Long Story Short 

As anyone who's been through a divorce — or for that matter, a marriage — can attest, change is disruptive.

So when an entire city government is turned upside-down by a rearrange of who has which powers, you can imagine how unsettling it can be.

Nearly two years into Colorado Springs' new council-mayor form of government, the pain of sorting out City Council's authority from the mayor's still sometimes takes center stage at Council meetings. And often, Councilors grouse that their say-so is being muzzled by legal opinions from City Attorney Chris Melcher.

Appointed by Mayor Steve Bach (though approved by Council), Melcher has repeatedly told the city's legislative branch it can't do this or that. He's added that if Councilors disagree with a given opinion, they're basically out of luck — they don't get to seek a second opinion. Unsurprisingly, some Councilors have since decided that the new form of government simply isn't working.

As long as Council and Bach share the same vision, their roles in the new structure don't raise issues. But when those visions differ, as they do on such key things as Colorado Springs Utilities, Melcher's opinions are pivotal. For instance, he's said Council's veto overrides aren't necessarily binding, and that the mayor has contract authority over Utilities, though he has no vote on the board.

Is this the kind of change we voted for? Find out more in our cover report, which starts here.


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