Maketa deserves open-minded voters

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Hard to believe, but five weeks from now, mail ballots for the 2012 general election will arrive at thousands of homes across Colorado Springs. That means the time is now for voters to begin making judgments on the ballot measures that often have direct effect on all of us.

Since the Business Journal’s ownership change, we’ve been careful not to bring any political agenda to the paper, and this page. The sole intent here is to discuss issues that matter to Colorado Springs, especially the business community. You won’t see us endorsing candidates or ballot measures because that’s not our role.

However, as we’ve begun sharing our plans and priorities, asking for feedback along the way, business leaders are encouraging us to offer editorials with analysis and thoughts on political matters — as long as we don’t tell anyone how to vote.

That brings us to our subject here: Sheriff Terry Maketa’s proposed countywide sales tax proposal put on the ballot by the county commissioners. It would produce about $16 million annually for eight years to address long-postponed needs in law enforcement, criminal justice (jail) and emergency response.

This is not the place to go into every specific. Here’s the basic impact: It would cost you 23 cents in added sales tax for every $100 you spend, or $1 for every $434 spent. On a daily basis, people wouldn’t notice.

Yet we’ve seen one troublesome response across the area. The anti-tax folks have knee-jerked against Maketa’s proposal, simply because they refuse to support any new tax. They’re entitled to that view, of course, and if enough voters follow that approach, the ballot measure won’t have a chance.

Our position is different. We do wish Maketa had begun pushing this idea much sooner, making his case and cultivating support for many months as proponents of the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority tax renewal have done. The sheriff didn’t do that, and his late-developing plans were delayed further by the Waldo Canyon fire.

But that doesn’t mean everyone instinctively should reject Maketa’s ballot issue. We all know El Paso County has grown to more than 600,000 residents, yet the sheriff’s office has fewer deputies than when that number was closer to 500,000. He’s been the sheriff since 2002, and he’s been asking for help practically since taking office. But he’s also done a superior job of running an efficient department, doing his best to stretch limited (or shrinking) funds as much as possible. And everyone saw his leadership during the fire, mobilizing his personnel and making smart decisions. But it stretched his staff beyond its limits, as Maketa can painfully describe.

As for his political future, he says, why on earth would any Republican with higher dreams push a tax increase? The answer, simply, is because he honestly believes it’s needed. (Find the actual proposal with below.)

We’re not saying to vote in favor of Maketa’s tax hike. But the sheriff has done enough in 10 years to deserve more than an uninformed no. What he deserves is for every voter to read the proposal, consider his office’s needs, and then decide.

Sheriff Terry Maketa’s proposal, as it will appear on the November ballot:

SHALL EL PASO COUNTY TAXES BE INCREASED BY APPROXIMATELY $17 MILLION ANNUALLY TO DIRECTLY FUND THE URGENT PUBLIC SAFETY NEEDS IDENTIFIED BY EL PASO COUNTY SHERIFF TERRY MAKETA, THE CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL SERVING ALL RESIDENTS OF THE CITIES, TOWNS AND UNINCORPORATED AREAS WITHIN THE BOUNDARIES OF EL PASO COUNTY, AS CRITICAL TO PERFORMING HIS STATUTORY OBLIGATIONS TO ALL EL PASO COUNTY RESIDENTS, BY INCREASING THE COUNTY’S SALES AND USE TAX RATE BY TWENTY-THREE HUNDREDTHS OF ONE CENT ($0.0023) PER DOLLAR PURSUANT TO PART 1 OF ARTICLE 2 OF TITLE 29, COLORADO REVISED STATUTES; WHICH NEEDS ARE SPECIFICALLY IDENTIFIED IN THE AREAS OF LAW ENFORCEMENT, CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND EMERGENCY RESPONSE, WITH ALL REVENUES GENERATED TO BE RESTRICTED TO THE FOLLOWING AND USED FOR NO OTHER PURPOSE:

 

1. LAW ENFORCEMENT NEEDS

• HIRING, EMPLOYING, TRAINING AND EQUIPPING ADDITIONAL PATROL DEPUTIES, INVESTIGATORS AND CIVILIAN SUPPORT STAFF

• CONDUCTING FIRE AND CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS

• REPLACING OBSOLETE AND FAILING COMMUNICATION EQUIPMENT

• PURCHASING AMMUNITION, FUEL AND OTHER OPERATIONAL SUPPLIES AND EQUIPMENT

 

2. CRIMINAL JUSTICE NEEDS

• HIRING, EMPLOYING, TRAINING AND EQUIPPING ADDITIONAL DETENTION DEPUTIES, CIVILIAN SUPPORT STAFF AND COURT TRANSPORT PERSONNEL

• CONDUCTING CRIMINAL EXTRADITION

• REPLACING AGING VIDEO SURVEILLANCE AND VIDEO VISITATION SYSTEMS AT THE COUNTY JAIL

• PURCHASING OPERATIONAL EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES

• ADDRESSING ADDITIONAL SECURITY, SAFETY, OPERATIONS AND MAINTENANCE COSTS AT THE COUNTY JAIL

 

3. EMERGENCY RESPONSE NEEDS

• HIRING, EMPLOYING, TRAINING AND EQUIPPING ADDITIONAL EMERGENCY PLANNING AND OPERATIONS STAFF AND FUNDING EMERGENCY RESPONSES

• CONSTRUCTING AN EMERGENCY SERVICES VEHICLE RESPONSE CENTER

• PURCHASING A WILDLAND FIRE TRUCK AND ADDITIONAL FIRE AND EMERGENCY SERVICES EQUIPMENT

 

WITH THE SHERIFF REQUIRED TO REPORT ANNUALLY TO THE CITIZENS OF EL PASO COUNTY ALL REVENUES AND EXPENDITURES RESULTING FROM SUCH TAX INCREASE; AND A CITIZENS’ ADVISORY COMMITTEE TO REVIEW ALL REVENUES AND EXPENDITURES RESULTING FROM SUCH TAX INCREASE; WITH ALL REVENUES GENERATED AND THE EARNINGS ON SUCH REVENUE TO BE COLLECTED AND SPENT EACH YEAR WITHOUT LIMITATION BY THE REVENUE AND SPENDING LIMITS OF, AND WITHOUT AFFECTING THE COUNTY’S ABILITY TO COLLECT AND SPEND OTHER REVENUES OR FUNDS UNDER, ARTICLE X, SECTION 20 OF THE COLORADO CONSTITUTION; WITH SUCH SALES AND USE TAX INCREASE BEING COLLECTED, ADMINISTERED AND ENFORCED PURSUANT TO EL PASO COUNTY BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS RESOLUTION NO. 12- ___; WITH SALES OF GROCERY FOOD ITEMS, PRESCRIPTION MEDICATIONS, FUELS FOR RESIDENTIAL UTILITIES AND OTHER GOODS AND SERVICES IDENTIFIED IN RESOLUTION NO. 12- ___ BEING EXEMPT FROM SUCH SALES AND USE TAX INCREASE; WITH THE UNDERSTANDING THAT THE SHERIFF CAN AT ANY TIME RECOMMEND TO THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS A REDUCTION OR ELIMINATION OF SUCH SALES AND USE TAX INCREASE; AND WITH AN EIGHT-YEAR SUNSET PROVISION, SUCH SALES AND USE TAX INCREASE TERMINATING WITHOUT THE NEED FOR FURTHER ACTION ON JANUARY 1, 2021?