Thursday, August 15, 2019

In a strange turn-about, two Colorado Springs parkland measures appear doomed

Posted By on Thu, Aug 15, 2019 at 5:03 PM

On Aug. 13, it appeared voters would get a chance to decide two, competing measures to protect the city's parkland from being sold or traded away at the Nov. 5 election.

Two days later, it appears they'll get no chance.

That's because both measures that Colorado Springs City Council referred on Aug. 13 won't make it past a required Aug. 27 second reading, according to changes in sentiment by City Councilors along with the expected absence of a key "yes" vote on one measure.
Councilor Jill Gaebler: expected to miss second reading vote. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Councilor Jill Gaebler: expected to miss second reading vote.

The first ballot question, known as Protect Our Parks, would require voter permission before the city completed any parkland transfers to private hands through sales or exchanges. It's genesis lies in the 2016  Council-approved trade of city-owned Strawberry Fields open space to The Broadmoor in exchange for about 400 acres of wooded lands and trail easements.

Opponents formed the advocacy group Save Cheyenne and filed suit, but lost in fall 2018. In January, Save Cheyenne asked Council to refer its POPs measure to the April city ballot. Council declined and called for a working group to be formed to come up with a mutually agreeable ballot measure. That effort involved a wide range of representatives.

The proposed measure from that effort won approval on Aug. 13, on a 5-4 vote. President Richard Skorman and Councilors Yolanda Avila, Bill Murray, Tom Strand and Jill Gaebler favored it, while Wayne Williams, David Geislinger, Andy Pico and Don Knight opposed it.

The second measure referred to voters on Aug. 13 calls for no voter decision on land exchanges, but imposes a mandate that parkland transfers win a 6-3 supermajority vote of Council. That vote on Aug. 13 was 6-3 with Avila, Murray and Gaebler opposing it.

When second reading time rolls around on Aug. 27, Gaebler will be in Europe on a trip that's to begin Aug. 22.

By law, second reading must take place 10 days after the first reading, which would mean the earliest date for second reading is Aug. 23, a day after Gaebler leaves. Her planned return is Sept. 8, two days after the last possible date Council can take action on ballot measures and still secure a place on the coordinated election ballot, handled by El Paso County.

click to enlarge Councilor Don Knight plans to vote "no" on both measures on Aug. 27. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Councilor Don Knight plans to vote "no" on both measures on Aug. 27.
That made Save Cheyenne scurry to see who might be willing to change their vote on the POPs measure, or the supermajority measure. (Save Cheyenne would rather see nothing on the ballot than see the latter question submitted to voters by itself, says spokesman Kent Obee.)

Obee called Gaebler's planned absence "fatal results for us," because now it's likely the vote will be a tie at 4-4, meaning the measure will fail.

It's unclear whether the supermajority measure will prevail. If Skorman and one other Councilor switches their "yes" votes to "no," that measure, too, would fail on a tie vote. (Skorman didn't respond to the Indy's request for comment.)

There are early signs that the supermajority measure is doomed.

"I anticipate I will not be supporting either measure at second reading, and hope to work on a measure that more/all of Council and Administration can get behind for a later election," Geislinger tells the Indy via email.

Pico says he thinks all the variations of the parkland measures need work. "In my opinion," he says via email, "none of these are really ready for the ballot and there are many issues that should be far more clear before going forward to a charter change. In particular, what many people think is in Option 1 is in reality not the case."

Knight says he'll now vote against the supermajority  m
click to enlarge Councilor Andy Pico: None of the parkland measures are ready for primetime. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Councilor Andy Pico: None of the parkland measures are ready for primetime.
easure as well to give the city time to "get it right" by drafting a ballot measure that's "not confusing to the voters."

So that means both measures are likely to be voted down on Aug. 27.

"It's been an emotional rollercoaster," Obee says, adding that Save Cheyenne supporters entered into the working group at the city's invitation and aren't prone to trust yet another process aimed at settling on ballot language.

"A number of us had said this is the last time we're going to try to work with the City Council," he tells the Indy.

It's unclear if Obee and others will give it another try, aiming for the November 2020 election. The group could ask Councilors, once again, to place the measure on the ballot, or the group could try to petition the measure onto the ballot.

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