely necessary to vote for someone in this election, and I recommend Jill Stein as the least harmful option.

Senate

This year’s Senate race will determine if Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet will keep his seat next to fellow Colorado senator Cory Gardener, a Republican. In the interest of balance, and because I’m a left-leaning voter, I recommend voting Michael Bennet for re-election. I originally leaned towards supporting Arn Menconi, the Green Party candidate from Eagle County, but I was drawn back to Bennett by his record of service to the state. Bennett’s loyalty to his party can at times lead to him supporting crummy legislation, but he also supports many beneficial positions, such as advocacy for alternative energy and limits on lobbying in Washington. I admit that I have not done much research on his main challenger, Republican Darryl Glenn, but it’s important to me that women should maintain the freedom to control their bodies as they see fit, and Glenn as a pro-life candidate would seek to jeopardize that freedom.

Congress

Congressman Jared Polis is seeking to continue representing district 2 in Colorado this year, an area that includes Fort Collins and Boulder. Polis is a phenomenal representative who has been a consistent advocate for green energy, an area that is important to me. I was disappointed that he chose to support Hillary Clinton as a superdelegate in the Democratic primaries after Coloradan voters displayed overwhelming support for Bernie Sanders, however, I don’t think that this problematic instance of his choosing the wishes of his party over those of his constituency is enough to warrant voting for an alternative candidate. Polis should do better at staying loyal to the interests of his constituency above all, which he already does a fairly good job of.

State

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Amendment 69

In a nutshell, this amendment would raise state taxes by $25 billion to establish a universal healthcare system at the state level. An important caveat to this system is that if created, Coloradans would still have the option of purchasing private health coverage if they wish. While I support shifting to a universal healthcare system at the federal level, I don’t think doing so at only a state level would be a wise decision. While taking such an initiative to bolster the movement towards universal healthcare nationwide is honorable, the massive increase in taxes would place a heavy burden on taxpayers and could discourage businesses from moving to Colorado. With state population growth booming and a minimum wage increase also on the ballot this year, I don’t think Amendment 69 is the best idea right now.

Amendment 70

If passed, Amendment 70 would approve a gradual increase of the minimum wage in Colorado. The state minimum wage would be increased to $9.30 initially, then grow by $0.90 every year until it reaches $12.00 an hour in 2020. While approving a minimum wage hike does always run the risk of spooking employers from hiring more workers, I believe this amendment wholeheartedly deserves our support. Inflation has far outpaced the rise in the minimum wage over the past several decades, and whether or not you believe that the minimum wage should be a “living” wage, at present, it doesn’t even come close to doing so. Workers deserve o be paid at a rate that at least entertains such an idea.

Amendment 71

In brief, Amendment 71 would make it more difficult for citizens to make changes to the state constitution. The amendment would significantly increase the amount of signatures needed on petitions for citizen-initiated legislation and require that constitutional amendments receive at least 55 percent of the vote, not just simple majority, to pass. I don’t honestly know how this amendment got enough support to get on the ballot; who in their right mind would want to limit citizens’ influence on the laws governing their own state? If you value your own political influence, do not vote for this measure.

Amendment 72

Amendment 72 concerns tobacco products, as it would raise the tax on cigarettes by $1.75 from $0.84 a pack to $2.59 a pack. The money collected on the tax would go towards tobacco education and cessation programs. Diversion programs aside, the proposed tax increase is too drastic to warrant voting for. Granted, at 38th highest in the country, Colorado’s cigarette tax does warrant an increase. However, raising the state tax by an amount more than the national average cigarette tax ($1.65) is overkill. Even as someone who supports tobacco cessation programs and initiatives to reduce smoking, I take issue with my legislating my values to this degree. Raising the cigarette taxes to such a high degree would be unfair to smokers.

Proposition 106

If approved, this legislation would legalize physician-assisted suicide for the severely ill in Colorado. This initiative would allow those who have received a medical prognosis of death to seek drugs to end their lives, provided that two other physicians confirm the diagnosis and that the patient can prove their mental capabilities to do so. Everyone has control of their own bodies, and so I believe everyone deserves the right to die if they want to. I realize that death is a touchy subject and that many may be wary of allowing severely sick people this right for moral or religious reasons, but I think it would be arrogant of us to assume that there is no pain so great or enduring that it warrants relinquishing one’s own life voluntarily. We have no way of knowing, and should support this legislation.

Proposition 108

This initiative would open up general election primaries in Colorado so that all voters could vote in the primaries of any party they wish, be it Democratic, Republican, or another organization. If you value your freedom and influence as a voter, support this proposition!

Local

Ballot Issue 1A

This initiative would implement a 0.25 percent sales and use tax in Larimer County to last for 25 years to construct and operate a mental heath and substance abuse facility in Fort Collins to serve all people. While some may be wary to support the creation of a new tax, I think that this measure is more than necessary in our current times. Mental health is an issue that has a massively underrated impact on communities everywhere. Often we only hear about it after it’s stigmatized by the national media after a mass shooting, but unaddressed mental health issues can cost businesses productive hours from employees, strain interpersonal and familial relationships, and spiral into dangerous violent incidents in the most rare and extreme cases. Supporting this tax to create a local mental health facility will save more money and lives down the road than we could ever know.

Ballot Question 1B

This measure would give Larimer County the right to provide and manage internet, cable television and telecommunication services for citizens within its boundaries (this includes Fort Collins). There are no taxes associated with this initiative, though one could reasonably infer that new taxes will be necessary in the future to fund said services proposed by this legislation. I am in favor of this amendment as it will allow for the county to explore the ways it could potentially provide high-quality internet services to our city at a cost-effective price without tying us into any long-term taxes or deals that deprive us of money or freedoms. If the county comes up with such a service plan that requires tax money to operate, it will likely need further approval from voters to do so.

Ballot Issues 3B & 3C

Local Poudre School District is asking voters for greater funding through these initiatives. The combined $43 million bond and mill levy would allow the district to construct several new schools and facilities to meet the educational needs of a rapidly growing population that is already straining the resources of its current system. I support these measures as one who was personally educated by schools in this district, and places a high value on the education he received from it. I have written about these ballot issues in greater detail in the past. Support the bond and mill levy for Poudre School District.