Elections

Friday, May 10, 2019

Stand for Colorado plans rallies statewide to protest "radical" legislation

Posted By on Fri, May 10, 2019 at 11:24 AM

COURTESY OF STAND FOR COLORADO
  • Courtesy of Stand for Colorado
Democrats were able to push through more legislative priorities this session in the state Assembly than they have in many years. Some predicted after the November election that Coloradans would see overreach from lawmakers who wouldn't need to prioritize bipartisanship with a trifecta of power in the state House, Senate and governor's office.

Whether you believe that overreach did in fact occur probably depends, at least in part, on your political beliefs. But Kim Monson, host of radio talk show Americhicks, says the "Stand for Colorado" rally she's planning goes beyond simple party divides.

"Most people across the spectrum... JFK Democrats, unaffiliated libertarians and conservatives, generally they want to be left alone to live their lives," Monson says. "When you look at all these issues that we'll be talking about, what you see is the heavy hand of force. And that is something that is antithetical to the rugged western Colorado spirit."

The goal of the rally is to raise awareness around legislation passed this session, which Monson believes demonstrates overreach by lawmakers.

A Facebook event promoting the rally — scheduled from 4 to 5:30 p.m. May 10, on the steps of the state Capitol in Denver — had 154 people "Going" and another 840 "Interested" as of the morning of May 10.

A long list of speakers will discuss several pieces of legislation, including the National Popular Vote law, oil and gas law, red-flag law, sex-ed law, vaccination bill (which failed) and more.

Stand for Colorado supporters will also hold concurrent rallies in Grand Junction, Gunnison, Alamosa, Woodland Park and Montrose. People hoping to refer the National Popular Vote issue to the November ballot will be at all locations collecting signatures.

Brita Horn, former Routt County treasurer, will address House Bill 1322, Expand Supply Affordable Housing. The bipartisan bill, which takes $30 million a year from the state's unclaimed property trust fund for affordable housing initiatives, amounts to "raiding the piggy bank," Horn says.

According to the Great Colorado Payback website (which you can search to see if you have any unclaimed property), the fund includes "abandoned financial assets such as stocks and dividends, mutual funds, checking and savings accounts, unpaid wages, securities, life insurance payouts, uncashed checks that are without activity for a certain period of time, as well as the contents of safe deposit boxes for which the rent has been expired for at least five (5) years."

House Bill 1322 passed the House on a vote of 45-18, and the Senate 23-12. Its sponsors included Reps. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon, and Perry Will, R-New Castle, along with Sens. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, and Don Coram, R-Montrose.

“I am thrilled this bill has now passed both chambers with bipartisan support," said Roberts, who was quoted in a May 3 statement from House Democrats. "This a responsible way to support affordable housing without raising taxes."

The Colorado Apartment Association, which opposed a bill that would have allowed local rent-control measures, also endorsed HB1322.

But Horn thinks the bill is a bad idea.

In the event of another Recession, Horn says, "people are going to start looking in [the unclaimed property trust fund], looking for their money to get back — and with interest — and we're going to be so depleted it's going to be an unfunded liability... When that happens, it's going to be on the backs of the taxpayers to backfill it."

Joining Horn at the state Capitol will be Monson, Monument Mayor Don Wilson, Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer and more than a dozen others. Visit standforcolorado.com for a full list of Denver speakers, and locations for the other rallies.
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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Cripple Creek-Victor School District board recall effort will move forward

Posted By on Wed, Apr 17, 2019 at 3:35 PM

STACIE GONZALEZ
  • Stacie Gonzalez
An effort to recall three members of the Cripple Creek-Victor School District RE-1 board has turned in enough valid signatures for a special election, Teller County Chief Deputy Clerk Stephanie Kees confirmed April 17.

The recall effort, led by the group Hear Us (See Cover, Feb. 27), faced a hurdle when the Teller County Clerk and Recorder's office identified a shortfall of more than 200 valid petition signatures. The recall petitions required at least 400 signatures per school board member, but many of those originally submitted in March were rejected for various reasons. The clerk's office gave Hear Us until April 10 to gather the remaining signatures.

The three targeted school board members — Board President Tim Braun, Treasurer Dennis Jones and Secretary Tonya Martin — have until May 2 to protest the election, Kees says. But they can only protest on the grounds that Hear Us does not have enough valid signatures or that the ballot summary language is more than 200 words. (Kees says the clerk's office has confirmed that the signatures are valid and the summary adheres to word limits. However, a hearing would be held in the case that the board members choose to protest anyway.)

Barring a successful protest, the recall election must be held within 60 days after the protest period has passed, Kees says. 
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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

State bills aim to increase transparency in campaign fundraising

Posted By on Tue, Apr 16, 2019 at 11:15 AM

This 2014 attack ad was paid for by a 527 ("dark money") political group.
  • This 2014 attack ad was paid for by a 527 ("dark money") political group.

Secretary of State Jena Griswold is championing two bills she developed with state lawmakers to change Colorado's system for enforcing fair campaign practices.

After all, she "ran for office to reform money in politics," notes a release from her office announcing the introduction of both bills.

The first, House Bill 1318 — dubbed "The Clean Campaign Act of 2019" — would prohibit foreign governments and corporations, as well as any person who is not an American citizen, from contributing to state election campaigns. It also requires "Paid for by" disclosures on campaign communications, and tightens rules related to independent expenditure committees, or IECs, that raise money for political candidates before they officially declare an intent to run for office. It's sponsored by Rep. Mike Weissman, D-Aurora, along with Sens. Jeff Bridges, D-Greenwood Village, and Mike Foote, D-Lafayette.

More than $82 million was donated to IECs — which Griswold calls "Colorado's version of a SuperPAC" — during the 2018 election cycle in Colorado, the release says. Of that $82 million, 75 percent came in donations of $100,000 or more, and over 80 percent came from corporations or sources that are "hard to trace."

“Too often, Coloradans feel that their politicians are beholden to big money special interests, and that the rich and powerful are allowed to side-step the rules,” Griswold is quoted as saying. “Right now in Colorado, a $50 contribution to a candidate is more transparent than a $50,000 contribution to Colorado’s version of a SuperPAC. It’s time to put democracy back in the hands of everyday Coloradans."

The second piece of legislation, Senate Bill 232, is titled "Campaign Finance Enforcement" and is also sponsored by Foote and Weissman. It codifies the rules put in place after a U.S. District Court judge determined in 2018 that Colorado's campaign finance enforcement system was unconstitutional. The rules include procedures for filing, reviewing and investigating complaints of unfair campaign practices.

Interestingly, the system ruled unconstitutional was created through a ballot initiative. It mandated that every complaint of a campaign finance violation get a hearing, and did not include a mechanism for filtering out bad complaints, according to the National Law Review.
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Tuesday, April 2, 2019

City election happing today!

Posted By on Tue, Apr 2, 2019 at 2:37 PM

2019cityelectionbug-01.png
Vote. Today.

But don't mail your ballot today. Now, you'll have to deliver it. Go here to find out more about drop-off sites for today's election.

The Colorado Springs city election wraps up today at 7 p.m.

As of the morning of April 2, only 74,067 ballots had been counted so far of nearly 268,000 mailed.

Voters are electing a mayor and three at-large City Council members for the nine-member panel, and deciding Issue 1, which would authorize collective bargaining, but not a strike, for firefighters.

More than $1 million has been pumped into the election of various candidates and campaigns for and against Issue 1.
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Friday, March 29, 2019

Final campaign finance reports filed before April 2 city election

Posted By on Fri, Mar 29, 2019 at 5:21 PM

2019cityelectionbug-01.png
UPDATE:

Money has poured into the Firefighters for a Safer Colorado Springs coffers to fund support of Issue 1, which would give local firefighters collective bargaining authority, though not authority to strike.

The election is Tuesday, April 2, and ballots must be returned to the City Clerk's Office by 7 p.m.

The firefighter committee has raised $639,123, according to its March 29 campaign finance report, more than twice as much as the vote "no" effort, Citizens Against Public Employee Unions, which reported raising $303,967.

That makes the issue campaign valued at $1 million in contributions to the two committees.

The firefighter group received donations from firefighter groups in Sacramento, San Francisco, San Bernardino and Cal Fire in California; from Miami and Jacksonville, Fla.; Portland, Oregon; Buffalo, New York; Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, Pa.; Fairfax, Virginia; Chicago; West Metro in the Denver area; New York state firefighters, and the International Fire Fighters Association.

To update other candidates' filings:

Council candidates and the amounts raised — Randy Tuck, $11,570; Regina English, $600; Tom incumbent Strand, $39,351; Tony Gioia, $27,457; and Val Snider, $12,787. Dennis Spiker hasn't filed a report in the last cycle.

Mayoral candidate Juliette Parker has raised $17,250, of which $8,000 came from loans from herself to the campaign.

Mayor John Suthers has raised a total of $228,211, and spent all but $87,081. In the latest reporting period, the largest donor was The Broadmoor with $5,000.

————-ORIGINAL POST 5:21 P.M. FRIDAY, MARCH 29, 2019—————————————

Not all candidates had filed their campaign finance reports on time for this round of filings for the April 2 city election where voters will elect a mayor, three at-large City Council members and decide Issue 1, which would give firefighters the right to collectively bargain but not to strike. Reports were due March 29.

Here's what we know.

• Citizens Against Public Employee Unions, which opposes Issue 1, has raised a total of $345,516. It's spent $303,967.

• Firefighters for a Safer Colorado Springs did not file a report, but previously reported raising $537,025.

Other organizations' reports:

• Community Leaders of America pumped $5,000 into Mayor John Suthers' reelection campaign and $1,000 in the coffers of Wayne Williams, who's seeking an at-large City Council seat. The organization is the national caucus of Republican mayors and city council members and was formed, according to the group, "in response to the lack of a national strategy to elect and support Republicans to the offices of mayor and city council." City elections here are nonpartisan.

• Sierra Club has raised $66,000 and spent $12,500 on canvassing and $44,233 on "voter mail education" but did not disclose which candidates it supports.

• The same is true of Americans for Prosperity, which reported it raised no funds but provided values of $24,042 each for mailers and door hangers and canvassing for unidentified candidates.

• Together for Colorado Springs raised $4,140 from John Weiss, owner of the Independent and other newspapers, for ads that appeared in the Indy. The report doesn't say who the ads supported, but T4CS ads endorsed Bill Murray and Terry Martinez.

Mayoral candidates:

• John Pitchford has raised $105,424 and has $82,624 on hand.

• Suthers, Juliette Parker and Lawrence Martinez did not file reports by 5 p.m. on March 29.

Council candidates:

• Incumbent Bill Murray has raised $3,100.

• Wayne Williams, former Colorado Secretary of State, has raised $55,652.

• Gordon Klingenschmitt, former state representative, has raised $12,387.

• Terry Martinez has raised $33,947.

• Athena Roe has raised $825.

Candidates who had not filed a report include Regina English, Randy Tuck, incumbent Tom Strand, Dennis Spiker, Val Snider and Tony Gioia.

The election is four days away. It's being handled by mail. You must return you ballot by 7 p.m. on April 2. For information, go here.
 
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Friday, March 22, 2019

PAC tied to Republicans enters Colorado Springs' city election

Posted By on Fri, Mar 22, 2019 at 2:45 PM

2019cityelectionbug-01.png
There are a couple new players in the April 2 city election:

Community Leaders of America, a political action committee, filed with the Colorado Springs City Clerk's Office March 21, listing a Republican operative as its representative.
Staci Goede has served as CFO at Republican State Leadership Committee, Washington, D.C., for 17 years, according to LinkedIn.
Goede declined to speak to the Indy, saying she would have another person get in touch to answer questions about the purpose of the committee. It's worth noting Community Leaders of America registered as a political committee, and not an issue committee.
We'll update if and when we hear back from the PAC.

Together for Colorado Springs Political Action Committee also registered with the City Clerk's Office. The organization was active in the city's 2017 election supporting candidates. The PAC placed an ad in the March 20-26 Indy supporting Bill Murray and Terry Martinez for Council.

The last campaign finance filing prior to the election is due March 29, four days before the election.

The April 2 ballot has one question: Issue 1, which would give firefighters authority to collective bargain but not to strike. Voters also will elected three at-large City Council members and a mayor.

In other election news:

• The NAACP Colorado Springs Branch will host a candidates forum at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 24, at Sand Creek Library, 1821 S. Academy Blvd. The forum will entertain candidates for mayor and at-large Council seats.

• As of March 19, voters had returned about 18,000 ballots and ballot counting has begun.

If you have an item of interest for our campaign roundup blogs, contact zubeck@csindy.com
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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Former Starbucks CEO to visit Olympic Training Center as he mulls independent presidential run

Posted By on Wed, Mar 20, 2019 at 3:58 PM

Howard Schultz oversaw a company that grew from six stores to nearly 30,000 worldwide. - GAGE SKIDMORE, FLICKR
  • Gage Skidmore, Flickr
  • Howard Schultz oversaw a company that grew from six stores to nearly 30,000 worldwide.
Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks, will visit Colorado Springs on March 22 as he considers an independent run for president.

After headlining a town hall hosted by the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce and touring a startup incubator in Boulder on March 21, Schultz will tour the Olympic Training Center the following day and hold a town hall event with Olympic athletes.

The U.S. Olympic Committee confirmed the visit and says it's normal for politicians and dignitaries to tour its facilities — though the organization is not allowed to promote a political candidate. Past guests have included former President Barack Obama and one of President Donald Trump's cabinet members.

"If a public figure requests an opportunity to tour our facility, we're happy to provide it," says Mark Jones, the Olympic Committee's vice president of communications.

Schultz has not officially declared his candidacy for president, but has toured the country promoting his recent memoir and appeared in a live town hall hosted by CNN in February. Fox News invited him to participate in another town hall in April.

While Schultz has not made public any detailed policies, he promotes himself as a "centrist independent." On his website, he outlines six priorities that "only centrist leadership could make happen":

1) Only sign major legislation into law that has the support of both parties.

2) Assemble a cabinet that represents America in every way" — "including Republicans, Democrats and Independents.

3) Only put forward Supreme Court nominees that could be confirmed by 2/3 of the Senate.

4) Limit influence of lobbyists and special interests in Washington D.C.

5) Work to end the gerrymandering that is rigging the system.

6) Get the federal budget under control and reduce the national debt.

After graduating from Northern Michigan University in 1975, Schultz worked for a company that sold housewares to Starbucks — then a small company in Seattle, Schultz' website says. He met the founders of Starbucks in 1982, and within a year was heading up marketing for the company.

Schultz left Starbucks a few years later to open his own specialty coffee company, Il Giornale, which bought Starbucks in 1987 and took the latter company's name. He stepped down as CEO in 2000 to become chief global strategist, helping Starbucks expand internationally. In 2008, he reprised his role as CEO, and later became executive chairman of the company before stepping down in June of 2018, saying that he would consider a presidential run.

During his time at Starbucks, Schultz' bio points out, he saw it grow from six stores to nearly 30,000, employing more than 3 million people over the company's history. 
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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Firefighters' Issue 1 pros and cons outlined at public forum

Posted By on Tue, Mar 19, 2019 at 11:31 AM

Union representative John Roy and Mayor John Suthers faced off on March 18 to debate the pros and cons of Issue 1 to a nearly full room at Penrose Library. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Union representative John Roy and Mayor John Suthers faced off on March 18 to debate the pros and cons of Issue 1 to a nearly full room at Penrose Library.
About 150 people showed up at Penrose Library on March 18 to hear the pros and cons of Issue 1 at a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters and Citizens Project.

The ballot measure to be decided by voters in the April 2 city election would give firefighters collective bargaining powers, absent the ability to strike.

Speaking in favor of the issue was John Roy, deputy campaign manager with the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 5.

Mayor John Suthers spoke against the measure.

"When you call 911, you expect a fire truck will arrive there quickly," Roy said. "And that's exactly what this is about."

He said under the current system, firefighters don't have much say in allocation of resources to protect their own and the public's safety. He noted that one fire engine over 20 years old developed a leak that poisoned firefighters with exhaust fumes. All recovered.

The incident underscores that city leadership who call the shots lacks continuity. The mayor, the city's chief executive, is elected every four years, and City Council potentially changes membership every two years, he said.

"We don't know who our next mayor or City Council will be," Roy said. "The problem is, we cannot guarantee our next mayor will offer us an opportunity to sit down with him."

The people who use the equipment, Roy said, should have a say in funding that equipment, as well as staffing and training. Compensation also would come into play in collective bargaining, but Roy acknowledged that a series of recent raises has placed firefighters at parity with similar departments — $80,000 a year for most line firefighters.

Still, the Fire Department today has fewer firefighters than it did in 2008, Roy said.

As for arguments against the measure based on the need for a city election should firefighters and the city stalemate, Roy noted a fact-finder would come into play amid such an impasse and of at least 15 cities in Colorado with similar collective bargaining arrangements, none has led to a vote of the people over a contract. [Whichever side refuses to accept the fact-finder's conclusion pays for a special election.]

"If Issue 1 doesn't pass, it could be a detriment to public safety," he said, and noted the city's response time goal of arriving at a scene within 8 minutes 90 percent of the time is twice the recommended standard by the National Fire Protection Association of four minutes.
Mayor Suthers, right, has become the spokesperson for opposition to the firefighter measure.
  • Mayor Suthers, right, has become the spokesperson for opposition to the firefighter measure.
Suthers argued that if firefighters receive collective bargaining powers, other city employees will also seek such authority, throwing the city's finances into chaos.

Besides, he added, firefighters already have a seat at the table. "Our city has been good to firefighters," he said, noting pay scales have reached competitive market levels and firefighters are given a pension for life.

He also noted when he met with Local 5 officials four years ago, they told him collective bargaining "is not our thing." Since then, the city has purchased several new fire apparatus, raised salaries and funded additional positions.

"If you think this doesn't have a downside, look around the country," Suthers said, pointing to departments who face layoffs in order to fund union demands.

Firefighters could seek a multi-year contract, which would put the city in a dicey spot, he said. Since the city relies so heavily on sales tax revenue, an economic downturn can have significant impact on the city budget in short order.

"If we're locked in [on a firefighter contract] and the economy does tank, everybody else is going to pay out the wazoo on that," Suthers said, meaning money to fulfill the contract would shortchange other departments' needs.

Suthers said he also fears that collective bargaining will translate into a battle between lawyers for the city and for the union, rather than "face time" between himself and firefighters, who he said are now "very well represented" on compensation and benefit committees within the city.

Suthers defended the Fire Department's response time record, saying the insurance rating for the city, which dictates how much people pay for property insurance, indicates response times are "quite good." [The Indy recently reported that through October 2018, the most recent data available at the time of our report, the department fell short of its response time goals in eight of nine zones.]

The city election, where voters also will elect a mayor and three at-large City Council members, is being conducted entirely by mail. For information, go to this link
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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

What's true and what's false about claims on firefighters' Issue 1?

Posted By on Wed, Mar 13, 2019 at 10:17 AM

The only issue on the April 2 city ballot asks voters to decide whether to give firefighters collective bargaining rights. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • The only issue on the April 2 city ballot asks voters to decide whether to give firefighters collective bargaining rights.
What's true? What's false? And what lies somewhere in between?

When it comes to political ads, it's hard to discern fact from fiction, so we'll try to help voters by dissecting campaign literature from time to time.

Today, we'll look at the claims made by the Citizens Against Public Employee Unions (CAPEU), a political committee formed by Mayor John Suthers and the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce & EDC, to oppose Issue 1 on the April 2 city election ballot. The measure would provide firefighters with collective bargaining rights.

(Note to our readers: We also looked at statements made by the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 5 and Firefighters for a Safer Colorado Springs in their campaign ads, but found that their campaign literature is less specific and, therefore, trickier to fact check. For example, one flier says, "It's time to give our trusted public safety professionals a stronger voice to keep our families, businesses and community safe." Another says, "How many firefighters should respond when you call 911? ... Is our equipment up to date and will it protect firefighters and save lives?" And then the flier states, "...vote #YESon1 to make Colorado Springs Firefighters your voice on public safety.")

Here's a look at the vote "no" literature:

• Claim: If the firefighters' bargaining agent and city leadership can't agree on labor terms, a special election would be required, at a cost of $500,000 to Colorado Springs taxpayers. (It's worth noting that some fliers have a little blue arrow next to the $500,000 figure, indicating "up to" $500,000.)

Actually: A dispute over any number of issues wouldn't automatically trigger an election. Rather, if a stand-off emerges, "the issues are to be submitted to a fact-finder," the ballot measure states. That fact-finder would be mutually agreed to by the parties.

The ballot measure goes on to say, if the city or Local 5 refuses to accept the fact-finder's decision, the issue in dispute "shall be presented to and decided by the voters" at a special election "with the cost of the special election to be paid by the party not accepting the fact-finder's decision."  (Emphasis added.) If both parties reject the fact-finder's finding, then the cost of the election is shared by the city and Local 5.

As for the election's cost, City Clerk Sarah Johnson reports that the April 2 election will cost the city $350,000, though "postage increases, labor costs for election judges, and so on might make the final cost higher."

Incidentally, Local 5 tells the Indy that voters in Colorado have never had to foot the bill for a special election to decide terms of a firefighters' contract.

* CAPEU response via email: Almost all impasse special elections around the country result from the city contesting the arbitration result. According to [El Paso County Clerk and Recorder] Chuck Broerman, the cost of postage alone for a special election is $450,000, plus the labor costs for clerk and recorder staff and election judges. [The county does not conduct city elections; the city conducts its own elections.]

• Claim: More than 50 percent of the city budget is devoted to public safety, which is more than most cities our size.


Actually: There are some cities in Colorado that spend less than half their general fund budgets on public safety. See the CAPEU statement below. But there also are many cities who, like Colorado Springs, spend more than half the general fund budget on public safety. Those include Kansas City, Mo., 76 percent; Dallas, 60 percent; Austin, 67 percent; Phoenix, 76 percent; Fresno, California, 58 percent, and Omaha, Nebraska, about 69 percent.

* CAPEU: Some examples in Colorado: Aurora, Boulder, Ft. Collins.
[CAPEU didn't provide the percentages, but the
Indy looked them up: Aurora, 47.6 percent; Boulder, 37 percent, and Fort Collins, 44 percent. Fort Collins doesn't have its own fire department but rather provides at least 70 percent of the funding for Poudre Fire Authority.]

• Claim: From 2016-2021, the city is adding another 52 people in the fire department, including 44 line firefighters.

Actually: While this statement is true, it suggests the staffing needs for the Fire Department have been dealt with. Local 5 notes, "At the end of 2019, we will have 451 assigned firefighters, 2 less positions than in 2008. We will add 12 more to that total bringing us to 463, but that is due to the addition of the Cimarron Hills fire protection district and their 12 spots. We [are] fundamentally still short of where we were 12 years ago."

* CAPEU: Asked to comment on Local 5's comment, the "vote no" committee provided this:
12 firefighters (1 Captain, 2 Lieutenants, 3 Driver Engineers, 3 Paramedics, and 3 Firefighters) were added in 2017 to permanently staff Fire Station #22
1 Wildfire Mitigation Maintenance Technician added in 2017
3 Fire Inspectors, one in each year, 2016, 2017, and 2018
8 Firefighters added in 2018
1 Full time Recruiter added in 2018
1 Senior Office Specialist added in 2018
8 Firefighters will be added in 2019, 2020 and 2021
• Claim: Line firefighter pay has increased 16% in the last four years, from $68,000 to $80,000, plus overtime, far exceeding the average salary in Colorado Springs of $47,000.

Actually: These numbers are accurate, Local 5 says, but states the collective bargaining measure is not about pay but rather having a say in various funding and safety issues.

Want to learn more about Issue 1?

The League of Women Voters will host a forum on Issue 1 at 6 p.m. Monday, March 18, at Penrose Library's Columbine Room, 20 N. Cascade Ave.

John Roy, deputy campaign manager for the Colorado Springs Professional Firefighters will speak for the measure. Suthers will speak against the measure. Both also will answer questions from the audience.
If you have an item of interest about the April 2 city election, let us know at zubeck@csindy.com
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Wednesday, March 6, 2019

City campaign roundup: What do the candidates say about recreational pot?

Posted By on Wed, Mar 6, 2019 at 7:01 AM

2019cityelectionbug-01.png
What do the candidates seeking a City Council seat or the mayor's post in the April 2 Colorado Springs election have to say about recreational marijuana?

We asked them this question in our candidate questionnaire: What’s your stance on allowing recreational marijuana shops within the city limits, or referring a measure to the ballot to allow voters to decide?

Here's what each said:

Council contenders
Athena Roe: "I have spoken with emergency room physicians at our local hospitals and it is clear that the potent strains have caused overdoses, and more patients in the ER’s.... I am against allowing recreational marijuana shops in our community."

Bill Murray (incumbent): "Four years ago, I ran on referring a measure to the ballot to allow voters to decide! My position has not changed."

Gordon Klingenschmitt: "Addiction and substance abuse cause a slavery-dependency relationship between pusher and abuser, who trade their money and even bodies for their next fix. Government’s role is not to profit from enablement of slavery or trafficking, but to free the slaves through treatment."

Regina English: "My stance on this is to keep our city dollars within our city and if the shops are within the city limits, then this will be accomplished which will enable the city to use the dollars for the up keep of the city. (parks, infrastructures, amenities, etc.)"

Regina English says recreational pot could help fund city needs. - COURTESY OF THE CANDIDATE
  • Courtesy of the candidate
  • Regina English says recreational pot could help fund city needs.
Dennis Spiker: "I believe that this issue is one that city residents must have the ability to vote on themselves and should have been done years ago. Manitou Springs has started to bring in an estimated $3 million per year with their marijuana tax. We could use this money to fix our parks, create sports leagues, or even offer grants to local small businesses, and nonprofits. Though I would like to see this passed it must be voted upon by the city’s residents."

Terry Martinez: "I would support referring a measure to the ballot to allow voters to decide whether to allow recreational marijuana shops within the city limits, as long as the vote coincided with the regular election cycle. The people of Colorado Springs deserve to vote on the issue."

Tom Strand (incumbent): "I agree with this decision [by previous council's to not refer a measure to voters] because of the adverse impact more marijuana facilities will have on our children, middle school and high school students... Currently, Colorado Springs has over 120 medical marijuana facilities within our 200 square mile city. I support the marijuana industry obtaining the necessary citizen signatures on a petition to place this important and sensitive issue on the ballot for voters to assess and determine."

Tony Gioia wouldn't oppose a citizen petition fo place a measure on the ballot. - COURTESY OF THE CANDIDATE
  • Courtesy of the candidate
  • Tony Gioia wouldn't oppose a citizen petition fo place a measure on the ballot.
Tony Gioia: "If a citizen-led initiative came forward to put such a question on the ballot, I would not oppose it. Currently, a large segment of our economy comes from industries that cannot have employees who use marijuana, and these businesses are having a harder and harder time finding employees who can pass a drug screening. For this reason, I would not proactively support bringing such shops to the city at this time."

Val Snider: "I am currently against allowing recreational marijuana sales within the city limits... With my military police background I saw the effects of marijuana on my troops and how it affected their performance... Until there is more science on how the higher THC level affects the minds of youth, I am against increasing accessibility of recreational marijuana within city limits."

Wayne Williams: I support the citizens’ right to petition on this issue... Absent a citizen petition, I would not support referral to change the present mix of medicinal marijuana in the city limits and recreational nearby."

Randy Tuck: "I believe this should have been done 4 years ago. I am for recreational marijuana being approved for Colorado Springs. I believe that it should be referred as a measure to be put on the ballot and let the voters decide. However, we are [wasting] valuable time and revenue's [sic] and this is such an important issue, it should be put to a vote of the council members and get it done! We can no longer watch as we see the profits of our small business people going to 3 other cities as well as the revenue’s attached to the profits."

Mayoral candidates
Juliette Parker says recreational pot should be decided by the people. - COURTESY OF THE CANDIDATE
  • Courtesy of the candidate
  • Juliette Parker says recreational pot should be decided by the people.

Juliette Parker: "I personally feel that as mayor it will be my duty to put the matter of legalization on the ballot so that the residents can decide for themselves what happens in their city. Giving you the opportunity to vote on it puts the power in your hands, where it should be." [It should be noted that while the mayor can advocate for a ballot issue, City Council, not the mayor, is empowered to refer measures to the ballot.]

Lawrence Martinez: "The City next door collected 1 Million in taxes do you really think they smoked it all? .... So if it is here lets [sic] get whats [sic] due our tax money from the sales to our community."

John Suthers (incumbent): "I personally oppose recreational marijuana sales within the city. Also, reliable polling shows the vast majority of Colorado Springs residents do as well. That's why the marijuana industry did not pursue a ballot initiative in November of 2018."

John Pitchford: "In discussing this issue with people who are rigidly opposed to recreational/retail marijuana, I asked them what we will do about our ALREADY existing recreational marijuana industry. As a result of how we legalized medical marijuana in 2010, we created a homegrown cottage industry of micro marijuana farming... Retail marijuana is for sale throughout Colorado Springs, it is on every street corner, in every apartment complex and in every neighborhood. It is unregulated, untaxed and is controlled by criminals. We currently have 6 members of the city council who favor allowing the people to vote on this issue. I favor allowing the people to vote on this issue."
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Tuesday, March 5, 2019

City campaign roundup: Political ads hit TV airwaves

Posted By on Tue, Mar 5, 2019 at 5:55 PM

Terry Martinez, seeking a City Council seat, wants to reach voters through their televisions. - COURTESY OF THE CANDIDATE
  • Courtesy of the candidate
  • Terry Martinez, seeking a City Council seat, wants to reach voters through their televisions.
Don't you just love campaign season, when political ads flood your TV during your favorite programs? 

Me neither.

But according to filings by two local TV stations, voters can expect to be blasted with ads in the weeks ahead as we approach the April 2 city election.

City Council candidate Terry Martinez made an agreement March 4 for an undetermined number of 15- and 30-second spots for five weeks on KOAA Channel 5. He's the only candidate so far to buy time on that station. He also has a contract with KKTV for $1,865 worth of ads to run the week of March 4 to 10.

Citizens Against Public Safety Unions, a committee formed by the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce & EDC which opposes Issue 1, the firefighters' collective bargaining measure, has agreed to pay thousands of dollars.

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While its contract with KOAA doesn't give details, the committee has agreed to pay KKTV $91,930 for 30-second spots from March 5 through April 1. The ads will air during news programs in the morning, during The Price is Right game show in the late morning, during Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy in the evenings, and amid both the evening newscast and late night news report.

Those ads will duel with half-minute spots placed by Firefighters for a Safer Colorado Springs, a committee that supports Issue 1. But the "vote yes" group is spending only $24,060 with KKTV to run ads during similar time slots as the "vote no" group, and only from March 4 to 24.

Both committees also have placed ads with KOAA, but the agreements aren't detailed as to how much will be spent and how many ads will run.

So far, no candidates or issue committees have bought air time with KRDO TV and Fox21News.
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Monday, March 4, 2019

Firefighters endorse challenger John Pitchford in mayor's race

Posted By on Mon, Mar 4, 2019 at 12:09 PM

John Pitchford wins firefighters' endorsement in mayor's race. - JONATHAN BETZ PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Jonathan Betz Photography
  • John Pitchford wins firefighters' endorsement in mayor's race.
The Colorado Springs Professional Firefighters has endorsed challenger John Pitchford for mayor, a dramatic move in an election in which Mayor John Suthers signed a fundraising letter on behalf of a political action committee that opposes the firefighters' collective bargaining measure, which also is on the ballot.

The April 2 election will decide the bargaining question, known as Issue 1, which bars firefighters from striking, and seat a mayor and three at-large City Council members.

Seeking his second term, Suthers is campaigning against Issue 1, which was submitted to voters after firefighters collected thousands of signatures to force it onto the ballot.

The "vote no" committee, called Citizens Against Public Employee Unions, was co-founded by Suthers and the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce & EDC. The PAC has raised $219,215, including $30,500 from the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs, and spent $39,699, according to the most recent finance report filed Feb. 27.

Firefighters for a Safer Colorado Springs has raised $316,025, mostly from firefighters via the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), and spent $234,772, including petitioning costs.

Firefighters have said they want a seat at the table to secure funding for equipment and staffing, which hasn't caught up since the 2008 recession. There are fewer front line firefighters in Colorado Springs today than before the recession. As the Independent has reported, firefighters have seen response times suffer and its fleet of fire apparatus age, including an incident in which firefighters were gassed with exhaust, although Suthers has added several new engines and trucks in the last year and plans to add more.

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Pitchford, a retired dentist and career Army officer, said he is "proud" to received the firefighters' endorsement. In a statement, he said:
I have visited with many of our city employees and heard the same story over and over. Mayor Suthers “will not listen to our concerns,” “our voices are not heard” and “Mayor Suthers will not negotiate in good faith.” When it comes to public safety it is absolutely vital that this city be led by a mayor who will listen to the public safety concerns of our firefighters, police officers and be available to work in good faith with all of our employees.

With the strong mayor form of government, the mayor is the CEO of a large business and no business can long endure with a poisonous relationship between management and its employees.
Pitchford also notes that firefighters' concerns don't focus on compensation but rather staffing, equipment and workload.

"Try to imagine your home on fire and the fire truck breaks down on the way to save your home and your life," Pitchford says. "Our firefighters have suffered carbon monoxide poisoning as a result of using firefighting apparatus that is well beyond its replacement age."

Asked about the endorsement, Suthers says via email, "The reality is I’ve worked very hard in the interests of all city employees and that’s reflected in increased compensation. Police and fire in particular have benefited by being brought to market level compensation. But I am steadfastly opposed to unionization of the fire department and that puts me at odds with Local 5."

In a statement, the IAFF Local 5 said:
John Pitchford understands the top priority for government, from federal to local, is guaranteeing the safety of its citizens. His commitment to work with the professionals who provide that safety is non-wavering. He believes that the protection of our community should be immune from political influences. Public safety is not a partisan issue, and impacts each and every one of us equally. Mr. Pitchford supports true collaboration and a team based approach to improving the lives of our citizens. For that reason, the Colorado Springs Professional Fire Fighters proudly endorse the candidacy of John Pitchford for Mayor of Colorado Springs. 
The endorsement, announced March 4, comes without a campaign contribution.

Dave Noblitt, Local 5 spokesman, says via email: "If both sides stand along side each other without exchanging funds, we have not provided anyone any point to make an accusation of donating to expect favors. We both believe that is part of the current problem."

On Feb. 20, Pitchford's campaign gave $2,500 to the Firefighters for a Safer Colorado Springs campaign, records show, but the PAC refused it, Noblitt says.

Suthers has raised $180,236 for his mayoral run, while Pitchford has brought in $104,314, most of it in a loan from the candidate.

Local 5 also endorsed Terry Martinez and incumbent Bill Murray in the Council race. Those endorsements come with $500 each in campaign money.

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Tony Gioia speaks during a reception March 1. - GIOIA CAMPAIGN
  • Gioia campaign
  • Tony Gioia speaks during a reception March 1.
Tony Gioia was the man of the hour on March 1 at a reception hosted by Walker Schooler District Managers, Steve Schuck, Sen. Bob Gardner, Rep. Larry Liston, political consultants William Mutch and Sarah Jack, and City Councilor Merv Bennett.

Gioia has been endorsed by the HBA and Pikes Peak Association of Realtors. Disclosure: Gioia worked at the Indy for a short time several years ago.

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Forum reminder:

March 7: Council hopefuls discuss environmental issues, hosted by the Independent, Colorado Springs Business Journal, Trails and Open Space Coalition, Colorado College Collaborative for Community Engagement, 6:30 p.m., Packard Hall, Colorado College, 5 W. Cache La Poudre St.

March 9: Candidates forum, hosted by El Pomar Foundation Forum for Civic Advancement, 5:30-7 p.m. followed by a reception, Penrose House Pavilion, 1661 Mesa Ave.

March 21: Council candidates forum, hosted by voters in Precinct 729 (Broadmoor Bluffs), 7-9 p.m., Cheyenne Mountain Elementary School, 5250 Farthing Drive.

March 14: Council Candidate Forum, hosted by the Southeast Express and Citizens Project, 6-7:30 p.m., Sierra High School, 2250 Jet Wing Drive.
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Thursday, February 28, 2019

Suthers poll shows strong support for extending city road tax 2C

Posted By on Thu, Feb 28, 2019 at 12:49 PM

MAGELLAN STRATEGIES
  • Magellan Strategies
A newly released voter poll shows 59 percent of likely voters in the April 2 city election would support renewing the city's 2C road tax at a rate of .57 percent.

That's lower than the first five-year program's tax of .62 percent. Poll respondents were not asked their opinions of renewing the tax at the full .62 percent level, which voters approved in 2015. The 2C measure was expected to raise $50 million a year, but those expectations have been exceeded, leading to the lower tax rate, which would still generate about $55 million annually.

Suthers: Wants the road tax extended. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Suthers: Wants the road tax extended.
The poll, conducted by Magellan Strategies at the expense of Mayor John Suthers' re-election campaign, asked whether respondents supported the tax "with the understanding that the vast majority of the approximately $55 million ... raised per year would be used to improve residential roads."

Suthers tells the Indy a second five-year 2C program would funnel 80 percent of the money into residential roads, some of which haven't been improved in decades.

"If I'm the mayor," Suthers says in an interview, "I'm certainly going to recommend we renew it for five years, with 80 percent going to residential roads. I said early on, I thought it would take 10 years to catch up." The city's road network has suffered from lack of maintenance over many years.

The first 2C program, which began in 2016, focused on arterial and collector streets, with a goal of repaving 1,000 lane miles throughout the city. The city has 5,700 lane miles of roadways, but the majority are residential.

The poll showed that women are warmer to the idea of renewing the tax than men, and that support by Democrats (72 percent) and unaffiliated voters (72 percent) far outweighs Republican support (49 percent).

Looking at results by age group those 65 and older expressed the lowest level of support, at 54 percent, while those 35 to 44 showed the greatest support at 76 percent.

City Council District 2, which covers the city's southwest sector, and District 5, the city's mid section, expressed the most robust support, at 62 percent. The least support was seen in the city's northwest sector, District 1, at 55 percent.

With all that in mind, Suthers says, if re-elected, he hopes to meet with Council in May to hammer out a ballot measure that Council would refer to the November 2019 ballot. The current 2C program, which has spent roughly $150,000 so far, ends Dec. 31, 2020.

If a measure is on El Paso County's November coordinated election, the city would pay about $250,000 of the election's costs.
  
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Tuesday, February 26, 2019

AFP steps in to city election, endorsements, websites, and more campaign news

Posted By on Tue, Feb 26, 2019 at 11:18 AM

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AFP Colorado Springs has filed as an issue committee with the City Clerk to campaign on Issue 1, the measure that would allow firefighters to collectively bargain, but never strike.

Americans for Prosperity is a conservative political advocacy group founded by billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch of Kansas.

AFP Colorado Springs filed a campaign finance electronic filing authorization on Feb. 22 in the April 2 city election at which voters also will decide three at-large City Council seats and elect a mayor.

Here's the filing:

The group's first campaign finance report will be due in mid-March, it appears.

Issue 1 is opposed by the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and EDC, which, with Mayor John Suthers, formed a political action committee called Citizens Against Public Employee Unions.

Firefighters for a Safer Colorado Springs formed to support the measure.

It's not the first time AFP has made a stand in a Springs election. It opposed the stormwater fee in November 2017, but the fee passed anyway.

AFP also opposed the statewide measure in 2016 to raise the minimum wage. Voters didn't listen to the group then, either, and approved Amendment 70, which increased the minimum wage to $9.30 per hour on Jan. 1, 2017, and thereafter by 90 cents per hour annually until it reaches $12 per hour on Jan. 1, 2020.

We've reached out to the AFP to find out more about its campaign and will circle back when we hear from someone.

Athena Roe: Seeking an at-large City Council seat. - COURTESY OF THE CANDIDATE
  • Courtesy of the candidate
  • Athena Roe: Seeking an at-large City Council seat.
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Endorsements:

The Pikes Peak Association of Realtors has endorsed the following candidates:

Council: Tony Gioia, Tom Strand and Wayne Williams.
“These candidates showed a tremendous understanding of issues that impact the real estate businesses of PPAR members and the quality of life of their clients,” Donna Major, Chairperson of the Board for PPAR, said in a release.

Mayor: John Suthers. “The Mayor has consistently supported issues that positively impact PPAR members and their clients and we look forward to continuing the great partnership that Mayor Suthers has created with the REALTOR® organization,” the group said in a release.

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Candidate websites:

Athena Roe, candidate for an at-large City Council seat, now has a website, which can be found here.

John Pitchford, seeking to unseat Mayor John Suthers, has a new website here.

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Ballots will be mailed between March 8 and 18.

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If you have an item of interest in the campaign for City Council or mayoral seats, or about Issue 1, please let us know at zubeck@csindy.com.
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Thursday, February 21, 2019

Questionnaires and forums keep city election candidates busy

Posted By on Thu, Feb 21, 2019 at 10:18 AM

Gordon Klingenschmitt, an at-large City Council member, had a busy day recently along Union Boulevard. His signs were posted on every corner of the intersection at Boulder Avenue, as well as up and down Union. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Gordon Klingenschmitt, an at-large City Council member, had a busy day recently along Union Boulevard. His signs were posted on every corner of the intersection at Boulder Avenue, as well as up and down Union.

Questions, questions, questions.

Candidates competing for three at-large seats on the Colorado Springs City Council and for mayor in the April 2 city election are being asked by numerous groups to answer their questionnaires.

Among those are these groups, with a sample question from each:

Citizens Project — The 2018 point in time survey found over 1500 people experiencing homelessness in our community. What measures could elected leaders take to reduce homelessness and poverty?

Pikes Peak Citizens for Life — Will you protect human life at every stage from fertilization to natural death?

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Springstaxpayers.com — Do you support local Tax-Increment Financing (TIF) dollars for City for Champions projects without a vote of the people? Also, would you support or oppose any new proposals of Certificates of Participation (COPs) for City financed projects?

Colorado Springs Utilities Employee Advocacy Group — What is your vision regarding Colorado Springs maintaining a municipally-owned, best-in-class, four service utility?

Downtown Partnership — As a board member of Colorado Springs Utilities, how would you work toward decommissioning of the Drake Power Plant in a manner that fosters a clean environment and is mindful of existing and prospective businesses and ratepayers?

Pikes Peak Association of Realtors — Do you think we have an affordable housing problem in our community? If so, what is your plan to address it?

And, yes, the Independent also issued questionnaires to candidates — Do developers have too much say in city government? If so, how would you change that?

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Forums, forums, forums.

Want to catch the candidates in action? Here are a few forums planned in coming weeks.

Feb. 28:
Mayor and City Council Candidate Forum, hosted by The Avenue.
5:30 to 8:30 p.m., Westside Community Center, 1628 W Bijou St.

March 7:
City Council candidates discuss environmental issues, hosted by the Independent, Colorado Springs Business Journal, Trails and Open Space Coalition, Colorado College Collaborative for Community Engagement.
6:30 p.m. Packard Hall, Colorado College.

March 9:
Municipal Election Debate, El Pomar Foundation Forum for Civic Advancement.
5:30 to 7 p.m. followed by a reception, Penrose House Pavilion, 1661 Mesa Ave.

March 21:
City Council candidates forum, hosted by voters in Precinct 729 (Broadmoor Bluffs).
7 to 9 p.m. Cheyenne Mountain Elementary School, 5250 Farthing Dr.

March 14:
City Council Candidate Forum, hosted by the Southeast Express and Citizens Project.
6-7:30 p.m., Sierra High School, 2250 Jet Wing Dr.

                                                    ———————————

If you have an item of interest about the election, let us know at zubeck@csindy.com.

And please register to vote if you haven't already.
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