Re­ject re­call in Broom­field

The Denver Post - - OPINION -

We’ve long held that the use of re­call — a vote to oust of­fi­cials from of­fice early — should be re­served for in­stances of malfeasance, cor­rup­tion or wrong­do­ing. Broom­field Mayor Pro Tem Greg Stokes is ac­cused of noth­ing of the sort.

Stokes has be­come the tar­get of re­call in large part for his pub­lic pol­icy votes as a mem­ber of the Broom­field City Council that, his crit­ics say, have “failed to sup­port oil and gas lo­cal con­trol.”

There is al­ready a way for vot­ers to speak on that is­sue and that’s through the Novem­ber elec­tion. As was the case in the 2013 re­call ef­forts of Democrats who sup­ported gun-con­trol laws, the 2015 re­calls of con­ser­va­tive Jef­fer­son County school board mem­bers and the 2016 re­call ef­fort of a Thorn­ton City Council mem­ber over oil and gas is­sues, we op­pose the re­call ef­fort of Stokes.

We urge vot­ers to vote “no” on or be­fore July 18.

Yes, the power of re­call is an im­por­tant tool for vot­ers. We would have sup­ported a re­call of for­mer El Paso County Sher­iff Terry Maketa, who is now on trial for cor­rup­tion, but his term ended just as the scan­dal over his bad be­hav­ior in of­fice was break­ing.

What is hap­pen­ing in Broom­field is an abuse of re­call power to make a po­lit­i­cal state­ment rather than re­call’s in­tended pur­pose of re­mov­ing hooli­gans from of­fice. The point is dra­mat­i­cally made by the fact Stokes, be­cause he is term-lim­ited, is al­ready on his way out the door.

The Broom­field re­call is a proxy bat­tle for the con­flict be­tween Den­ver Front Range com­mu­ni­ties and en­croach­ing oil and gas op­er­a­tions. We hope that in both bat­tles the mod­er­ate ap­proach wins the day.

A num­ber of those be­hind the re­call want noth­ing short of a ban to oil and gas de­vel­op­ment in Colorado. The end goal is to ban frack­ing.

We can­not hide our dis­dain for that ap­proach.

There are le­git­i­mate con­cerns about safety, health and de­clin­ing prop­erty val­ues of hav­ing heavy in­dus­trial ac­tiv­i­ties like drilling and per­ma­nent well-heads and pipe­lines lo­cated close to res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hoods. And state law is woe­fully in­ad­e­quate in pro­tect­ing landown­ers who might op­pose de­vel­op­ment of the re­sources below or near their prop­erty.

But there is a way for­ward. We’ve sup­ported re­form­ing Colorado’s forced pool­ing law so landown­ers have more rights when big oil and gas com­pa­nies come to drill.

And Stokes has the right idea when it comes to lo­cal con­trol.

Yes, it ap­pears that Broom­field City Council made mis­takes when it signed a me­moran­dum of un­der­stand­ing with an oil and gas com­pany to al­low more than 100 wells to be drilled within city lim­its. That was in 2013 and it passed unan­i­mously, in­clud­ing a “yes” vote from Stokes. Stokes was also among six council mem­bers who shot down a pro­posed mora­to­rium on drilling last year, draw­ing ire from res­i­dents who will be the clos­est to pro­posed well sites.

But while others ral­lied for an out­right ban — some­thing that would likely be struck down in court and then ren­dered use­less — Stokes and Coun­cil­woman Sharon Tessier worked to­gether to cre­ate an oil and gas task force that is on the verge of re­leas­ing a draft com­pre­hen­sive plan that will guide how the city han­dles and reg­u­lates oil and gas de­vel­op­ment in the fu­ture.

And Ex­trac­tion Oil & Gas has backed off drilling 139 wells in the com­mu­nity for now, slow­ing down its plans and work­ing with the task force on best prac­tices mov­ing for­ward. Ex­trac­tion has also moved 40 pro­posed wells out­side city lim­its.

That’s how to re­spond re­spon­si­bly to con­flict, and we hope vot­ers in Broom­field send a clear mes­sage that ex­trem­ism won’t rule the day in our pol­i­tics.

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