Voters on Tuesday resoundingly endorsed removing a provision in Colorado Springs' City Charter that allows City Council to impose a property tax levy to bridge any deficit at Memorial Health System.
The "yes" vote, by a margin of 48,308 to 29,130 (or 62 to 38 percent), opens the door for the city to ask voter approval next spring for a lease of city-owned Memorial. "It's one more obstacle we have out of the way," says Council President Pro Tem Jan Martin, who also is heading the City Council Memorial Task Force overseeing the lease process.
The measure was designed to remove taxpayer obligations from Memorial, so it can be leased by a company or nonprofit and run separately from city government. Bids for the lease are due Nov. 14; they will be given to task force members Nov. 18, one night after the task force hosts a town hall meeting in council chambers to explain the process.
The task force members will study and score the bids during Thanksgiving week, Martin says, then turn score sheets in by Dec. 1. After that, the bids will be made public.
It's unclear when bidders will present their proposals to the task force, but the meeting will be open, Martin says, unless proprietary information needs to be protected. "It would be rare to run into something we think would be proprietary," she adds.
Finally, sometime in early December, the bidders will outline their proposals for the public, at another town hall meeting in council chambers. It will be broadcast on TV, with the public allowed to pose questions.
"We're trying to be as open and transparent as possible," Martin says.
School District 11
It was a good night for the incumbents in the race for Colorado Springs School District 11 board of education, with four at-large seats at stake. Current board treasurer Bob Null took the highest number of votes in the race, with 20,147. Jan Tanner, the current vice president, took the next-highest number with 17,939.
Tanner waited for the results Tuesday night at a gathering of candidates and supporters at the Coffee Exchange, along with former district spokeswoman Elaine Naleski and newcomer Nora Brown. They won the other two open seats on the board: Naleski totaled 13,996 votes and Brown had 13,507. Jim Mason was the closest challenger with 12,859, followed by Lisanne McNew, Kathleen Foster and Judith Walton.
Outgoing board president Tom Strand, who chose not to seek a second term, says the board will probably approve certified results, swear in new members, and elect new officers in mid-November.
Proposition 103, the state ballot issue to raise $3 billion for education over the next five years through tax increases, heard a resounding "no" at the polls.
As of Wednesday morning (with 99 percent of precincts reporting), the measure was losing, 64 to 36 percent. The latest raw totals were 621,734 voting no, and 356,680 yes. In El Paso County, 81,677 voted no and 33,583 yes.
State Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, who led the state campaign, conceded defeat soon after early results began appearing.
"It's clear the people of this state aren't ready right now to tax themselves to solve this problem," Heath said to a gathering, as reported by the Denver Post. "But I hope the people of this state will come together and say, 'We need to make some changes. We need to find a way to finance our education in a different way.' If we have accomplished anything, we have set that conversation in motion."
Manitou and more
• In Manitou Springs, Gary Smith, Randy Hodges and Donna Ford took at-large Council seats, although Ford's eligibility may be contested. (See Noted on p. 14.) Mayor Marc Snyder and Ward 2 Councilor Coreen Toll ran unopposed.
• Fountain voters removed two City Council incumbents, Lois Landgraf and Harold Thompson, who lost at-large seats to Patricia St. Louis and James Coke.
• Glenn Strebe and Tracey Johnson won seats on the Academy School District 20 board, with Johnson edging Kim Wright by only 38 votes.
• Joan Ann Johnson, Chuck Iron and Marie LaVere-Wright prevailed for vacant seats on the Falcon District 49 board.
• Cheyenne Mountain School District 12 was the only area district to approve a tax increase, 4,225 to 3,627.
• An attempt by far-right conservatives to "revolt" against the Lewis-Palmer District 38 school board failed, as all three incumbents won their races.
• Two tax-increase proposals failed in Cimarron Hills Fire Protection District.
• The total turnout in El Paso County came to 116,777, or 49 percent of the 238,355 eligible active voters who received ballots.
Compiled by Chet Hardin, Ralph Routon, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.