Council OKs ballot language

Special election set for August on open-carry issue


The Castle Rock Town Council voted May 20 to approve the language for a ballot question that addresses the issue of the open carry of firearms in municipal-owned buildings and town parks.

A special election is set for Aug. 19.

The ballot question will read as follows:

“Shall the town council ordinance 2014-03 be approved which ordinance revokes the authority of the Town manager under the municipal code to prohibit the open carry of firearms within municipal buildings, parks, recreation areas and other municipal properties owned or operated by the town of Castle Rock? Yes or No?”

A “no” vote would restore the town manager’s authority to ban the open carry of guns on town property.

The council considered five possible wordings of the question.

“One thing that we all wanted to make clear was that individuals knew exactly what they are voting on,” Mayor Pro Tem Jennifer Green said.

In January, the town council voted 4-3 to repeal a 2003 ordinance that gave the town manager the authority to prohibit firearms on property the town owns or controls.

Under the town manager’s authority, firearms were prohibited in most town-owned buildings and parks. The January repeal meant there would be no restrictions on the open carry of firearms on town-owned property.

In February, some residents initiated a referendum to reverse council’s January decision. They collected 2,249 valid signatures, meaning council was required by state statute to reconsider.

The council could have either set the election or rescinded its January decision to lift the 2003 ordinance, meaning authority would have remained with the town manager.

In April, the council voted to set a special election regarding the issue.

Earlier this month, the council considered the first version of proposed ballot language on the question.

The 2003 ordinance giving the town manager authority to bar guns is “a bad law. It does not belong on our books. Regardless of where you stand on open carry, regardless of where you stand on the Second Amendment, it’s a bad law. We should pull it out by the roots and toss it aside,” District 6 Representative George Teal said.

During the same meeting, councilmembers also discussed proposing an amendment to the Town Charter regarding the open carry of firearms on town-owned property.

Amendments to the Town Charter can only be approved by voters in an election.

“We talked about it last time, one question on this ballot. The time for a charter amendment should be afterwards,” District 4 Representative Chip Wilson said.

A charter amendment question could be added to the special election ballot in August or it could wait for the November election.

The council meeting on May 20 went long and a brief special meeting was held on May 22 to resolve the charter amendment discussion and meet procedural requirements that will allow the continuation of discussion on a timetable that would make it possible for the proposed amendment to be added to the Aug. 19 special election if needed.

The council agreed to explore the possible wording of such an amendment and will discuss possible options, as well as listen to public comment on the matter, at the next meeting June 3.

Some members of the council have raised concerns about how different outcomes on the two votes may affect the open carry law. An amendment to the charter would likely overpower whatever decision is made in the August special election.


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I find it highly ironic that Mayor Pro Tem Green would say, "One thing that we all wanted to make clear was that individuals knew exactly what they are voting on." Yet the question they chose was the most confusing and ill-conceived of the four options presented by town staff. Even some town council members were confused about what they were voting on during the debate on May 20.

Several council members including Mayor Donahue, Mayor Pro Tem Green and council member Valentine have assured us for months that they had listened to hundreds of their constituents who told them they wanted to be able to openly carry their firearms everywhere in Castle Rock. Green and Valentine ran elections on just that topic. So did council member Teal. All were enthusiastically and passionately in favor of overturning the ordinance banning open carry in town buildings, facilities and parks. That final vote, of course, came after voting to keep the ban in place; followed by modifying administrative oversight of the ban; and overturning the ban in January. They reiterated their stance on open carry when they voted to allow the question to go to the voters and refusing to reverse their January vote.

Simple? Anything but. Clear cut? Not in our lifetimes. But during the months-long debate on this issue, council members Donahue, Green, Valentine and now retired council member Procopio maintained this was a simple issue of reinforcing our Second Amendment rights. Nothing more.

So why choose the most confusing and obtuse question to put in front of the voters? If their constituents were overwhelmingly in favor of open carry, a simple "Is it OK to openly carry in town-owned buildings, facilities and parks?" should have been perfect for them. Where was the strength of their convictions when it came to choosing the final wording on the ballot? Rather than going for clear and concise language, they opted for obfuscation and smokescreens to confuse voters.

And then as if that is not enough, they choose to put a question on the ballot that would change the town's charter. They want clear and concise language for that one, too. I'm betting they'll come up with language that leaves little question as to what they want the outcome to be. In fact, in the packet for the special May 22 meeting, proposed language was included.

It read:


Section 1-5. Constitutional Rights.

Any restriction or limitation on the rights of citizens to keep and bear firearms enacted by the Town Council shall require the approval of the registered electors as a referred measure under Section 15-4 of this Charter. This Section shall govern and control over Articles II and VII or any other conflicting provision of this Charter.

Of course, the wording of this -- if it is finally chosen by council -- is designed to delight NRA and RMGO members. This question would also supersede whatever the voters decide with the first ballot question. Sneaky? Yes. Silly? Yes. We're already having an election on this issue. If it doesn't go the way a lot of people want, what's to stop them from having another election if enough signatures are gathered?

This whole open carry issue has been a zit on the face of Castle Rock since Mayor Donahue started picking at it last July. I hope the citizens of Castle Rock put this to rest once and for all in August. It isn't the most opportune time for an election. There's a lot going on. School's just started. The summer is at an end. It might be easy to blow off or ignore. But please don't. Please vote -- even if you have to read the questions more than once to understand them. We have learned the consequences of indifference when it comes to what's happening with our school board. Some of the same overreach is occurring here (and it's occurring at the county level too if truth be told). Let's not put our heads in the sand and pretend it's all going to be OK.

If you've gotten this far, thank you for reading this all the way through. Castle Rock is a special place with special people. Let's keep it the special place we all want it to be. That means taking a stand. It means paying attention to what's happening. And it not that hard. Read the paper. Read the town alerts. Ask your neighbors what's happening. You'll be amazed at how good it feels to know what's going on all around you. It's empowering and it will ensure Castle Rock remain a special place.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014 | Report this

During the May 20th Town Council Meeting, the Town Attorney recommended this language but it was voted down by Town Council.





COUNCIL ORDINANCE 2014-03? Yes or No

Understandable? I think so. But Town Council didn't like it. So, Mayor Donahue crafted this one which passed and what we are stuck with:







Understandable? Maybe if you went to every TC meeting for the last year on the subject of open-carry. It it took 15 minutes for the Town Attorney to explain what this language meant because some members of the Council didn't even understand it! And that's the one that they chose!!! The public in Town Hall who were watching were dumbfounded.

The next day Mayor Pro Tem Green called an Emergency Special Meeting based on the "health, safety, and welfare of all Castle Rock residents",only allowing the public a 24-hour notice of the meeting, so that the Town Council could beat their Noon deadline to add an additional proposed Charter Amendment ballot question which would overrule the Referendum ballot question.

This is a complete manipulation and disrespect of the public process. 2500 residents signed a petition to stop the Town Council from repealing the 2003 Open Carry Ordinance and go to a public vote. Those people deserve a ballot that is fairly presented and clearly this is not happening.

The May 3rd Town Council Meeting will allow public comment on the Charter ballot question. Please let your opinion be heard and attend this meeting.

AND remember to vote in August. And I'll make the question simple:

NO - Do not allow open carry of firearms in Castle Rock Municipal Buildings and Parks (concealed carry is allowed)


YES - Allow open carry of firearms in Municipal Buildings and Parks

Wednesday, May 28, 2014 | Report this

I think Donahue is the only one that really cares about open carry and he cares a lot and could have gotten what he wanted but is rather incompetent and can be easily baited into losing his temper -- you can see it in his face. The rest are just using this to further their ambitions. And they have the votes so they will probably win in spite of themselves.

Valentine and Green -- I don't think either of these people have ever cast a vote different than Donahue -- EVER. Why do they even attend meetings? Just put a big rubber stamp in their seats. Putting two 5 foot tall rubber stamps in those chairs is probably cheaper than paying their stipend and sending them to Vegas.

Teal -- never one to use ten words to say something when he can use 200. Feels obligated to comment on everything. Came out of a tough election and is in debt to Donahue, Valentine, and Green because they let him associate himself with them. So, on any issue of substance, he will vote with Donahue, Valentine, and Green....err Donahue. But, he likes to call attention to himself so I expect some interesting votes on issues where the Mayor doesn't make him sit and stay.

Ford -- I will assume that he is sitting back trying to figure out what is going on, but based on the voting for Mayor and Mayor Pro Donahue it would appear he too is in debt to Donahue.

I feel for Wilson and Heath. They will be sitting in those chairs for another two years and get voted down on anything they propose especially after Wilson used a parliamentary trick to shut down the last regular meeting. They won't even be able to get anything on the agenda. They will probably change the WiFi password in Chambers and not tell them.

If I am the Town Manager, I am ticked off. The wording of the ballot question makes it seem like the Town Manager went rogue on open carry and the Town now has to reign him in when I have NO DOUBT that in reality he never wanted the "power" the original ordinance gave him. But Council gave him that power, he used his best judgement and now Council is throwing him under the bus. The ballot question makes it look like he is being slapped down. I bet his countdown to retirement just accelerated.

And if I am the Town Attorney, I am wishing I was in private practice right now because if a client is going to totally ignore his advice he would at least know he is getting his $400 per hour. Instead he has to sit there while they embarrass him, ignore his advice to not try to influence the outcome of the election, and ADMONISH all of them for getting into an open carry debate instead of focusing on the ballot question. Think about it, in order to protect the record, the Town Attorney had to put it in the record that he ADMONISHED the Council for their behavior during a meeting. Dude is a very good lawyer, I hope his next employer appreciates him.

And I sure am glad that we sent at least 3 people to Vegas to a shopping center convention. I wonder what that cost? The Mayor and the Mayor Pro Donahue went along with at least one member of staff. If it was a meeting of local town officials, it would make sense. But, shopping centers? Oh wait, Vegas, Free.

Thursday, May 29, 2014 | Report this

I basically agree with all the other comments from RScarborough and CastleRockResident. However, one place I will diverge is deriding town staff and council members attending the ICSC Conference in Las Vegas. It is there that developers from all over the country see what local communities have to offer when it comes to luring business to town. Now, the argument could be made that we have enough shopping centers and retail in Castle Rock, especially with the Promenade in the wings should everyone convince Jack Vickers to divest his land to build it. But it is a good event with which to make a presence. Did we need two council members to fly out there to plug Castle Rock? It's hard to second-guess that one. I don't know how many council members have attended in the past. I do know the town has been attending this conference for several years and has successfully attracted some merchants a lot of Castle Rock residents patronize at this point. It would be nice to hear how the confab went and what the citizens of Castle Rock can expect as a result of their attendance.

Thursday, May 29, 2014 | Report this