Shenanigans in Aurora, Colorado?

Should we “call shenanigans” (see South Park episode #213) on the Aurora Mental Health Center (AMHC)? They’re footing the bill for a special election on May 2 in the hopes of establishing a Mental Health District, which would increase the sales tax in Aurora by .2%.

If it passes, Aurora will have the distinction of having one of the highest sales taxes in the state. Not only would shoppers then have an incentive to take their dollars outside the city, new businesses may refuse to open up shop in Aurora fearing the backlash of high taxes and fewer customers.

This whole thing goes way beyond your generic tax increase however. The Aurora City Council and Mayor, who voted to place this issue on the ballot, have reversed course and sent a letter to the AMHC asking them to postpone the election until at least November.

They allege that the election hasn’t been well publicized and 4 of the 6 polling locations are located inside Aurora Mental Health facilities, which isn’t exactly considered neutral. The Council went on to state that the election “appears to be clandestine” and “designed to predetermine the outcome.”

Wait! It gets better! The AMHC is paying for this election, which would actually cost less if conducted in November. It is estimated the election will cost around $60,000-$100,000.

Hang on; we’re not finished – according to the Aurora Sentinel the AMHC mailed out election notices that resembled “an advertisement instead of the familiar blue book.”

If the city were to conduct an election to raise taxes they would have to do so in November according to TABOR rules. You see, TABOR dictates that you can’t slip a tax increase election past the voters in May – UNLESS you happen to be a special district. Isn’t that convenient?

The point here goes beyond whether a tax increase is needed and to the way this election is being conducted. Sure the AMHC conducts vital services – but they’re using other people’s money to do so. Taxpayers deserve a fair election.

(Numerous calls to officials at the AMHC to come on local talk radio show Colorado Exposed and debate the issue went unreturned.)

Kudos to Council Members Renie Peterson, Ryan Frazier and Bob Broom who voted against putting this on the ballot originally.