Monday, October 18, 2010

UPDATE: Mayor sets things straight

Posted By on Mon, Oct 18, 2010 at 9:18 PM

First, Mayor Lionel Rivera was mad at the Gazette for implying he supports the strong mayor initiative.

Now, the Mayor Project (which put forth the initiative) is ticked at the mayor for "revers[ing] his support."

Ah, the tangled web we weave.

This press release came from Rachel Beck, of the Mayor Project:

Mayor Rivera’s statement this afternoon on Issue 300 reflects the lack of leadership at City Hall that is precisely the reason our citizen committee brought this measure before voters. We are surprised and disappointed that, after carrying a petition himself and gathering signatures to get the initiative on the ballot, the mayor would reverse his support.

Apparently, Mayor Lionel Rivera doesn't appreciate having words put in his mouth.

Monday he sent out a press release clarifying his position on the strong mayor ballot question, after the Gazette changed the headline on an editorial he submitted to portray Rivera as something of a cheerleader for the measure.

He's not one. At least not anymore, although he did sign the initial petition to put Question 300 on the Nov. 2 ballot.

By the way, the Gazette's editorial department is strongly in support of the strong mayor initiative.

Read on:

To the Citizens of Colorado Springs
And Local Media

Issue 300, “The Strong Mayor Proposal”, is a crucial issue the citizens of Colorado Springs will be asked to vote on this November. As such I thought that it was important to share the facts as I saw them in a letter to the Gazette published on Saturday October 8. My piece was neither pro nor con, but an attempt to counter the misleading ads that have been running on TV and radio in support of the measure. I titled my piece “The Facts on Issue 300, The Strong Mayor initiative”. The Gazette editorial department changed the title to read “Full-time, fairly paid mayor could give city 100%” The title they chose was a comment in my piece, but it referred to paying the Mayor a fair salary under our current council-manager form of government.

I believe the headline they used was deceptive and attempted to give the impression I support the initiative. I do not!

I do support a full time appropriately compensated Mayor, paid at about the level in the current initiative, but there are too many key areas missing in Issue 300 for me to support it. My attached letter to the editor covers many of them, but there are more.

I provided a white paper outline of a proposed Mayor-Council form of government to the Mayor Project leadership and they incorporated some of my suggestions. But the following provisions were left out and after much consternation lead me to not be able to support this initiative.

I suggested that the annual $31 million of surplus revenue also known as Payment In Lieu of Tax that is currently allowed by the City Charter to be paid by Colorado Springs Utility to the city general fund be firmly established in the Charter as part of this change of government. Any future changes to this provision would then have to be agreed upon by both the Mayor and City Council. This represents 14% of the City’s general fund budget and its transfer from CSU to the city is currently voted on by the Mayor and city council. Issue 300 removes the Mayor completely from any vote on this matter and all others concerning CSU. Issue 300 places $31 million, 14% of the general fund budget at risk and turns it into a political decision without the Mayor having a vote.

I suggested that we increase the number of District City Council seats to 5 and reduce the at large seats to 3 with a popularly elected President of City Council. Other cities with a strong Mayor form of government have all or a majority of city council made up of district council members. This structure allows citizens to have better access to a district council member to represent their concerns. Under our current system each district council member represents over 100,000 constituents. With 5 district seats that number would be reduced to 81,000 and with six district seats it would be reduced to 67,500 constituents. It also allows citizens a better opportunity to represent the part of the community they live in if they run for a district council seat.

I suggested that the Mayor appoint members of the Memorial Health System Board of Trustees subject to the consent of City Council. This maintains the partnership between the Mayor and City Council for determining the leadership and stewardship that provides over 50% of the healthcare to our community and is a $700 million a year enterprise. Issue 300 removes the Mayor from that decision.

I also suggested that City Council’s stipend be increased from $6,250 annually to more appropriately compensate them for the time they give up from their work/business and the amount of time necessary to oversee $2 billion of annual budgets.

I felt my proposal was more comprehensive, helped secure the city’s future finances, provided better representation for our citizens and provided better checks and balances for a new form of government. I do not believe Issue 300 proponents have created a comprehensive proposal for our citizens to vote on.

Having proudly served as Mayor for the last 7 ½ years I know that the responsibilities of the office can be better served by a Mayor who does not have to split his or her time between a full time private sector job and a full time job representing and leading the City and leading the Board of Directors for Colorado Springs Utility. Issue 300 is not the best mechanism to accomplish that.

As an interim step, a full time, appropriately compensated mayor with additional duties and responsibilities under our current council/manager system would also give us a mayor that can devote 100% of his or her time to serve the City, likely cost less than the proposed strong mayor system and allow time for a more comprehensive executive mayor form of government to be proposed.

Lionel Rivera
Mayor, Colorado Springs

The mayor: A little ticked.
  • The mayor: A little ticked.

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