The Alternative Voter’s Guide

The Legislative Council’s ballot-analysis booklet has inspired so many fights, it should be called the black-and-blue book. Here’s our cure.

Referendum 4B: Renew Scientific and Cultural Facilities District Tax
What the hell would it do?

Continue support for free Saturdays at the Denver Art Museum, Museo de las Américas, Curious Theatre Company, the children's gardens at the Urban Farm and many other worthy ventures. Over the past sixteen years, more than 300 arts organizations across the metro area have received funding through the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District tax. Passage of 4B would reauthorize the SCFD's .1 percent tax on retail sales for another twelve years. That's one penny for every $10 spent. A dime on a hundred-dollar pair of pants.

Yes, there have been some concerns about how the money -- nearly $35 million some years -- has been parceled out. The lion's share, 59 percent, has gone to the "Big Four" -- the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, the Denver Zoo, the Denver Art Museum and the Denver Botanic Gardens -- while a second tier of 23 medium-sized organizations have split 28 percent according to their budgets, and 280 smaller groups, like the Denver Brass and the LIDA Project, have fought for the remains. These allocations would change slightly under 4B, because the Denver Center for the Performing Arts would jump into the top tier.

The notion of the SCFD, the most comprehensive cultural support program of its kind in the country, was devised in the mid-'80s, when Colorado's economy was foundering and the Colorado Legislature hacked $2 million in arts funding. Voters approved the idea in 1988 and again in 1994. Imagine the current arts scene in this foundering economy if they hadn't.

Who's behind it?

Citizens for Arts to Zoo.

War chest: $1,500,290.06.

Big donors: Denver Zoo, Denver Art Museum, Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver Museum of Nature & Science and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (not from SCFD funds, however).

Noteworthy supporters: Mayor John Hickenlooper and legislators Norma Anderson and Shawn Mitchell, both Republicans.

Who wants it dead?

No official opposition group has filed with the secretary of state's office. The Independence Institute has come out against 4B, but that think tank is against just about everything but guns and booze -- preferably together. Also opposed is the Colorado Union of Taxpayers, whose president, former state representative Penn Pfiffner, is a senior fellow with the Independence Institute.

War chest: $0.

Fun facts:

• The "Big Five" arts organizations donated $1,078,577, or 72 percent, of total contributions. If 4B passes, this top tier will receive 65.5 percent of the tax revenue generated. Talk about a return on your investment!

• The SCFD polar-bear mascot has a name: Popsicle.

Best campaign snafu:

A pro-4B TV spot allegedly featuring Claude Monet's "Waterloo Bridge" at the Denver Art Museum in reality includes neither the museum nor "Waterloo Bridge." The campaign used a $500 reproduction -- on loan from the DAM -- and an unused gallery in the Denver Museum of Nature & Science to shoot the commercial. (At least the DAM actually owns "Waterloo Bridge.")

Guide to decide:

• If you think Extreme Makeover is "cultural enrichment," vote no.

• If you think Queer Eye for the Straight Guy is "cultural enrichment," vote yes.

• If you drink lattes, vote yes.

• If you drink Mountain Dew for breakfast, vote no.

• If you remember Laser Floyd, vote yes.

• If you've ever tripped A in the Botanic Gardens, vote yes.

• If you couldn't wait for Klondike and Snow to leave, vote no.

• If you can name any zoo babies born in the last year, vote yes.

If we were betting types:

WW: 34-1 in favor; 26-1 if none of the animals gets to register.

TR: 50-1 in favor.

JG: 4-1 in favor. "Remember Klondike and Snow? Enough said."

Amendment 34: Construction Liability
What the hell would it do?

Undo portions of House Bill 1161, which the state legislature passed last year as a way to stop those pesky juries from offering "outrageous" settlements -- in this case, from suing a homebuilder who, say, failed to mention that the foundation of your new home would likely buckle because it was built on unstable soil. By reining in jury awards, supporters like construction-firm-owning representative Greg Rippy said, the measure would reduce a contractor's liability insurance cost, so that no more small businesses would be forced to close. (Doing quality work would also help ensure that they stayed in business.)

As approved by the legislature, HB 1161 specifically limited the amount homeowners could win in lawsuits claiming poor craftsmanship. It also capped the amount of a pain-and-suffering award in personal-injury cases -- for example, compensation for breaking your neck after you fall through the floor because the joists are faulty -- at $250,000 and prohibited treble damages unless a homeowner could prove that the builder acted fraudulently or in bad faith, and even then those damages were capped at $250,000. (By the way, the Colorado Consumer Protection Act already mandates that treble damages may be levied only when fraud is proven -- and when HB 1161 was introduced, no such damages had been awarded against a builder in at least five years.) Finally, the bill required a homeowner to notify his builder about any problems -- called a "punch list" in the industry -- and then give the builder the opportunity to repair those problems before the homeowner sued.

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