Colorado Springs voters will decide three ballot measures in the April 4 city election, as well as elect six of the nine City Council members.
First, voters will be asked whether to amend the City Charter to require a 60 percent majority of voters approve the "sale or conveyance" of portions of Colorado Springs Utilities. At present, the charter requires a simple majority of voters approve such transactions. The idea is to raise the bar to sell or lease Utilities' units, such as the electric department, as considered by former Mayor Steve Bach and some of his supporters. The ordinance is due for second reading Jan. 24, and Council is expected to refer the measure.
Second, voters will decide whether to allow the city to provide, facilitate, partner or coordinate with service providers for high-speed internet service, cable television service and telecommunication service. The measure essentially exempts the city from Senate Bill 152, a state law that bars local governments from using their broadband for services other than government operations, such as traffic signals, unless voters give permission. SB152 also prohibits local agencies from competing with corporations to provide high-speed internet to residents and businesses.
If Springs voters support that change, they'll join voters in more than 100 cities in Colorado that have approved local exemptions, says Dave Zelenok, a former Colorado Springs public works director who served the same role at Centennial and currently works for an internet consultant. Zelenok points to Longmont, where voters approved an exemption in 2011. Now that city is collecting $1 million a month in new revenue, while customers pay less for service, he says. Colorado Springs City Council has already OK'd placing the resolution on the ballot.
Third, voters likely will decide whether to let the city keep revenue collected in 2016, and possibly in 2017, in excess of caps imposed by the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights. Mayor John Suthers has said he thinks the total will come to $7 million in 2016; exact figures are expected to be disclosed at the Council's Jan. 24 meeting prior to Council's vote to refer the measure.
Suthers wants to earmark the money for stormwater projects to make headway on the $460 million he and Council pledged last year to spend on drainage in a 20-year agreement with Pueblo County. The measure will list 33 drainage projects scattered throughout the city.
Not on the April ballot is a 0.1 or 0.2 percent sales tax hike for parks maintenance. Council voted Jan. 10 not to refer the measure after the mayor opposed it. Two days later, the Trust for Public Lands unveiled an $85,000 study showing that parks, trails and open space are worth hundreds of millions of dollars in increased property values, tourism, health benefits to residents and economic development.
Deadline for candidates to file for City Council district races is Jan. 23. Go here for more information: coloradosprings.gov/election.