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Support for Anti-Sprawl Initiative Drops

Colorado's initiative process allows voters to change the governing charter of the state at every general election. The last constitutional change of major impact was the 1992 TABOR Amendment, which radically altered state and local public finance procedures. This year Amendment 24, the initiative to stop sprawl, could have an equally significant effect on local government land use policies, the shape of city boundaries, county development patterns and the value of real estate.

Amendment 24 garnered a substantial 62 percent support among likely voters as of the end of September, but that reflects a drop of 13 percentage points from March of this year.

The Amendment wins a lower level of support among non-metro residents and Republicans than among metro residents and Democrats. The strong opposition of local government leaders, including many Democrats, along with opposition from the popular Republican governor is having a negative effect on the initiative.

Supporters do have campaign funds for television advertising but they will be outspent at least 4-to-1 thanks to a $4 million war-chest assembled by corporate and real estate interests.

All growth control measures that have been on local ballots in Colorado have been subject to severe criticism. Still, several have passed. However, Colorado's staunch support for the concept of local control is a powerful obstacle for statewide changes targeting local governing districts.

Growth Controls

  • High level of voter concern
  • Local citizens have been willing to take action on local growth limits, open space taxes, transportation bonds
  • But amendment lacks media and leadership support. Opponents represent nearly unified local governments and business community
  • Vulnerable to attacks as excessive, especially with negative effects on economy and affordable housing
  • Opponents will outspend supporters more than 4-to-1 Supporters will argue developers are buying the election

The amendment's weakness lies not in any particular feature, but in the lack of credible spokespersons who deal with growth and development issues on a regular basis. John Fielder is effective, but fails to offer an expert viewpoint or be joined by others who do. Many city and county officials and legislators are, like the public, concerned about growth and would like more tools to strengthen local and regional ability to manage growth. But few of them have endorsed the initiative. This dearth of local support has left the initiative vulnerable to opponents charges.

  • A telephone survey of 500 Colorado registered voters sponsored by 9-KUSA, KOA 850 News Radio and the Denver Post.

  • Interviews were conducted by Ciruli Associates September 25 to September 29, 2000 with registered voters selected by random methodology screened for their likelihood to vote.

  • Statistical range of accuracy in 19 out of 20 cases plus or minus 4.4 percentage points for sample size of 500. Due to rounding not all totals equal 100 percent.

  • Conducted for publication in www.ciruli.com, the official web site of pollster Floyd Ciruli.


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