Letter to the editor: Alamosa mayor urges “no” vote on Amendment 74

I would like to ask you to join with the City of Alamosa in opposing Amendment 74 by voting “no” on this ballot measure in November. During City Council’s September 19, 2018 meeting, council voted unanimously to pass Resolution 15-2018 – a resolution opposing “Amendment 74”, an attempt to amend the Colorado Constitution to drastically limit state and local government services at a high cost to taxpayers. If Amendment 74 passes, it will obstruct our ability to make local decisions, reduce government services, and increase taxes.

Check the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Editorial Board opinion from October 10, 2018, titled “We were wrong on Colorado Amendment 74.” As the Gazette noted, “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?” This caused the Gazette initially to endorse the proposition. Then they considered the matter more carefully: “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.”

Property rights are protected by 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.” Under the current United States and Colorado Constitutions, court remedies already exist, with established principles, when an individual believes government regulation has unreasonably impacted property values. Amendment 74 would expand those principles without any limitations or standards by which claims could be measured due to vague language requiring the government – i.e., the taxpayers – to compensate corporations and landowners for ANY land use regulation that has an adverse impact on profits. This amendment is not about protecting property owners from condemnation or the seizing of property. Amendment 74 is about preventing governments from making land use decisions that put our communities and public safety before profits for those advocating this change.

In 2004, Oregon tried this same thing and it was a disaster, costing taxpayers billions of dollars, threatening schools, roads, and public safety. Oregon voters repealed and significantly modified the law three years later. Arizona passed a similar version only to quickly see property owners increasingly fighting other property owners in court and prompting towns to routinely grant zoning waivers to avoid lawsuits.

If this poorly written, risky measure is passed it would end up in our state’s constitution forever (or until, like in Oregon, the voters realize what a mistake they made). Our cities and towns will face the consequences including the inability to tackle our pressing issues such as public safety, quality of life, and infrastructure updates. Governments would be forced to govern defensively to avoid lawsuits that would be paid for by taxpayers. As local officials, city council’s primary responsibility is to serve you and to protect your health, safety, and welfare. Our local government should be able to exercise this duty without the constant threat of costly litigation that undermines the quality of life and economic health of our communities. This Amendment has far too many unintended consequences.

I respectfully ask you to vote “No” on Amendment 74.

Mayor Ty Coleman

City of Alamosa