In 1991, Colorado Springs voters opted to end a half-cent sales tax dedicated to funding capital improvements in the city. Since that time, the rate of growth in the area has been among the nation's highest. It seems logical, indeed impossible to ignore, that along with a huge population influx comes the need for more funding for capital improvements -- better roads, upgrading of traffic intersections, more efficient fire protection, and serious attention to the city's antiquated drainage and storm sewer systems.
Opponents of SCIP-01 argue that the .9 percent tax increase will never go away, that it will "bust your family's budget," that city officials will divert funds to line their own pockets, and that we should only vote for a tax increase for a limited period of time -- say five years.
Those arguments ignore the rational point of view of the majority of people who have chosen to make Colorado Springs their home. First, no one can deny that our growing little metropolis is strapped for basic funding of a backlog of projects that should have been fixed years ago. Second, the city government must find ways to bypass TABOR legislation which severely limits their ability to raise and spend money. Third, growth projections for the area show that our needs for capital funding will not decrease in upcoming years, and that to keep pace with growth, to maintain a quality of life that most citizens cherish, additional funds must be levied.
Let's face it folks. Colorado Springs is growing up, and it's time we ante up to help pay for the essential services we expect and require.
SCIP-01 has not been a perfect process, though its intentions were good -- to involve citizens in the process of identifying worthy projects. That the final decisions are not 100-percent citizen generated does not devalue the process. As a city, we hire elected officials, we pay for engineers and planners to do the tough decision making. And if elected officials betray our trust or don't represent our interests, we have the opportunity to vote them out of office.
One thing is clear -- City Council's hands are tied as long as funding for city projects is unavailable.
We caution Council against one possible side effect of the passing of SCIP-01. In no way should this tax be used to ease the burden of responsibility on the region's real-estate developers. Infrastructure costs and fiscal impact analysis must be tied to approval of all new developments; taxpayers should not subsidize the profitable enterprise of development; and developers should contribute to infrastructure needs through impact fees. We're not willing to see these tax funds support growth as usual, and we'll be watching to see that they are not.
That said, we urge readers to support SCIP-01 with a "yes" vote on April 3, because the city needs to be able to carry out much-needed and long-delayed capital improvements.
Last week we offered our endorsements for City Council candidates, to the pleasure of some of our readers and the consternation of others. To clarify and expand just a bit, our endorsements were based on one-on-one interviews with each of the candidates. We asked them questions we felt would be meaningful to our readers. And we based our decisions on the candid, thoughtful responses of the candidates, not on hearsay, rumor or innuendo.
Here again are our endorsements for City Council:
District 1: Jim Null (unopposed)
District 2: We strongly oppose Kevin Butcher, the bought-and-paid for candidate of the development community, who was unable to articulate a position on any of the issues we raised. We like Leon Kirk, but feel he has been an unreliable candidate. That leaves us with Charles Wingate. We cannot formally endorse him because of his record of supporting ultra-conservative politicians like Betty Beedy and Jesse Helms in the past, but we recommend Wingate, who was articulate, moderate in his positions, and appeared to have a firm grasp of public policy issues.
District 3: Sallie Clark. A proven, energetic, concerned, involved citizen advocate who deserves a shot at City Hall.
District 4: Margaret Radford. A smart community activist with a solid civic record.
At-large: Judy Noyes. Noyes brings a rich institutional and historic memory to Council, and a record of undying dedication to making Colorado Springs a liveable, lovable city.
We urge everyone to vote on April 3.