Closing Arguments for Candidates, Campaigns on 2016 Colorado Ballot

Haven't voted yet? Today's your last chance to do so — and in our election archives, you'll find a wealth of information about statewide ballot measures and races specific to Denver,

Below, for your convenience, we've rounded up some of each to help you make the choice that's right for you.

Included are excerpts from our interviews with Beth McCann and Helen Morgan, who are running for Denver district attorney; Q&As offering positive and negative sides of ballot issue 4B to renew the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District; differing takes on Initiative 300, concerning the social use of marijuana; and conversations with 6th District congressional hopeful Morgan Carroll and U.S. Senate race competitors Darryl Glenn and Michael Bennet.

Get a taste of the posts below and click the links for much, much more. Then get out there and vote.

Beth McCann
Candidate for Denver District Attorney

Westword: Why did you decide to run for district attorney?

Beth McCann: A couple of reasons. I think we can be doing things a little bit differently in Denver in criminal justice. I obviously believe strongly that people who are dangerous and commit violent crimes need to be put in prison, where they're not in the community. But I also think we could be doing more to address the causes of crime and preventing crime in order to keep our community safer. By that I mean particularly working with young people and the subject of mental health and substance abuse, addictions. There's national criminal-justice reform going on, and I'd really like to see Denver be a leader in that area.

That's kind of the substantive area. And secondly, my background gives me a unique set of qualifications for this race. It fits my background really well. I was a prosecutor here in Denver for many years, but I've also served as Manager of Safety of Denver and also supervised lawyers in the attorney general's office. And now I'm making the laws, writing the laws, as a legislator. So I bring a unique set of qualifications that I think will really help me lead Denver forward to some new thoughts about criminal justice and how we can get smarter about it....

I've been a lawyer for many years. I did not only do criminal law, but I also did private practice in litigation and supervising litigators at the attorney general's office more recently. So I've got that trial-work/strategy/evidence background. But I feel that to be the manager of the office, you really need a broader and deeper experience level. The management part is really important, because a lot of heading up an office involves management skills: personnel issues, performance reviews, budgets, those kinds of things. I have a lot of experience in those areas. But then the legislature has really broadened my view of what people expect from the criminal-justice system and how the laws get written and how many different points of view there are. It's just given me a much broader understanding of criminal justice as a whole....

Read more in The Race for Denver District Attorney: Meet Beth McCann

Helen Morgan
Candidate for Denver District Attorney

Westword: Why did you decide to run for district attorney?

Helen Morgan: Because Denver deserves, in this time of criminal-justice reform, someone with my experience, vision and leadership.

What do you see as your most important qualifications?

I've been at the DA's office for 22 years. I started on February 22 of 1994. And as I've progressed through the DA's office, it's been fascinating to watch how we've started to look at what we do differently. Certainly in the aspects of drug addiction, alcoholism and mental illness. So we have responded to a national movement — it started with Bill Ritter in the late '90s — to say, "Drug addiction is a health issue, it should not be a criminal issue, and we should give people the treatment they deserve, the tools they deserve, to help them be productive citizens." Because jailing a drug addict is just expensive and nothing else.

I have had the opportunity to respond to those challenges. For example, in 2007, I helped reestablish and reconfigure Denver's drug court. So I know how to effectuate change. As you know, working in government can sometimes make glaciers look speedy. You have the police department and you have the defense bar and you have the courts and you have probation. You have all these players, all of whom have a stake in the outcome, all of whom have limited resources, all of whom have the same goal but come at it from a different angle. And so to actually get something done takes much more than saying, "I would like to start a drug court," for example.

I came into the planning process of drug court in the fall of 2006, when the group had been going for about a year. We got money from the Denver Crime Prevention and Control Commission. When [then-Denver mayor John] Hickenlooper was asking for bond money for the jail, he committed to money for jail-diversion programs. He said, "I want to give a bunch of money and I want to form this commission," which was a fabulous idea, "and I want you to look at how to keep people out of jail." One of the things I said is, "We need to reestablish drug court.... Okay, what's our protocol? How are we selecting people? Where's our memorandum of understanding?" And there was a two-page document that sort of sketched out an idea of what we were going to do — and that was it.

We had a lot of work to do. Now, because I had been in drug court in the late '90s and seen some of the mistakes we'd made, as well as some of the things we did well, and because I knew everybody at the table, I was able to say, "Okay, let's look differently at how we do intake," because we don't want every offender in our system — because sometimes drug offenders also have guns and kilos of cocaine. Those are not the kind of people who are going to get a community sentence, and if they do, they're not going to get a community sentence within a drug court sentence. They're just not appropriate. So I said, "Let's take all those people out." And everybody was like, "Okay, that sounds good." Now, at the time, Charley Garcia, who went on to become Manager of Safety, he was part of the discussion group. He and I talked about eligibility criteria and about whether we should accept everybody who would already be eligible for community corrections, since that was a standard we already had. And everybody said, "Okay, that makes sense. Let's get that done." And it's those kinds of processes that are intricate and difficult and sometimes painful for agencies, since it means rethinking the way we've done things and admitting that the way we've done things isn't working....

Read more in The Race for Denver District Attorney: Meet Helen Morgan

Ballot issue 4B

"The measure seeks to reauthorize the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District, which funds organizations devoted to culture and the arts by way of a 0.1 percent sales tax that's been in place throughout the seven-county Denver metro area for 28 years. Without voters' approval, the tax will expire on June 30, 2018."

Westword: Why should people vote in favor of 4B?

Michele Ames, Yes on 4B spokeswoman: I think the simplest way to think about it is that the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District, which is represented by 4B, turns out to be the little tax that could. We're at almost thirty years, and with just one penny on every $10 of sales tax that folks pay here in the Denver metro area, we get an amazing array of cultural activities, arts activities, facilities that are world-class by anyone's measure, as well as small, intimate theaters and music settings all over the seven-county metro area. To me, this is exactly what we should be getting when we pay our taxes and do this kind of communal effort.

How do you feel the tax has succeeded over the thirty years it's been in place?

These aren't my measures; these are external measures. But the National Endowment for the Arts did a study that came out recently in which Denver did very well. And by any measure, we have a very robust cultural arts and scientific community here in the seven-county metro area. And while certainly the SCFD shouldn't claim credit for every single bit of it, I think having that base level of funding and that base level of support from the community for those fledgling cultural efforts, as well as more established regional efforts, speaks volumes about who we are and shows our commitment in a way that's tangible. And I think it encourages more involvement. We saw it in the NEA survey, which said that 64 percent of adults here participate in some sort of activity that they define as art or a creative activity.

Again, no one's trying to claim credit for the whole thing, but I do think that having this bedrock of financial support and this bedrock of obvious community support is important. Assuming the vote goes forward, this will be the third time that voters will have renewed the district and the fourth time overall they've voted in favor of it....

Read more in Why You Should Vote Yes on 4B to Renew Denver's SCFD Arts and Culture Tax

The Independence Institute's Jon Caldra isn't actively campaigning against 4B, but he opposes the measure.

Westword: Why are you an opponent of 4B?

Jon Caldara: For a whole host of reasons. Let's start off with the larger question: Is this a core function of government? And the answer is overwhelmingly no. This type of activity, whether it's keeping cultural institutions going or throwing money at feel-good community theater groups out in the hinterlands of the metro area, that's not what government was created for. But there's a larger issue in the long term. The more that government takes over the role of arts-and-culture funder, the more that arts and culture become a property of the state. And over time, I think that's a dangerous thing.

One of the beautiful things about free speech is that it's free — it's not state-sponsored. And once you start having state-sponsored art, the line between art and propaganda begins to blur.

There's another reason, too. I'm someone who loves art and made his living doing art: I used to be a stage-lighting designer, I used to do a lot of stagecraft work. So I understand the value that art has. But when government becomes the sponsor of that, then artists, cultural institutions, start playing toward their customer, which is government. And we also start training those people who used to invest and donate to art and culture that their investments are not needed because it's a state function now.

You've seen what's happened over the last seventy years when it comes to welfare. Welfare used to be done by civic groups and religious groups and different organizations. But once it turned into an entitlement by government, people started giving less and less to it, because they felt they were being forced to give to it through their taxes. There's even more of a disconnect there....

Read more in Why You Should Vote No on 4B to End Denver's SCFD Arts and Culture Tax

Continue for more about Initiative 300, congressional candidate Morgan Carroll, senatorial challenger Darryl Glenn and U.S. Senator Michael Bennet.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts