Do you know who is going to be counting your Arvada Fire Protection District property tax hike vote?
If you think it is going to be the election offices of Jefferson County Clerk, Pam Anderson ... you are wrong.
Your vote is going to be counted by a private company hired by the board of directors of the Arvada Fire Protection District.
Yes, the fire department tax election has been privatized.
Why the Jefferson County Clerk and the Colorado Secretary of State are good enough for us to utilize to elect the new Governor, but are not good enough to be entrusted with a fire district tax hike election, well, that is the $51,000 question.
Because the fire board could have coordinated their tax election with the County Clerk for about $55,000, letting the election system you already own and is directly accountable to you supervise the election. Instead the fire board decided to privatize the vote and hired a contractor for $106,000. (AFPD Board of Directors Meeting, July 20, 2010)
The fire board hired Community Services Resources, LLC (CSR) to run the election from Aurora -- so much for keeping your tax dollars local, uh? Now, CSR may be a reputable company, but try and find out exactly how your tax hike ballot is going to be secured and accurately counted is not so easy -- there is nothing on their web site detailing their ballot integrity and counting system. And a telephone call I made to their head election person mainly resulted in verbal assurances and an offer to find out from the District Attorney whether or not the 'mail ballot plan' they filed with the Colorado Secretary of State could be released to the public. [UPDATE: Apparently the District Attorney has said okey dokey and here is a PDF of the 'Mail Ballot Plan'. Note that if you forget to put your ballot in the mail in time for it to be delivered by the U.S. Postal Service to the Aurora voting center of the AFPD, you can drop your ballot off at one of three locations: Arvada City Hall; the fire district office at 7903 Allison Way ... or you can drive to Aurora, 3855 Lewiston St., Suite 140.]
On the other hand, the Jefferson County Clerk's Office Elections Division has a video on its web site explaining clearly and thoroughly how your ballot for this year's general election is protected and secured. Take a look at the video: 'Election Ballot Counting'.
So, at the Jefferson County Courthouse your general election ballot is secured in a restricted, video monitored room; the signature on your ballot is electronically verified to actually be your signature; and the votes are counted on a high tech, tamper-proof machine. You'll have to ask fire district board members if your tax hike ballot is granted that same kind of security from the company they are paying.
Now ... let's put to rest this argument that somehow a special, separate mail-in election is going to ensure that everyone eligible to vote is given the opportunity to vote.
In this year's general election, EVERYONE eligible to vote can vote either by mail or by early voting or by going to the polls on Tuesday, November 2, 2010. Period.
And if the County Clerk had run the AFPD election in coordination with the general election -- EVERYONE eligible to vote would have had all the opportunity anyone could want to vote. Period.
There is simply no other way to put it: while arguing financial distress for the AFPD now and in the future, the board of directors spent approximately $51,000 needlessly. Period.
You would have thought that when asking property owners for a 55 percent tax increase, the elected officials would have gone the extra distance to demonstrate their fiscal responsibility and restraint ... alas.
By privatizing their tax increase election -- when that was clearly unnecessary and more costly -- the fire board has actually demonstrated how out-of-touch they are with the financial realities of district citizens. A 'no' vote on issue 5A, cast on the 'special election' ballot that you will send to Aurora, is the appropriate and fitting way to send the AFPD board a message: start planning anew and present us with a more reasonable request two years from now.