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Colorado Editorial Roundup

October 10, 2018

The Gazette, Oct. 10, on property rights and Colorado Amendment 74:

The Gazette’s editorial board erred on the side of property rights but erred nonetheless with our initial support for Amendment 74. Voters could easily make a similar mistake, so we urge readers to consider the full ramifications of this ballot measure.

The proposal sounds more American than standing for the flag. The ballot asks voters: “Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution requiring the government to award just compensation to owners of private property when a government law or regulation reduces the fair market value of the property?”

It sounds like the perfect offset to Proposition 112, the jobs-killing proposal to shut down Colorado’s oil and gas industry with 2,500-foot setbacks that violate property rights.

Unfortunately, Amendment 74 is so broad-based it threatens to jeopardize property rights and bilk local governments and taxpayers out of billions of dollars with frivolous lawsuits.

Oregon voters overwhelmingly passed a measure similar to Amendment 74 in November of 2004. Within a year, property owners filed more than 2,000 claims, most challenging rules restricting subdividing and developing land.

A circuit court judge ruled the law in violation of the Constitution’s equal protection clause in 2005, but the Oregon Supreme Court reversed the ruling.

The law caused more than $20 billion in claims within three years and led to the development of housing subdivisions and big-box stores in locations broadly considered inappropriate. Unintended consequences of the law generated opposition from a coalition of conservationists and farm organizations. Voters negated much of Measure 37 by passing Measure 49 in 2007.

Colorado’s proposed law is considerably worse than Oregon’s flawed Measure 37. Oregon’s law pertained only to regulations enacted any time after an individual or corporation acquired property.

The carelessly worded Colorado proposal could bolster claims by property owners challenging long-held planning and zoning regulations in place before they acquired property.

By opening the floodgates to anything-goes litigation, Amendment 74 could jeopardize the property rights it claims to defend. Imagine Bob buys a lot, gets it zoned residential, and builds a house. The new home impedes the mountain view from neighbor Charlie’s house. Under this law, Charlie has grounds to sue the local government for allowing Bob to diminish his view and lower the value of his home.

Don’t like the new big-box store down the street? Sue government for allowing it, arguing it devalues your home. Want to build a new big-box store where one is not allowed? Sue local government for a regulation that lowers the potential value of your land.

This law has so few boundaries it could facilitate complaints against entire new subdivisions, as they increase the housing stock and arguably lower values of nearby existing homes.

Property rights serve as the foundation of our economy. Without them, nothing has value. That’s why we have the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, which says no individual shall be deprived of property “without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

Courts have balanced the public’s interests and private property rights within limitations of the Fifth Amendment for nearly 250 years. They will continue doing so, and we don’t need voters trying to trump the Fifth Amendment and existing property protections in the Colorado Constitution.

Amendment 74 sounds like a good idea and originally had us fooled. Don’t fall for it. This proposal inadvertently threatens property rights, while paving the way for expensive, frivolous and opportunistic litigation that will waste hard-earned taxpayer dollars.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2NAvR79

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The Durango Herald, Oct. 8, on a sign of the times:

It was a sign. A sign posted in a restroom in a downtown Durango restaurant.

To the folks who run the restaurant, it was a funny sign. A harmless sign done up in the style of an Old West “wanted” poster. A reminder to parents that their efforts to keep their kids on their best behavior while in the establishment were appreciated.

The sign, looking antique in a weathered barn-wood frame said: “NOTICE. Unattended & Unruly Children Will Be Arrested & Sold As Slaves.” It was signed, ostensibly, by Wyatt Earp, the one-time deputy marshal in Tombstone, Ariz., now famous for the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

To a patron of the restaurant visiting Durango - an African-American woman and descendant of a slave - it was not just a sign, however. And it certainly was not funny. She informed the manager of her concerns.

That was the start of the story. The visitor’s friend, a local woman, went back to the restaurant expecting to see that the sign had been removed.

It was still there. She wrote a letter to us, which spurred a news item, which led to a resolution.

The manager took down the sign. He said he planned to contact the visiting patron and apologize.

End of the story - but start of the storm.

Our online comments quickly became contentious, with some readers applauding the woman for sharing her concerns while others derided her and her supporters for overreacting to a joke.

One poster offered a perfect solution. Change the sign, the suggestion reads, to say, “Unruly children will be given a puppy and a box of chocolates.”

If only we could leave it there. But in a sign of our times, the comments piled on, and quickly grew personal and political. And they multiplied virally on social media, turning disgustingly impolite and worse, overtly racist - yet another demonstration that too many people on the internet, despite all its promise, remain hopelessly addicted to circling the drain.

Walking in Durango, we are left to wonder if there are other aspects of our town, with its “authentic” historic flavor, that visitors may find offensive even though offending anyone is the last thing on our minds.

That sign was not a one-off. It likely came from a curio shop, perhaps one of those here in our own little town that prides itself on an old-time, good-time atmosphere.

It’s a sign. A sign to some of how far we’ve come. A sign to others showing how far we still need to go.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2RGMrW8

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The Daily Sentinel, Oct. 10, on cyclists and an injustice:

If you participated in the Bicycle Tour of Colorado this year and enjoyed a prepared breakfast at Confluence Park in Delta, please consider making a donation to the Delta High School marching band.

Actually, if you’ve ever participated in any supported ride anywhere in the state, here’s an opportunity to show how much you appreciate the efforts small towns undertake to maximize your enjoyment on a bike.

Participants in this year’s 426-mile Tour of Colorado paid $435-$520 a person, which included all meals along the ride. Riders probably aren’t aware that their money didn’t go far enough to pay the Delta High School marching band for the breakfast that band kids and their parents prepared back in June.

The Sentinel’s Katie Langford and Gabrielle Porter brought the situation to light in Tuesday’s paper. Tour officials sent $1,300 checks to the Delta Chamber of Commerce and the Delta Kiwanis Club and an $1,800 check to the marching band for their work in hosting the riders. All three checks bounced.

Tour organizers blamed the lack of funds on sponsorships that didn’t come through. While it’s a blow to the chamber and Kiwanians, our chief concern is the impact on the band.

Across the state, marching bands have had to absorb more and more costs as districts have pared back financial support for non-core programs. Instruments, uniforms, copyrighted music, choreography and competition costs are largely borne by band members and their families.

Some Delta marching band parents worked at the tour event as a way to pay for their child’s band registration. The band is still honoring that, but the $1,800 shortfall is eating into reserves.

Jenni Neil, the parent of a Delta High School marching band member, said students and their parents put in a total of 68 hours working on the breakfast, and got up at 4 a.m. the day of the event.

The city of Delta was paid in advance for use of the park. It would be a welcome gesture for the Delta City Council to consider helping out the band with whatever money the city received from the tour.

Absent that, we call on riders from across the Western Slope to consider making a small contribution to the marching band as a show of support for the small towns whose civic organizations step up to provide meals and facilities for these epic rides.

These Delta High School students will learn an important lesson: either that life isn’t fair or that cyclists can be counted on to support those who support their rides.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2A3BabP

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