Thursday, December 19, 2013

Bach will "disregard" Council mandate

Posted By on Thu, Dec 19, 2013 at 1:43 PM

Mayor Steve Bach says he'll disregard City Council's veto override that specified the city will operate under 12 departments, not the five Bach has used in all three of his annual city budgets since taking office.

"I am directing city staff to disregard Council's actions that violate the City Charter," he said during a mid-morning news briefing today.
Mayor Bach: He'll stick with five departments.
  • Mayor Bach: He'll stick with five departments.

Council required 12 departments to be used to prevent money from being transferred between departments, such as parks funding being shifted to street sweeping without Council and public oversight. Under Bach's budget, parks, planning and public works are all within the same department. The other four are administration, City Council/City Auditor, Fire and Office of Emergency Management, and police.

Bach said Council's action to create 12 departments violates the City Charter in separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches and interferes with the executive's powers. Hence, he said, he will ignore the Council's action and operate the city under five departments in 2014, just as he always has.

Bach said the Council's action creates "more red tape" and "expands government."

"I'm happy to sit down and talk about whether we should separate out parks into its own department," Bach said. "What are the core issues? I want to address those. I hear Council doesn't trust me. What, specifically? And what can I do to regain that trust?"

If Council files a lawsuit, Bach predicted it would cost up to $1 million to litigate.

So far, there's no race to the courthouse, however, with Council President Keith King, who attended Bach's news briefing, saying there's no actionable item yet. That will come when Bach defies Council's veto override by shifting money from parks to police, say, or from fire to administration.

The questions are: How will Council know if Bach does that? And what funding can Council use if the mayor controls spending?

"Good questions," King says in an interview. "I'm not going to put a line in the sand to where we're going to bring a lawsuit. I expect we should be a city of laws and obey the laws that are passed. We don't have a right to choose what we follow and what we don't follow. He hasn't created an actionable item, so until that's done, there will be no action by the Council."

Council has noted repeatedly it's not violating the City Charter, because the Charter itself specifies 12 departments.

Here's what the Charter says about authority to create departments:
click to enlarge screen_shot_2013-12-19_at_12.00.40_pm.png

The charter also states the mayor shall appoint a city clerk, city attorney and municipal judges, chief financial officer, police chief, fire chief and chief of staff. He also is authorized to appoint heads of "the city's departments, divisions offices, or enterprises relating to public works, parks, community development and the municipal airport."

On a related matter, Council overrode the mayor's veto on funding of parks watering, specifying that $1.1 million not budgeted by Bach come from the city's reserves. Councilors said on Wednesday they didn't like taking the money from reserves and hoped Bach would bring them an alternative early next year. Asked about that at today's briefing, Bach fell back on his old solution — rejected by Council — to have city-owned Colorado Springs Utilities give the city a special rate. That's a problem under borrowing agreements, and it forces ratepayers to subsidize parks.

But Bach also said that if revenues exceed expectations next year, parks will be his top priority for allocating extra funds, unless the city encounters another emergency, such as flooding and fires.

"I don't expect [revenue] to be above forecasts," Bach told the Indy later. While the past two years, Bach was conservative in his revenue predictions, this year's are "more aggressive." That said, "If we have excess and if we don't have another emergency like a flood or fire, my choice would be to put it into parks versus taking it [watering money] out of reserves."


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