1 for the Money

Interpreting Amendment 1 can be quite a balancing act. On Monday, Fitzhugh Havens took the fall.

One of the foot soldiers is Peter Whitmore. His Denver law firm, Grimshaw and Harring, publishes and distributes The Tabor Digest, which keeps tabs on the roiling legal waters surrounding Amendment 1.

According to Whitmore, no one has attempted to tabulate all the legal costs--private as well as taxpayer-funded--spawned by the litigation surrounding the initiative. Yet it almost certainly has run into the millions of dollars. "Think of all the money that has been spent on lawsuits just trying to figure out the damn thing," says Larry Holthus, Archuleta County's attorney. "That, to me, is an outrage."

The Tabor Amendment has certainly kept the courts hopping. Since 1992, assorted district courts have handed down nine final decisions concerning Tabor. (Three other cases were dismissed; another three are pending.) The state Court of Appeals, meanwhile, has written three opinions of its own on separate cases, with one more pending.

And the Colorado Supreme Court, which has expressed its desire to deal quickly with Tabor questions, has ruled on sixteen more Amendment 1 cases. Two additional cases are pending--one of which is Havens's. By Whitmore's count, more than three dozen cases in all have plowed their way through private and government attorneys, judges and courtrooms.

Much of the legal haggling has been unbelievably arcane and complex. Some has been comprehensible. For example, when a municipality asks to keep extra money, must it say how much, exactly, in dollars? No, the Supreme Court decided last year. (Bruce's interpretation differs. "The Supreme Court has its head up its collective butt on that one," he theorizes.)

A handful of the cases seem designed to waste time. One of the complaints included in a 1994 lawsuit was that the state didn't print ballot titles in capital letters. (The court ruled that it should.)

Several of the suits directed against local governments have been filed by Bruce himself (three in Colorado Springs, plus at least one other he funded in Wheat Ridge) or his public allies (Vern Bickel, of the Colorado Taxpayer's Union in Boulder). Yet the Tabor Amendment also has given local anti-tax curmudgeons unprecedented opportunity to vent and, possibly, to influence statewide taxing policy for years to come.

I begun to think that maybe we don't get our money's worth with our taxes," Fitzhugh Havens explains. "They've added a great deal to the overhead in the past ten years. Maybe it's necessary. But when you see the county road crews knock off at two o'clock to get back to the shop so they can quit at five, you gotta wonder."

Havens voted for Amendment 1 in 1992.
The Havens family has had a hand in Archuleta County affairs for more than a century. Fitzhugh Havens's grandfather homesteaded his ranch there in 1887. Fitzhugh moved to the area from Los Angeles in 1929, when he was twelve, to live with his uncle on the ranch. He graduated from the Pagosa Springs high school, class of '34, and went to work.

At first Havens stayed on the ranch, raising cattle and some sheep. But an argument with his uncle led him to look for new possibilities. An opportunity to fly on his own came in 1944, when Chromo's country store went up for sale.

Havens and his wife, a lifelong resident of the county, added on to the store and built the business. Spurred on by a temporary influx of workers for a river-diversion project, by the 1980s the Chromo Mercantile complex had grown to include a gas station, a restaurant and a motel with living quarters behind it. In 1987 it all burned down.

"We lost everything, everything we had," Havens says. "We still don't know how it started. We had no insurance--everything was paid for, and the insurance was so damned expensive." With the help of neighbors, the Havenses rebuilt the store.

Through it all, Fitzhugh Havens and his wife have raised five children. One of them, a son, still lives in Pagosa Springs. Another, a daughter, died at her parents' home this past February.

Although Havens is officially retired, he occasionally can be found still minding the store. Other than that, "I putter around the garden and read and so forth," he says. "I read nearly everything: the Wall Street Journal and Forbes, and I have for years. Occasionally I get a copy of a financial magazine of some sort. I don't take a daily newspaper; the mail rates are awfully high."

He also stays involved in local politics. "I been fighting for public things for a number of years--writing letters to the editor and so forth," he says. ("You can look back through our old papers twenty and thirty years, and anytime there was a school bond election, there's a letter to the editor from Fitz explaining why people should oppose it," confirms David Mitchell, editor of the Pagosa Springs Sun.)

Occasionally, Havens even ventured out to the stump: He ran for county commissioner twice and lost, and ran several times for the school board and won.

In 1994 it was a series of tax questions over the space of several months that raised Havens's ire. One was the extension of a 2 percent sales tax, which he campaigned against and which passed nonetheless by a mere two votes. Another was a hospital bond issue to build a new clinic, which also passed despite Havens's vocal opposition. The third was Archuleta County's request of its voters to keep sales-tax revenues above and beyond the limits set by the Tabor Amendment.

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