Inmates Now Running the Asylum

Mar 18, 2010 | Updated May 25, 2011

Colorado Springs voters rejected 2C by a 2 to 1 margin. There's no way to spin it. The Common Good was the big loser on election night.

The No on 2C proponents - a mixed bag of anti-tax people, tea baggers, birthers, retired military brass and right-wing nuts were shrill in their celebrations. They called the election win a mandate to take down tax-happy local governments.

The No on 2C coalition won with 64 per cent of the vote in which 105,000 residents voted. In the last off-year municipal election in 2007 59,000 citizens voted.

"I am very surprised by the number of votes cast," said Andy McElhany, a former Republican state senator and the chairman of the "No" campaign.

Jan Martin, 2C's author, had hoped to pass 2C by running a grass-roots effort similar in scope to last November's Obama campaign in which 150,000 Colorado Springs voters cast 41 percent of the votes for Obama and carrying El Paso County for the Democratic presidential nominee. Take away the draw of Obama and the moderate vote virtually disappeared. The Yes on 2C campaign drew just 36 percent of the vote, far off expectations.

While Yes on 2C ran on motherhood issues such as public safety and saving parks, the No on 2C effectively demonized the property tax mill levy as a 200% increase and another government tax grab. Moreover, the No coalition focused their attack on 2C's failure to set a limit on the measure with a sunset clause.

McElhany admits completely missing this point in the early days of the campaign, but he was reminded by the voters he met at rallies. "Voter concern over 2C's lack of a sunset clause was a contributing factor in the voting results."

The No campaign also took advantage of their hold over media in town to push voters' hot buttons and arouse voters who were frustrated with the local government in general and the city council in particular. Given its recent history the city council was an easy target. "If any one thing stood out it was the anger and frustration of the electorate," said McElhany.

As voters on both sides reflect on the election in the next few weeks it may come down to whether the battle over 2C was any more than a fight between two wings of the Republican Party. This was a classic case where moderates and ultra-conservatives were vying for control over a city with established anti-tax traditions and virtually no progressives to oppose them or offer alternatives.

As one longtime observer noted: "We're all Republicans here essentially. Calling for a tax hike is political suicide in this town. No one wants to risk talking in support of raising any kind of tax."