Press Releases

Western voters decide ballot propositions

The Associated Press
Wednesday November 08, 2000

PHOENIX — Western voters on Tuesday rejected measures restricting development in two of the nation’s fastest-growing states but approved proposals toughening background checks at gun shows in states shaken by school shootings. 

Education and wildlife, marijuana and morality also dominated ballot propositions in the West, where California rejected school vouchers, Montana looked to restrict canned hunts in game farms, Colorado approved medicinal marijuana use, and Nevada banned gay marriages. 

English was the issue in two states: Arizona eliminated bilingual education, while Utah was expected to make English the official state language. 

In Oregon and Colorado, voters approved initiatives to require criminal background checks on all firearm sales at gun shows. Checks currently are required when someone buys a gun from a federally licensed dealer but not from a private seller. 

One of the hottest regional topics was growth, a problem plaguing communities nationwide but of particular concern in the West – home to the five fastest-growing states in the country: Nevada, Arizona, Idaho, Utah and Colorado. 

Measures to restrict growth in two of those states – Arizona and Colorado – were soundly defeated. 

Arizona’s Proposition 202 called for cities and counties of more than 2,500 residents to adopt 10-year growth limits and force developers to pay for roads, schools and other services to new subdivisions. 

Supporters, including conservation groups such as the Sierra Club, said it would preserve the open spaces the West is known for while preventing taxpayers from subsidizing development. 

Opponents argued it would cost jobs and increase congestion by forcing development into established neighborhoods. They pushed a rival measure, Proposition 100, to preserve 270,000 acres of state land as open space. That measure was trailing. 

Colorado’s Amendment 24, also backed by environmentalists, proposed requiring counties and cities to map future growth and submit development proposals to voters. 

Jonathan Weiss, head of George Washington University’s Center on Sustainability and Regional Growth, said the measures spurred debate about a topic that Western communities must eventually address. 

“They could provide a trigger in finally bringing the parties in those states to adopt a more broad-based, comprehensive smart growth approach,” Weiss said. “It’s clear that this is still on the top of the radar screen.” 

In Oregon, the gun control movement gained momentum following the 1998 shooting rampage at Thurston High School in Springfield, Ore., in which teen-ager Kip Kinkel killed two students and injured 25 others. 

The Colorado proposal was backed by families of victims of the Columbine High School massacre. Some of the weapons used by teen killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were purchased from private gun show dealers before the 1999 shooting in which 13 people were killed and 23 were wounded. 


Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona appeared in TV ads endorsing both measures. 


EDITOR’S NOTE — Pauline Arrillaga is the AP’s Southwest regional writer, based in Phoenix.