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FODR initiative is missing the mark

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By Greg Romberg

It was quite a week for Independence Institute president Jon Caldara and his “Fix Our Damn Roads” initiative.  First, Colorado Springs mayor John Suthers signed a petition to help get it onto the ballot. Then, Caldara announced plans to sue the Greeley Stampede for stopping the collection of petition signatures at the event. Because the Stampede takes place on publicly owned land, Caldara believes it’s unconstitutional to restrict access to potential signatories on public land.
FODR is substantially different than other proposals to make more resources available for Colorado’s roads for a couple reasons. First, it makes money available only for roads and bridges and doesn’t include anything for other kinds of transportation, notably transit, bike lanes or multi-modal projects. Second, it requires an increase of $3.5 billion for roads and bridges without raising taxes or fees. This proposal contends that other governmental spending should be reduced to prioritize more funds for roads and bridges while alternative proposals suggest new funds for a broader range of transportation options.
Suthers’ support is meaningful for a variety of reasons. Prior to serving as mayor of Colorado’s second largest city, he was the district attorney for El Paso and Teller counties and Colorado’s attorney general. Also, both El Paso County and Colorado Springs have dedicated resources for transportation. Suthers’ public support for the initiative to prioritize funds for roads and bridges instead of finding new sources of funds for a broader transportation agenda provides additional legitimacy to Caldara’s efforts as the final push to get enough signatures for November’s ballot wraps up.
Given Colorado’s continuing growth, the demonstrated underfunding not only for transportation, but also for a variety of other governmental services, most notably K-12 education and higher education, I think (despite its clever name) that FODR misses the mark and that we need to support proposals to provide adequate resources without undermining education and other important government services. If FODR makes it onto November’s ballot, it’ll be a no vote from me.

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Whether in agreement or disagreement, I like Jon Caldara and get a kick out of being around him. My favorite Caldara memory was as part of a coalition trying to make it easier to access government records. As we established the strategy for testimony before a Senate committee, we decided that Caldara would speak last, following the ACLU and my comments on behalf of the Colorado Press Association. After I finished, Caldara began his testimony by saying, “Now that you’ve heard from the ACLU and the media, you’ll hear from a real American.” While he offended some of the senators, I couldn’t keep from laughing out loud.

Greg Romberg is president of Romberg and Associates, a government relations and public affairs firm. He lives in Evergreen with his wife, Laurie.