(Photos: shutterstock.com, Denver Post file photo; photo illustration by Matt Swaney, The Denver Post)

 

A new organization led by prominent civic and business leaders is preparing to launch a campaign to tackle Colorado’s thorniest political problems as part of a project that may give rise to ballot measures in 2016.

Dubbed “Building a Better Colorado,” the bipartisan push will debut in September and feature a 40-stop statewide tour this fall to discuss topics ranging from term limits for lawmakers and the election system to the constitutional amendment process and the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

The project — developed behind the scenes for months and detailed in exclusive interviews and documents obtained by The Denver Post — is perhaps the most concerted effort in recent memory to address what organizers see as inherent conflicts in how the state is governed.

 Those conflicts, they argue, are impeding Colorado’s ability to build new roads, put more money in classrooms, engage an increasingly disenchanted electorate and prepare for the future.

“The goal is to try to understand this array of problems that we have in Colorado and how do we build a better state,” said Gail Klapper, one of the lead organizers and the director of the Colorado Forum, a Denver-based civic group that has discussedthese issues for years.

This summer, the organization began meeting with experts to identify an array of policy options for discussion at the town hall meetings. It plans to finalize a report by the end of the year.

The effort’s leaders caution that their strategy is still preliminary and they downplay the significance of the project’s potential outcomes.

“It’s subtle,” Klapper said. “I think we are talking about nuanced changes that will allow Colorado to move forward in the way we all want it to go.”

The push echoes high-profile discussions in recent years on similar issues and comes a decade after civic and political leaders united behind the successful Referendum C campaign that allowed a five-year reprieve from the state’s revenue limits and set a higher spending cap under TABOR.

Like prior campaigns, the project’s leaders are likely to face substantial opposition given the polarization on the key issues.

“To the extent that some of these things directly relate to government functions, they are particularly difficult to do, even if there is some consensus that says it’s not working so well,” said Floyd Ciruli, a veteran pollster and former state Democratic Party chairman. “There is a huge amount of investment in the current system.”