County voters were true to form, voting heavily Democratic and giving 77 percent of their votes to President-elect Barack Obama. Colorado’s new U.S. Senator Mark Udall also won handily in the county, with 77 percent of the votes.
“I’m really honored that the citizens of San Miguel County had enough faith to reelect me to another term,” said County Commissioner Art Goodtimes, who beat two challengers to win his fourth term in office. Goodtimes, a Green, won by close to the same margin he did four years ago, when he also faced two opponents. “When there’s a Republican on the ballot, county Republicans tend to vote for that person,” he noted.
Goodtimes represents the third commissioner district, covering the county’s West End, starting at Placerville.
Republican candidate for incumbent Goodtimes’ seat Bill Wenger was philosophical about his loss. “I knew I had an uphill battle,” he said, “when things began to play out between Obama and McCain” and the Republican part seemed to be losing traction quickly. “I’m kind of an Independent that happens to be registered as a Republican,” said Wenger, who served as San Miguel County Commissioner 1991-94, “and I think having ‘Republican’ next to my name was not in my favor whatsoever.
“I think I definitely brought some dialog to the process, and opened some eyes. It was a worthwhile thing.”
Democrat candidate Oak Smith, who trailed roughly 650 votes behind Goodtimes, could not be reached for comment.
Elaine Fischer was elected to a third term as the commissioner from the first commissioner district, incorporating most of the town of Telluride. As was the case four years ago, Fischer was unopposed.
“I’m very proud and happy that I can continue doing the work for the citizens of the county that I love to do,” Fischer said on Wednesday.
Both Fischer and Goodtimes said that their reelection suggests a strong sense that the county is being well-run. The third seat on the board is held by Joan May, whose first term expires in 2010.
But the failure of four taxing measures suggests that local elected officials may have to work on an austerity budget for the next few years. Voters rejected bonds for a new medical clinic, a school addition, completing the reconstruction of the Hwy. 145 Spur, and a relatively small mil levy to go to support early childhood education.
“Certainly we’re disappointed,” said Hospital Administrator Gordon Reichard of the electorate’s failure to approve two of three ballot questions that each needed to pass in order for the hospital district to move ahead with its plan to build a new medical center.
By a narrow three-vote margin, the voters approved the sale of the RV lot and a small piece of the much-disputed Pearl Property to the Telluride Hospital District for a new clinic. However, by another narrow six-vote margin, voters said that the ordinance restricting development on the Pearl may not be relaxed to allow the clinic to encroach on it.
But those results may be moot anyway because 60 percent of district voters denied a $15 million bond the district was hoping to use to pay for part of the $31 million facility.
One consequence of these votes may be that the clinic could eventually leave town, if and when it gains funding for a new facility. If not the RV lot and a portion of the adjacent Pearl, the hospital district board has concluded that there is no other location in town that could work.
Reichard said that the THD Board of Directors will meet on Thursday morning to discuss it’s options, but that it has not given up on the idea of a new med center.
“They’ll toss it around and come up with a new strategic direction,” he said. “Everything happens for a reason and we will take this result and we will deal with it and we will move ahead.”
Fortunately, despite the election results, “We still have a place to live.”
Despite stressing that because it planned to retire another bond early the taxpayers could count on paying less school taxes even by approving the $18-million bond sought by the R-1 School District, 57 percent of district voters still turned away the funding sought for new classrooms, teacher housing, building repair and technology upgrades.
“We’re disappointed for sure,” said Telluride R-1 School Superintendent Mary Rubadeau. “We’re already maximizing the use of our facilities.”
Facing cracks and potholes that will surely make driving on the Spur this winter a treacherous endeavor, the voters also denied the approval of a $12 million bond to reconstruct the only road into town by almost a three-to-one margin.
“I’m going to propose that we take a look at not just what happened with the Spur but what happened with all four of the ballot questions,” said Mayor Stu Fraser, who said he has plans to propose that a community forum be held to learn exactly what went wrong.
“Was it just the economy, or was it something else that we don’t know about?” he said. “I think we need more discussion.”
In the meantime, the Spur “will go through the winter season and get cracked and potholed just like it did last year,” he said.
Finally 54 percent of county voters turned down a small mil levy increase that would have raised about $670,000 annually for early childhood education.
“I’m disappointed that it didn’t pass, but I thing I understand the variables,” said County Commissioner Elaine Fischer, who spearheaded the effort.
“I think we were affected by the economy like everybody else,” she continued, adding that the Childcare Task Force will use the next six to 12 months to regroup and re-explore the issue and that it plans to approach the voters again.
“This is not over,” Fischer said.
Chris Myers, citizen-intiator of the Instant Runoff ballot initiative, in which Town of Telluride voters’ second choice among mayoral candidates will be tabulated to determine a winner, if no candidate wins a majority, pronounced himself a “little bit on a high from the current victory,” which voters turned in by a two-to-one margin.
The measure takes effect three years from now, in the next mayoral election, Myers said, adding, “the Town of Telluride will be in touch with the Secretary of State probably after the first of the year” when the secretary starts work on developing instant-runoff rules.