Voters thread through the ballot

  • Cartoon: Knight with Colo. Amendment 14 as shield fends off giant hog

    Greg Siple
  COLORADO


Voters thread through the ballot


Voters faced a list of complex initiatives and referenda in Colorado.


Amendment 13 asked them to amend the constitution to protect the burgeoning hog industry on the state's eastern plains from strict environmental rules. Voters defeated it, 553,000 to 348,000, then voted for Amendment 14, which revises state law so that large commercial hog farms face a permit process, plus new clean air and water standards.


Dave Carter of the Rocky Mountain Farmer's Union, which campaigned for Amendment 14 and against the industry-sponsored Amendment 13, says the citizens' initiative was their last resort: Two years of lobbying the Legislature for tougher rules on corporate hog farms brought no results, he says. Meanwhile, the hog industry was booming on the eastern plains - rising from more than 1.1 million hogs in 1995 to 1.7 million just two years later - and following laws written for an era that predated industrial agriculture.





"It was a gamble," says Carter, because it left the decision-making to voters who are not well-versed in the hog-farming debate. "We came to the conclusion that voters actually read these issues and make serious decisions."


Both sides of the campaign poured considerable sums of money into the campaign: One of the bigger spenders was Denver railroad billionaire Phil Anschutz, a major landowner in eastern Colorado, who put more than $400,000 into the campaign.





"In this case," says Daniel Smith, a University of Denver political scientist, "environmentalists found a sugar daddy."


Two controversial water initiatives backed by rancher Gary Boyce failed, even though his Stockman's Water Co. spent more than $1 million collecting signatures and promoting the measures across the state (HCN, 10/26/98). Amendment 15 asked voters to approve the installation of water flow meters on farmers' irrigation water taps in the San Luis Valley. The accompanying Amendment 16 would have required water users in the valley to pay $40 per acre-foot for water pumped from the local aquifer. Amendment 15 failed, with 690,000 to 214,000. Amendment 16 failed by a margin of 683,000 to 216,000.


*Dustin Solberg


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