|Loveland's Independent News Source
Council's Ballot Neutrality
Loveland - October 8, 2016
On September 20, 2016 Loveland's City Council passed a ballot neutrality policy to abstain from voting
on resolutions, in favor or against, any ballot measure as proposed by Loveland Councilman Troy
Krenning. The motion and subsequent policy simply state,
"The City Council will not consider resolutions in support of or objecting to matters involving
questions appearing on any ballot and are subject to a vote of the people."
As a matter of law, locally elected officials cannot use government resources in an attempt to either pass
or defeat any qualified ballot question that is subject to a vote of the people. Therefore, sometimes
locally elected officials will pass a symbolic resolution either in favor or against a ballot question for
which that elected body has no jurisdiction. Often the vote is divided and predictably along partisan
lines but either way is only a symbolic gesture. Nothing precludes any elected official from individually
endorsing ballot measures and working to either pass or defeat ballot question outside their official
The Politics Behind Symbolic Resolutions
Last Tuesday, a number of advocates for the Larimer County Ballot Issue 1-A (proposed county-wide
sales and use tax increase) complained to Loveland's City Council during public comment. Pastor
Howard Dotson of Loveland's First Presbyterian Church went so far as to tell Councilman Krenning that
he owes the families of suicide victims an apology for proposing the neutrality policy.
Krenning responded later in the meeting that Loveland's City Council already planned to vote on
Larimer County's ballot measure 1-A before he proposed the neutrality policy. He explained the item
was pulled from their agenda by a Larimer County Commissioner once he learned the vote would not
be unanimous in favor. Krenning explained the divided council vote over a resolution on a proposed
fracking ban several years ago was not helpful to either side as it was a split vote and used only as a
political club. Krenning along with Councilmen McKean and Overcash argued to keep election politics
out of council meetings and instead focus on city issues within their purview.
Councilwoman Leah Johnson complained about the hour the policy was passed on September 20, and
has vowed to bring it back for another vote at a future council meeting. Johnson was working behind
the scenes to place a resolution on a city council meeting agenda in support of the property tax
increases proposed by Thompson School District ballot measures 3D and 3E.
Loveland Councilman Hugh McKean is the Republican candidate running for Colorado's House District
51 against Democrat Jody Shadduck-McNally. McNally supporters are anxious to force McKean to take a
position on the TSD proposed property tax increases. For his part, McKean reiterated his own decisions
on some ballot measures may not come until election day indicating he will not allow a non-binding
council resolution to force his hand. Overcash announced he will abstain if his colleagues are succesfull
in overturning the policy because he doesn't believe it is the council's place to tell citizens how to vote
through symbolic resolutions.
Councilwoman Joan Shaffer, a lifelong activist for the Democratic Party, also complained during last
Tuesday's council meeting that not all the councilors were present for the vote on September 20, 2016.
Apparently, Councilman Rich Ball became sleepy and departed the meeting without notifying his
colleagues. Later, Krenning and others stated they thought he was in the restroom.
During the September 20, vote, all councilors present voted to "call the question" which is a
parliamentary procedure to end the debate or discussion. In other words, all the councilors present
agreed to suspend the discussion eight minutes after Krenning's motion was seconded by Councilman
Overcash. The policy was adopted on a 4-3 vote.
Whether a "political billy club" as described by Krenning is negative or positive depends on one's point
of view. In the case of the school mill levy increases those working to defeat McKean's run for State
House are anxious to wield just such a political club. Loveland's City Council will likely take-up the
issue in two weeks and vote again on the policy with all nine councilors present to repeal the council's
recently adopted neutrality policy.
Councilwoman Leah Johnson is reported to be preparing the school bond and mill levy override council
resolution in favor of the property tax increases. This is likely to be introduced along with another
resolution supporting Larimer County's sales tax increase to build a mental health facility during the
same council meeting.
Whether Overcash keeps his promise to force colleagues to take positions on the balance of the more
than dozen ballot measures remains to be seen.
|Loveland Councilman Troy Krenning answers colleagues
regarding the council's newly adopted neutrality policy.
Mayor Pro Tem John Fogle invokes the memory of his late
wife into the debate and Councilman Don Overcash walks
through ballot questions while Councilwomen Joan Shaffer
and Leah Johnson question the validity of the policy.
|Despite a number of accusations regarding the manner in
which Councilman Troy Krenning offered a motion to keep
ballot politics out of council meetings, all 7 council
members present voted to suspend discussion and vote
on the policy which passed 4-3. Councilman Richard Ball
left the meeting early without notifying his colleagues.
|Video links below to Loveland City Council public
comments on the neutrality policy, councilors
debating the policy (Oct. 4, 2016) and finally the
original vote to enact the policy (Sept. 20, 2016).