An October 20 Rocky Mountain News guest column by Scott E. Gessler opposing the Better Denver ballot issues identified him simply as "an attorney living in Denver." But Gessler has worked on numerous significant cases for the state Republican Party and conservative causes, and previous news coverage has referred to him as a "GOP" or "Republican" attorney or lawyer.
On October 20, the Rocky Mountain News misleadingly identified the author of a guest column opposing the Better Denver tax and bond package, Scott E. Gessler, only as "an attorney living in Denver." In fact, previous News coverage identified Gessler as a "GOP attorney" based on his work on behalf of the state's Republican Party and conservative causes. As Colorado Media Matters also has noted, Gessler, along with fellow Republican John Zakhem, lobbied former Republican Secretary of State Gigi Dennis shortly before the November 2006 election to change campaign finance rules in a way that benefited Republican candidates.
Gessler's column also asserted, "Earlier this year, Gov. Bill Ritter [D] and the [Colorado] General Assembly adjusted the property mill levy rate so that Denver property owners will likely begin to see steady, continual increases in their property taxes." Gessler's statement does not acknowledge that the legislation to which he referred -- Senate Bill 199 -- applies only to those jurisdictions whose voters already had decided to exempt themselves from limits mandated by Colorado's Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR) on retaining and spending tax revenue.
Gessler's op-ed was paired with a column supporting the Better Denver campaign under the headline "A shipshape Denver."
From Scott E. Gessler's guest column "A shipshape Denver: OKing flawed issues just rewards inefficiency," published October 20 in the Rocky Mountain News:
In addition, the true cost is double what proponents claim. Right now, Denver homeowners already pay $58 per year, on average, for old bonds. Rather than disappearing, that $58 will shift to the new bonds, and then it will be further expanded by $63 per year. The total cost for the average homeowner: $121 per year.
But Denver homeowners are already facing higher taxes. Until last year, state law capped property tax increases, so that Denver homeowners weren't penalized by rising home values. But that's now gone. Earlier this year, Gov. Bill Ritter and the General Assembly adjusted the property mill levy rate so that Denver property owners will likely begin to see steady, continual increases in their property taxes.
Add to this the huge number of foreclosures, the fact that 12,000 property owners protested their taxes this past year (double the normal number), and it becomes clear that Denver property owners face challenging times. Denver voters should not make a bad situation worse.
The city should not make it harder to live and work in Denver, but rather stick to the fundamentals so that we can grow Denver's economy and create a more prosperous future for everyone.
Scott E. Gessler is an attorney living in Denver.
In contrast with Gessler's identification simply as "an attorney living in Denver," an October 23, 2006, News article by Lynn Bartels, headlined "GOP attorney takes new stand," identified Gessler as a "Republican lawyer." Similarly, an October 20, 2006, column by News editorial page editor Vincent Carroll referenced "GOP attorney Scott Gessler."
Furthermore, as Colorado Media Matters pointed out, Dennis as the state's top election official in August 2006 made changes to state campaign finance rules, one of which, according to an August 25, 2006, News article, "was taken verbatim from a recommendation by GOP attorneys John Zakhem and Scott Gessler." They represented Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez's campaign, the state Republican Party, and the Republican-backed Trailhead Group. The article further reported:
[2006 candidates for Colorado Secretary of State] Democrat Ken Gordon and Republican Mike Coffman said it was unfair for Dennis to decide in August that "membership organizations" must get permission from individual members annually before their dues can be used in political campaigns.
Previously, the dues were automatically deducted and the groups, such as unions, then transferred money to small-donor committees to push for certain candidates.
As the News reported on September 29, 2006, the Colorado Court of Appeals rejected Dennis' ruling -- crafted in part by Gessler -- "that limited union donations to political campaigns, agreeing with a lower court that she probably overstepped her authority."
In a reference to SB 199, Gessler asserted in the October 20 News column that "Gov. Bill Ritter [D] and the [Colorado] General Assembly adjusted the property mill levy rate so that Denver property owners will likely begin to see steady, continual increases in their property taxes." Also known as the Colorado Children's Amendment, SB 199 freezes property tax, or mill levy, rates as a means of redistributing sources of public education funding in the state. The legislation did not "adjust" the mill levy rate for Denver, although freezing the rate is projected to increase Denver's property tax revenue.
As Colorado Media Matters has noted, the bill's mill levy freeze provisions apply only to school districts where voters have allowed the retention of mill levy revenues above the TABOR limits set in "section 20 of article X of the state constitution." Denver was one of the 175 school districts in which, as the Post reported, "voters have approved allowing officials to keep tax revenues over the amount allowed by the state constitution."