Colorado


Marijuana TrendThe latest Public Policy Polling poll of Colorado, released on October 25, shows that Coloradans support Amendment 64 by a 10-point margin and that support is trending upward.

According to PPP:

Colorado’s amendment to legalize marijuana continues to lead for passage with 53% of voters saying they plan to support it to 43% who are opposed. This plays out very much as a generational issue with voters under 30 favoring it 73/25, while seniors oppose it 38/55. Every age group except seniors supports the amendment, and it has a 58/36 advantage with independents.

This is 4-point increase from PPP’s previous (September 4) poll, which showed 47% in favor and 43% opposed. This is also an increase from the October 11 Denver Post /Survey USA poll which showed 48% in favor of Amendment 64 and 43% opposed.

Amendment 64 seeks to legalize the possession, use, cultivation, and manufacture of small amounts of marijuana and goods containing marijuana. It will create the legal framework necessary to tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. The Amendment states that the first $40 million in annual tax revenue will be earmarked for public school construction. More information on the Amendment, as well as the full text and ballot language, can be found on the  Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol website.

While the numbers from the latest PPP survey may appear favorable to supporters of the Amendment, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol cautions supporters against becoming complacent. A similar measure in California, Proposition 19, led in polls until late September before the 2010 election, but was defeated 53.5% to 46.5% on election day.

Post-election analysis of Proposition 19 in California determined that the measure was probably defeated due to late-in-the-game opposition from prominent public figures in California. This is a concern for supporters of Amendment 64 in Colorado as well; Governor Hickenlooper and Denver’s Mayor Hancock, as well as several interest groups, oppose the Amendment.

On the other hand, Amendment 64 has advantages that California’s Proposition 19 did not. Many local law enforcement professionals and doctors, as well as the Colorado Democratic Party, have voiced their support for the measure.

Those in favor of Amendment 64 have a significant fundraising advantage. The Denver Post reports that over $3 million has been spent so far by groups on both sides of the issue. Groups that favor legalization are out-spending opposition groups by a 4-1 margin. However, spending by groups in favor of Proposition 19 in California was also significantly higher than spending by groups opposed, so a fundraising edge for Amendment 64 does not necessarily indicate that it will pass.

Finally, the October 25 PPP poll suggests that support for Amendment 64 is currently at its highest level yet and is trending upward. For comparison, polling for California’s Proposition 19 showed support peaking in late September 2010 and trending downward until the measure’s defeat on election day.

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People who have lived in Colorado their entire lives, such as myself, often take the water resources of this state for granted. We water our lawns at noon, run the tap while we’re waiting for the water to cool down or while we’re brushing our teeth, and generally take all the fresh water we use for granted (and I’m sure Coloradans aren’t the only ones).

Does it strike anyone else as wrong that we use potable water to flush our toilets? To water our lawns? I don’t mean to sound (too) patronizing, because I’m just as guilty of these things as nearly every other American, but we are all incredibly privileged and most of us don’t even realize it (myself included).

Why don’t we do something about this, like use gray water to water our lawns and flush our toilets? I suspect there are two reasons. First, we just don’t really think about it a lot of the time. It’s just how it is, and we take the status quo for granted. Second, it really would take an extraordinary amount of infrastructure (re)development to re-route gray water from your shower drain to your toilet. Right now, we just don’t have the infrastructure or the will to do it.

It will probably take a significant water crisis, maybe on an order of magnitude similar to the Dust Bowl, to convince us that it’s silly to keep wasting all this fresh water.

Speaking of the Dust Bowl, I live on the east side of the Rocky Mountains, which means I also live on the east side of the Continental Divide. In Colorado, 80% of our rain falls on the west side of the Continental Divide, and only 20% on the east side. So, a significant amount more water flows down the west side of the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean than down the east side of the Rockies, to the Atlantic.

But eastern Colorado is where the vast majority of the farming in Colorado is done, because that’s where all those “fruited plains” are. In the early stages of Colorado’s settlement this wasn’t a problem, but during the Dust Bowl, farmers east of the Continental Divide (not just in Colorado) began to covet all that wonderful fresh water out west that they couldn’t use.

So began a little public works project called the Colorado-Big Thompson Project (C-BT). It was authorized in 1937 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and completed almost 20 years later. Upon completion, the project supplied fresh water to 33 cities, including Fort Collins, Boulder, Greeley, Loveland, and Estes Park, as well as farming in 7 Colorado counties. It includes 10 reservoirs, 18 dams and dykes, six hydroelectric power plants, and the Alva B. Adams tunnel.

The technical skill and perseverance required to build the entire C-BT project, and the Alva B. Adams tunnel in particular, continues to astonish me (remember, this was 70 years ago). The tunnel is 13 miles long and goes all the way under the Continental Divide and Rocky Mountain National Park. It was built from 1940 to 1944, in the middle of a world war. Much of the impetus for its construction was the hardship suffered by Americans, farmers in particular, during the Dust Bowl.

If this astonishingly hot, dry summer (and a little report from the UN) are any indication, Climate Change is here to stay. Ignoring it will not make it go away, despite what certain politicians seem to believe. Colorado, as well as much of America’s farmland, has faced drought conditions every summer for the past several years, and we desperately need to save as much clean water as we can for its best possible uses. (I’ll give you a hint – it’s not to flush your toilet.)

We need another large-scale water project. This time not to build dams, reservoirs, and tunnels, but to make more efficient use of the water we have. The Federal government can’t even find the political will necessary to pass a budget without shutting down the government, let alone undertake the massive infrastructure investment that would be required to mitigate another Dust-Bowl-like drought. We need that kind of investment to do things like re-route gray water from our shower and sink drains to our toilet bowls and lawns.

I’m afraid we might end up waiting for another Dust Bowl before we do what’s necessary.

This post was inspired in part by my newly begun master’s studies in Agricultural and Resource Economics, where I recently took a tour of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (NCWCD) headquarters. The NCWCD is responsible for administering the water resources for northeastern Colorado, including the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. 

Support for Amendment 64, Legalizing Marijuana, in the August 8 Public Policy Poll

Colorado support for Amendment 64 compared to general support for legalizing marijuana.

According to today’s Public Policy Poll of Colorado, support for Amendment 64 has grown since the June poll. The amendment, which will be on the Colorado ballot in November, proposes to legalize and regulate growth, possession, and usage of marijuana.

Support has grown by five points to 47-38 from 46-42 in June this year. Independents now support the amendment 58-28, up thirty points from support of 49-40 in June. Democrats favor it 59-22 while Republicans support it 26-61.

15% of voters are undecided on Amendment 64, up from 12% in the June poll.

The poll also posed a more general question, asking whether marijuana should be legal or illegal. Respondents were somewhat more in favor in this situation, supporting legalization 50-42 with 8% undecided. That’s a 2-point increase from June, when respondents supported legalization 49-43.

Support for Amendment 64 and legalized marijuana by political affiliation.

Support for Amendment 64 and legalized marijuana by political affiliation.

The 5-point swing in favor of legalization suggests that Colorado voters are becoming more comfortable with the idea of legalizing marijuana and taxing it in a manner similar to alcohol. This could be a result of the recent pro-legalization ad campaign.

It’s also possible that a lot of this change is a result of statistical noise. The margin of error on both polls was +/-3.5%, so much of the shift could be accounted for by sampling error.

However, the 30-point shift in independent support for the amendment is suggestive. The margin of error for independents is larger than for the overall poll, due to the lower number of independents, but a shift of this magnitude likely represents increasing support in this group.

In addition, little has been heard from groups opposed to Amendment 64. The group Smart Colorado, founded by Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, opposes the amendment but has only raised $16,000 as of the latest update.

Groups in favor of Amendment 64, including the Colorado Democratic Party and the state medical marijuana industry, have raised well over $2 million.

It is still early. The election is still three months away, and the outcome can easily change during that time. California’s latest legalization attempt, Proposition 19, was leading in polls until late September 2010. It was defeated in the 2010 midterm elections 53.5% to 46.5%.

If support for Amendment 64 continues to grow, it may become law in November. But supporters of the amendment will need to be wary of a co-ordinated opposition by special interest groups. Such opposition has defeated similar measures in Colorado and California in the past.

I admit I’m a little behind the curve on this one, but it was just too ridiculous to pass up.

 

Wind Turbine, Tower in a Corn Field

Image Credit: Sebastian Celis via Creative Commons

Last week, Governor Romney’s presidential campaign announced in Iowa that if he is elected president, he will allow the Production Tax Credit (referred to below as the “wind credit”) to expire.

According to The Des Moines Register,

Shawn McCoy, a spokesman for Romney’s Iowa campaign, told The Des Moines Register, “He will allow the wind credit to expire, end the stimulus boondoggles, and create a level playing field on which all sources of energy can compete on their merits.”

It the Romney campaign actually wanted to get rid of all energy subsidies, I’d be 100 percent for it because energy subsidies create market distortions. But of course the Romney campaign continues to support oil subsidies; because of course they don’t create an uneven playing field.

Besides, if Romney wanted to do away with oil subsidies, you can bet the Koch brothers et. al. wouldn’t be bankrolling his campaign anymore.

That aside, Romney really needs to work on his swing-state strategy. Iowa has more wind energy jobs than any other state, and Iowa Republicans were quick to point out just how misguided his notion was.

As Republican Rep. Tom Latham pointed out, this proposal demonstrates “a lack of full understanding of how important the wind energy tax credit is for Iowa and our nation.”

This isn’t just turning heads in Iowa, either. Green energy jobs are so important here in Colorado that only one Republican representative, Doug Lamborn, supported Romney’s notion. Even Birther lunatic Rep. Mike “Obama’s not an American” Coffman opposed Romney’s proposal. (This clown is my representative, sadly.)

Lest we forget, the wind energy tax credit was originally signed by George H. W. Bush in 1992 and renewed in 2005 by a Republican Congress and signed by George W. Bush.

The bottom line is Romney’s wacky proposal to do away with the PTC and the wind energy tax credit is so ridiculously off-the-wall that even his own party is disavowing his statements.

I seriously doubt Romney ever expected this to be good policy. He’s just doing the pandering he needs to do to appease the Tea Party and his oil billionaire donors.

He never needed Colorado and Iowa’s 15 electoral votes, anyway.

Wind turbines and solar panels on the Indigo Tower at Twelve West in Portland, Oregon

Wind turbines and solar panels on the Indigo Tower at Twelve West in Portland, Oregon

I was visiting Portland, Oregon, last weekend, and I came across this building while wandering around near Powell’s Books.

This is the Indigo Tower at Twelve West in Portland’s West End. This building is certified LEED Platinum, and you can see wind turbines and solar panels on the roof.

Why don’t we have buildings like this in Denver? We certainly get enough wind. I’m jealous.

Amendment 64, legalizing and regulating marijuana, has overwhelming support among ColoradansThe recent June 9 Rasmussen Reports poll, released four months before the election, shows that 61% of likely voters in Colorado support Amendment 64, also known as the Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol Act of 2012. Only 27% of Colorado likely voters are opposed, while 12% are undecided.

To put this in perspective, a poll conducted in California four months before the 2010 election found that only 44% of Californians supported legalization, 48% were opposed, and 8% were undecided. The California amendment, Proposition 19, was defeated 53.5% to 46.5% on Election Day.

In Colorado, as in California, a major factor in the eventual success or failure of the marijuana legislation is the groups that are for or against it. Amendment 64 is supported by the Colorado Democratic Party, the state medical marijuana industry, and a variety of activist groups. According to the Denver Post, supporters of Amendment 64 have raised approximately $2 million, all but $16,500 of which is from out of state.

Opposition to Amendment 64 remains light, with State Senator Steve King and the group Smart Colorado, run by Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, as the only major opposition thus far. The Denver Post reports that Smart Colorado has raised $15,000, $10,000 of which is from outside Colorado.

Opponents of Amendment 64, like Robert Sherman of CRL Associates, argue Amendment 64 is “bad for business as far as employers are concerned and it impacts how employers deal with their employees. We’re talking about huge ramifications on our children, on our state, and just the whole impacts on health and education.”

Supporters of this amendment, such as Tony Ryan, a former Denver police officer, argue, “Keeping marijuana illegal doesn’t do anything to reduce marijuana use, but it does benefit the gangs and cartels who currently control the illegal marijuana trade.” It will also provide much-needed tax revenue.

A similar measure from 2006, Amendment 44, sought to legalize marijuana but did not seek to regulate it in the same fashion as alcohol and tobacco. A poll conducted 40 days* before the election showed 29% of likely voters supported this amendment, 36% were opposed, and 35% were undecided.

Amendment 44 was defeated 59 to 41 with about $200,000 raised in favor and $1 million** raised by opposition groups. It is a fair assumption that many of the same groups that opposed this legislation in 2006 will oppose Amendment 64 in 2012.

However, a fundraising advantage does not necessarily indicate which side will be more successful. Approximately $4 million was raised in support of Proposition 19 in California, while only $320,000 was raised by the opposition. As mentioned above, that measure was defeated by a 7-point margin.

Nationally, it appears public opinion is shifting toward legalizing and regulating the sale of small amounts of marijuana. A nationwide poll released on May 17, 2012 by Rasmussen Reports showed 56% of likely voters supported legalizing and regulating marijuana like alcohol, while only 36% were opposed.

Barring any significant shifts in public opinion or massive increases in opposition fundraising, it appears Amendment 64, to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol, is well on its way to becoming law.

Update: The Public Policy Poll of registered voters released today shows 49% in favor of legalization and 43% against with 8% undecided. Independents support legalization 49-40, young people favor it 58-33, and voters over 65 oppose it 58-33. It appears the fate of this amendment will likely be determined by voter turnout in these two groups. Young voters historically have higher turnout during presidential election years, an advantage Prop 19 didn’t have in 2010.

 

*It’s somewhat problematic to compare a poll conducted four months before an election to a poll conducted 40 days before an election, but I was unable to locate any other polling for Amendment 44.

**Some of the committees that opposed Amendment 44 also opposed other measures on the Colorado ballot, so it is impossible to determine how much of this $1 million was spent solely against Amendment 44.

Neil Bush – Photo Credit: Kiev Ukraine News Blog

On Thursday, May 31, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney stood outside the abandoned headquarters of Solyndra, a bankrupt solar company that was backed by some $500 million in federal loan guarantees, and said, “free enterprise to the president means taking money from the taxpayers and giving it freely to his friends.”

What he didn’t say is, to the Republican Party, free enterprise is exactly that.

The very next day, Konarka, a Massachusetts-based solar manufacturer, announced that it was filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection and would lay off all its employees.

That marks the second bankruptcy of a solar company that was backed by Governor Romney’s administration. The other company, Evergreen Solar, declared bankruptcy in August 2011.

Maybe Obama and Romney’s administrations should have been a little more careful about who got these loans, but that’s also part of free enterprise. Romney’s experience at Bain has undoubtedly taught him that sometimes bad investments happen.

Even so, the administrations didn’t do anything wrong by making these loans. It is common practice for federal and state governments to provide loans and loan guarantees to companies in fledgling industries such as renewable energy.

It is, however, downright hypocritical for Romney and the Republicans to try to make Solyndra into a campaign issue.

At this point, the more conservative among you are probably saying that it’s not the same because “Solyndra’s chief backer was George Kaiser, an oilman who made billions of dollars and was a big donor and fundraiser for the Obama 2008 campaign.”

Or they might point to Romney’s claim that Solyndra funds were steered to “friends and family, to campaign contributors.” This claim, by the way, was debunked in detail by ABC.

But it would be hypocritical for Romney and the Republicans want to talk about steering federal funds to friends and family if they’re guilty of the same thing, right?

Does anyone remember the Silverado Savings and Loan bailout? From Wikipedia:

Silverado Savings and Loan collapsed in 1988, costing taxpayers $1.3 billion. Neil Bush, son of then Vice President of the United States George H. W. Bush, was on the Board of Directors of Silverado at the time. Neil Bush was accused of giving himself a loan from Silverado, but he denied all wrongdoing…

As a director of a failing thrift, Bush voted to approve $100 million in what were ultimately bad loans to two of his business partners. And in voting for the loans, he failed to inform fellow board members at Silverado Savings & Loan that the loan applicants were his business partners.

Neil Bush paid a $50,000 fine, paid for him by Republican supporters, and was banned from banking activities for his role in taking down Silverado, which cost taxpayers $1.3 billion. A Resolution Trust Corporation Suit against Bush and other officers of Silverado was settled in 1991 for $26.5 million.

So Neil Bush almost single-handedly destroyed Silverado Savings and Loan, costing American taxpayers $1.3 billion under the Reagan administration’s savings and loan bailout program.

…And the Republicans accuse President Obama of “crony capitalism”?

What Romney should have said is, “free enterprise to the Republicans means taking money from the taxpayers and giving it freely to their families.”

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