Wednesday, February 8, 2017

UPDATE: Together for Colorado Springs launch draws over 500

Posted By on Wed, Feb 8, 2017 at 3:01 PM

Colorado Springs Forward Executive Director Amy Lathen got back with us via email with this comment on where CSF stands and how it might work with T4CS:
Colorado Springs Forward has very defined pillars, which have been articulated since its founding in 2014. These reflect a cohesive voice from the business community and a wide range of citizens who wish to positively influence our community through a well-run, business-minded, community-supportive, free-market led local governance structure. Whenever we can work together regionally in the advancement of those pillars, we look forward to doing so.
——- ORIGINAL POST, TODAY, 1:28 P.M. ——-
click to enlarge Dawn Haliburton-Rudy highlighted the Women's March in her speech. - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • Dawn Haliburton-Rudy highlighted the Women's March in her speech.

The launch of the progressive nonprofit and political action committee Together for Colorado Springs drew more than 500 people to Stargazers Theatre on Tuesday night.

At 5:30 p.m., when the program was set to start, flocks of people were still walking in. The parking lot had overflowed, and many people parked on streets or in the parking lots of other businesses. Some people were turned away for lack of space.

Together for Colorado Springs could be seen as the progressive answer to Colorado Springs Forward, though T4CS organizers say their methods for supporting candidates and ballot issues will be different.  (We asked CSF to comment for our story in this week's paper, as well as for this blog, but haven't heard back. We'll update if we do.) T4CS organizers also say they're not so much interested in opposing the business community that CSF could be seen as representing. Instead, they want to work with the business community when possible because they believe progressives and businesses share many key goals including improving the image of the city from one of intolerance to one of acceptance and revitalizing the downtown.

Dawn Haliburton-Rudy, who works in health care, and attorney Greg Walta are co-chairing the organization. Indy chair and founder John Weiss is a donor to T4CS and one of its founders. He also serves as a board member.
click to enlarge Dawn Haliburton-Rudy with her 8-year-old daughter. - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • Dawn Haliburton-Rudy with her 8-year-old daughter.

The launch was intended to fill in the community on an what T4CS hopes to achieve, and garner community support both in the form of contacts and donations.

After a couple of musical performances, Haliburton-Rudy came to the stage and said that she felt encouraged initially by the 700-person march in Colorado Springs on Jan. 21.

"For one day, our community appeared to be suspended in grace," she said, "and then reality set in."

She noted that Republican elected officials from Colorado Springs represent a diverse community, but are all white. (This is true at the state level, though not at the county level. City Councilors are elected to nonpartisan offices.) She noted that black motorists are more likely to be stopped for traffic infractions than white motorists.  And — eliciting a gasp from the crowd — she showed a photo of a sign held by local arms dealer  Mel Bernstein, aka Dragon Man, saying Muslims could not purchase guns at his business.

Bringing her 8-year-old daughter to the stage, Haliburton-Rudy asked the child what she had said when she first saw the sign.

"Does that mean black people can't have guns too?" the little girl asked.
click to enlarge Greg Walta spokes about transforming the city's image. - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • Greg Walta spokes about transforming the city's image.

Next to the stage was Walta, who has fought many civil rights cases, including Colorado's anti-LGBT Amendment 2, which passed in 1992.

Walta told the crowd that the Springs has many advantages, from beautiful open space to affordable housing.

"How can you screw that up?" he asked. "Well, we did it."

Walta painted a picture of the Springs in the 1980s and early 1990s as a fast-growing city with a high tech industry that dubbed it "Silicon Mountain." But after local powers got Amendment 2 passed, the Springs became the "hate city," he said.

The U.S. Supreme Court threw out Amendment 2, Walta said, "in blistering language," saying it "relegated gays and lesbians to second class citizenship" much as Jim Crow laws had. (Amendment 2 aimed to block laws that would have protected LGBT people from discrimination.)

But, Walta said, for the Springs, "the damage was done." That damage has stuck around, he told the crowd, because the Springs continues to elect representatives like former state Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt, who was known for hateful talk about LGBT people in particular.

The Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, Walta noted, also passed in 1992, ratcheting down government budgets and requiring a vote to raise taxes. And while other cities invested in their infrastructure, Colorado Springs elected officials took pledges to not even ask voters to raise taxes, Walta noted. High tech fled. The city became ragged.

"Is this the very definition of wasted potential?" Walta asked. "It's disgusting."

The ongoing results of those 1992 decisions, he said, include the flight of young professionals to more tolerant and vibrant cities, the vilifying of all our religious institutions (deserved or not), and a recent decrease in unemployment that came not from an increase in jobs, but simply fewer people looking for jobs.

"Folks, these are Rust Belt statistics," Walta told the crowd. "There's no excuse for a city like Colorado Springs doing this."

Walta says T4CS wants to work with the business community on projects like City for Champions and the improvement of the city's image — especially by keeping extreme people out of public office or at least coming out against their most outrageous statements.

"We need to start electing people that don't scare people," he said.

Walta said that the business community needs the progressive community to achieve these key goals, and that together the two groups could transform the city.

click to enlarge Indy chair John Weiss told the crowd that progressive initiatives — from the Trails, Open Space and Parks tax to a City Council pay raise — have always had to start from scratch because there's no infrastructure. That's what T4Cs will provide, he says. - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • Indy chair John Weiss told the crowd that progressive initiatives — from the Trails, Open Space and Parks tax to a City Council pay raise — have always had to start from scratch because there's no infrastructure. That's what T4Cs will provide, he says.

Next up, John Weiss spoke about his own efforts over the years to create change. Two things stood out about successful efforts, he said: The need to get buy-in from influential people and the need to start each campaign from scratch. T4CS, he said, should help with that process moving forward, making creating change a lot easier.

Weiss says T4CS is tentatively considering four ballot measures:

1) Raising City Council pay from $6,250 a year to half of what a county commissioner makes (new commissioners make $113,490 a year).

2) A De-Bruce of Colorado Springs. This would allow Colorado Springs to ignore the formulas and ratchet-down effect of TABOR on its budget, while maintaining TABOR's provision that requires a vote on tax increases.

3) A TOPS expansion and extension — to allow the sales tax to do more for parks and open spaces.

4) A financial mechanism to support arts and culture.

Weiss took a quick break to allow Dirk Draper, president and CEO of the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and EDC, to explain a 2017 city ballot question that will ask voters to allow the city to retain a portion of its TABOR excess for stormwater needs. (Weiss said T4CS was "neutral" on the question.)

Weiss then launched into personal stories, ending by telling the crowd that T4CS planned to challenge the current power structure.

"Our organization's going to question authority in this town," Weiss told the audience. "But we're also going to listen to the answers. ... In order to get things done, we have to work together."

Minister and T4CS board member Ahriana Platten finished up the program with a funny story and an ask for donations.

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