Election 2008 a big one … in many ways

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My son turned 18 earlier this month, which means he will get to vote in November.
He’s excited to cast his ballot in the general election. Voting, especially for the first time, is a big deal.
I remember my first presidential election. I voted for — don’t laugh — Jimmy Carter.
We’ve been hearing about this election for so long now, at least the presidential race, it’s easy to become desensitized to all of the inflated political talk. But, all of a sudden, it’s almost here. There are less than six weeks to the Nov. 4 general election.
Election Day is coming fast.
There will be a slew of statewide constitutional amendments on the ballot. They were printed in last week’s Herald Times.
“This is the longest ballot in my memory,” said Nancy Amick, Rio Blanco County clerk, who has worked in the clerk’s office since 1984. “It will be one of the longest — if not the longest — ballots in Colorado history. I need to check on that. Someone has said that the 1912 ballot was longer.”
Regardless, it’s probably safe to say this will be one of the biggest ballots in state history.
“I think people will need to certainly allow more time to vote,” Amick said. “It may be confusing in that they need to ensure they vote each page and each side of the ballot.”
Locally, the Meeker and Rangely school districts are asking voters to approve bond issues. Meeker is seeking $24 million to build a new elementary school to replace the current building, which is nearly 70 years old. And Rangely is requesting $15 million to make improvements to all three of its schools.
“I think the school district questions will certainly spark more interest in the ballot,” Amick said. “But the main calling card in presidential years is always the presidential race.”
Local bond elections, the statewide amendments and the presidential race, it all adds up to more people going to the polls.
“We are planning for and expecting a record turnout,” Amick said. “We will have people vote who haven’t voted for years.”
And then there are people like my son, who, back in Kansas, will vote for the first time.
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I was at a local restaurant a couple of weeks ago to have dinner and watch my favorite college sports team — Kansas — play a Friday night game on ESPN.
They lost, by the way.
I had settled in to a chair to watch the game, and the man next to me asked, “Are you the new guy at the paper?”
I couldn’t tell if the man was upset at the paper or with me, but I said, yes, I was “the new guy.” The man stuck out his hand and introduced himself. “Hi, I’m L.D. Grove. We’ve talked on the phone.”
Besides being relieved he wasn’t upset with me or the paper, I was happy to meet L.D. Yes, we had talked on the phone before, but we had yet to meet.
During the course of the conversation, I found out L.D. used to live in Liberal, Kan. I spent six years at the newspaper there. Our time in Liberal didn’t overlap, but it was fun to talk about something we had in common.
I continue to be amazed that it really is a small world we live in.
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Speaking of sports teams, I listened on the radio to the Broncos-Chargers game a couple of weeks ago. That was an exciting one. And so was last Sunday’s game against New Orleans.
The NFL team I grew up following — the Chiefs — is terrible. I predict they won’t win a game.
I may have to adopt the Broncos as my new NFL team to follow. Just don’t tell my friends back in Kansas.
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I recently had occasion — twice, actually — to inquire of The New York Times about reprinting a story and/or photo. One was a request for permission to reprint a story — or parts of a story — about the financial dealings of Henry Kravis, who owns the Westlands Ranch in Rio Blanco County. The story was published Sept. 7.
I also sought permission from The Times to use a photo of Glenn Vawter, the director of the National Oil Shale Association, who spoke at Tuesday’s Community Networking Group in Rangely. The Times had published a story about Vawter in December 2006.
I received an e-mail response last week to my request to use the photo of Glenn Vawter. I was told — get this — “the reuse fee is going to be $650.”
I sent back an e-mail saying thanks, but no thanks. And I had Mr. Vawter send me a photo of himself, which he gladly did. It wasn’t as good a photo, mind you — but it was free.
By the way, if you want to read the stories about Henry Kravis and Glenn Vawter, go to www.nytimes.com and type their names in the search line.
Because — at $650 a pop — you sure won’t see the stories or photos in our newspaper.

Jeff Burkhead is editor of the Rio Blanco Herald Times. You may e-mail him at jeff@theheraldtimes.com.