Once voting returns finally posted to the Mesa County Clerk's website — nearly an hour after polls closed on Tuesday — the city of Grand Junction celebrated a double win while School District 51 officials resigned themselves to sinking $5 million into an aging Grand Junction High School they hoped would be torn down soon.
Voters solidly rejected Ballot Question 4A — the school district's $179.5 million bond proposal — by a margin of 6 percentage points. Asking for another property tax hike — even a small one — so soon after getting two funding measures passed in 2017 proved to be more than voters were willing to take on.
The voters have spoken. That's the way our system works. Anyone who's disappointed with the outcome can look at the 40 percent turnout and wonder if a more engaged electorate would have made a difference.
Still, voters succeeded merely in putting off the inevitable — and likely at a greater cost down the road. City voters, in contrast, took the longer view. They agreed to extend a TABOR override to help pay debt service on $70 million in bonds that will fund transportation improvements. City voters also agreed to allow the city-appointed corporation that oversees the Las Colonias business park offer 99-year leases to prospective tenants.
At first blush, it seems that the city has managed to gain the confidence of voters where the school district has failed. But the city's proposals didn't involve tax increases. The school district has certainly made a case that GJHS needs to be replaced, but it's back to the drawing board on getting the community to buy into a funding plan. Upgrades that would have extended the life of the valley's other high schools — and made them safer — died with GJHS.
The biggest Election Day surprise was Proposition DD, the measure to legalize sports gambling with a tax on casinos going to fund water projects. It was too close to call at 10 p.m. While it was defeated soundly in Mesa County, 60% to 40%, we thought it was a lock to pass statewide.
Proposition CC went down in flames by a hefty margin. Democrats, hoping that the state's recent blue wave would lead to a permanent TABOR timeout, got a clear message that seems to transcend party lines: Don't mess with our refunds.
Finally, one surprise that probably shouldn't have been a surprise was the long wait for results. Spoiled by years of a quick turnaround, election watchers saw every neighboring county post results before Mesa County finally did at 7:58 p.m.
Former County Clerk & Recorder Sheila Reiner set a high bar — one that the new clerk, Tina Peters, had a hard time clearing on Tuesday. The biggest election of our time is coming up in one year. By then, we hope whatever snags occurred Tuesday are straightened out.