Can middle ground be found?

Bill Christopher
Posted

The art of compromise is finding the middle ground”for both parties. Gov. John Hickenlooper was able to get U.S. Congressman Jared Polis and the oil and gas interests to see the merits of a middle-ground solution. They have implemented a time out and have dropped the ballot war on the fracking issue, at least for 2014.

As Martha Stewart would say, “That is a good thing.”

Both sides had obtained more than 100,000 signatures on their respective petitions, and assuming the petitions were valid, that would have created a shoot out at high noon when the November election rolls around. An estimated $20 million would have been spent barraging us with pro and con TV ads on fracking, with most of them coming from the oil and gas interests. So, step one in dropping the ballot initiatives was a success from my viewpoint and buys time for the two sides to pursue a compromise on state legislation for the 2015 session.

Devil in the details

The governor has announced that he will appoint a commission to make recommendations to the Legislature on ways “to minimize land use conflicts that can occur when siting oil and gas exploration facilities near homes, schools, businesses and recreational facilities.”

However, finding this middle ground will be a major challenge. The devil is in the detail. Setbacks from residential properties are details. Currently, state regulations call for a minimum of 500 feet. Polis’ ballot proposal called for 2,000 feet. Somewhere in between will hopefully be the winning minimum distance. But that is just one of several regulation wrinkles that will need to be ironed out. Hopefully, cool heads representing both sides will prevail in what they are able to hash out and recommend to the Legislature.

Not all are happy

Life is never easy, and this withdrawal of ballot proposals is an example of this axiom. Citizens who had pursued ballot issues to protect their properties from oil and gas exploration feel they have had the rug pulled out from under them by the compromise. They wanted to push their issues to the ballot box and take their chances. Also, not all of the oil and gas interests are happy with the ballot withdrawal. They, too, are full of vim and vigor. Anyway, the compromise has been accomplished with the official withdrawal of the ballot proposals each camp was pursuing. Now, we will have to wait and see what the governor’s commission produces. It is not an easy assignment.

Collective bargaining in Westminster?

Speaking of ballot issues, the city of Westminster may have a most disturbing ballot proposal on the November ballot. At the Aug. 18 study session, the City Council will discuss a request from fire department personnel who want to place a collective bargaining proposal before the voters. The Firefighter Safety Act passed by the Democrat-controlled Colorado Legislature and Governor’s Office allows such requests to be processed even in home rule cities like Westminster. The City Council could either place the proposition on this November’s election ballot or, apparently, could jump the election process and enact an ordinance recognizing the union collective bargaining unit without the public’s input. We will see what comes from the study session discussion.