McKibbin’s Scribblin’s: It’s not all about the money
Politics has become so expensive that it takes a lot of money even to be defeated.
– Will Rogers.
It is money, money, money! Not ideas, not principles, but money that reigns supreme in American politics.
– Robert C. Byrd, the longest-serving senator and the longest-serving member in the history of the U.S. Congress.
With all due respect to the most respected senator from the good state of West Virginia, not here in little ol’ Rifle, Colorado. Apparently. I’d say Mr. Rogers may have had a better handle on how our small town politics worked this year.
The small but dedicated group of people who spearheaded the opposition to the recreation center sales tax on the Rifle ballot a few months ago generated what you could call a landslide win and only spent a couple hundred dollars doing it.
Now, granted, it wasn’t an issue prone to countless negative TV ads. I’d say that even the ads you read in this newspaper bought by the pro-rec center group were positive, pointing out the advantages of a rec center. And there are many.
And it’s true that out of a registered electorate of 4,598 in a city of more than 9,000 people, just 1,748 votes decided the issue. But still, the 1,063 to 685 trouncing by opponents, lead by the Rifle No More TAXES issues committee, was impressive.
And they spent less than a quarter on each vote. You could argue the issue was likely to fail even without organized opposition. Maybe. This is a pretty conservative area politically, so tax issues always face an uphill fight. And the depressed, down trodden state of Rifle’s local economy was definitely a major factor in the outcome.
On the flip side, the Committee for the Rifle Recreation and Community Center issues group, backed by funds from a $1 million donation to the Rifle Regional Economic Development Corp. by the late Genevieve Clough, spent just under $30 per vote in favor of the sales tax. They spent just over $20,000, about 85 times more than the $240 spent by the No More TAXES group, according to my calculator.
And look at the outcome. A 378-vote margin of victory for the anti-tax crowd. Talk about getting the most bang for your buck.
Compare that to the resounding defeat of Amendment 66 in Colorado’s general election this month. State voters turned that election funding reform measure down by a 836,324 to 452,166 tally. A 384,000 margin against that measure shows voters across the state may be of the same mind as those in Rifle when it comes to tax increases, no matter the purpose or cause.
But it is kind of refreshing, isn’t it, to see a small group with a goal in mind work hard and meet that goal? It gives you hope that maybe accomplishing something politically, even if it’s in a small city hundreds of miles from the nearest metropolis, is still possible for those not backed by big money.
I’m not saying the pro-rec center group did anything wrong by spending what they spent. It looks like they ran a professional campaign, one that usually wins in many cases. Their mistake was just one of timing. But they wanted to fulfill the wish of the late Mrs. Clough and try to have a place where youth and adults alike could go, have fun, socialize and stay healthy.
Coming so soon after the 3/4 cent sales tax for Rifle’s new water plant, and the down economy, it was just too much for most voters.
And, perhaps most importantly, they ran into a determined, thrifty group of folks who had a strong message they were able to effectively – and very cost effectively – get across to voters.
Mike McKibbin is the editor of The Citizen Telegram.
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