Elections

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.

2019cityelectionbug-01.png
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.
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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.

2019cityelectionbug-01.png
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.

—————————-
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.

—————————-

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.
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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.
  
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , , ,

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

2019cityelectionbug-01.png
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.
————————-

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.

————————————

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.

—————————-

Ballots will be mailed between March 8 and 18.

——————————

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.
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , ,

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?

2019cityelectionbug-01.png
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?

                                                    ———————————

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.
  • Favorite

Tags: , , ,

Friday, February 15, 2019

City election campaign roundup: endorsements, money

Posted By on Fri, Feb 15, 2019 at 5:41 PM

2019cityelectionbug-01.png
At the April 2 city election in Colorado Springs, voters will elect a third of the nine-member City Council and a mayor. They'll also decide whether to allow firefighters to collectively bargain with the city administration.

From the campaign trail:

Endorsements:
Colorado Springs Forward, a group of local business and local leaders who want to influence public policy, is urging voters to oppose Issue 1, the firefighter measure. This organization has a distinguished board of directors but apparently no full-time chief executive officer (at least that we could find) since former El Paso County Commissioner Amy Lathen left almost two years ago. Also, the phone number on its website doesn't work. It's worth noting that much of the language in CSF's explanation comes verbatim from a fundraising letter sent out by the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC and Mayor John Suthers on Jan. 15. And the group apparently knows how to raise campaign money. (See the Greenback report below.)

• The influential Housing & Building Association of Colorado Springs has endorsed four candidates for the three at-large Council posts up for grabs. They are incumbent Tom Strand, former Councilor Val Snider (2011-15), and challengers Tony Gioia and former Colorado Secretary of State and El Paso County Commissioner Wayne Williams. The council jobs pay $6,250 a year.

A new web presence:
Strand, seeking his second term, has a website now. Listed among his endorsements, which clearly show he's the movers' and shakers' choice, are the HBA as mentioned above, Suthers, County Commissioners Mark Waller and Stan VanderWerf, El Pomar President and CEO Bill Hybl, The Broadmoor executives Steve Bartolin and Jack Damioli, and Nor'wood Development Group executive Chris Jenkins.

Greenback report:
The big money for this election is flowing into the mayor's race and for committees promoting and opposing Issue 1, the firefighter measure.
Terry Martinez has raised the most so far in the at-large Council race. - COURTESY OF THE CANDIDATE
  • Courtesy of the candidate
  • Terry Martinez has raised the most so far in the at-large Council race.
As of 5 p.m. on Feb. 15, the latest filing deadline, Mayor John Suthers has raised $175,886 so far in his bid for re-election. One challenger, John Pitchford, a retired dentist who served a career in the Army, has donated $104,163 to his own campaign.

The mayor's job pays $103,370, and is periodically adjusted for inflation.

Firefighters for a Safer Colorado Springs has raised $246,025, but most of that was spent on polling and petition circulating.

The Chamber's effort, Citizens Against Public Employee Unions, has gathered $168,315. It used to be that $1,000 or $5,000 was a pretty hefty donation, but for this committee, the cash is flowing in in chunks of $10,000. Those who gave that amount in the latest round include Classic Homes, Colorado Springs Auto Dealers Association, the Chamber itself and the Issues Mobilization Committee of Iverness, Colorado. Oh, and Colorado Springs Forward gave $70,000.

Looking at the Council race, those who have filed include: Terry Martinez, who has raised $14,485; Williams has brought in $12,757; Strand has accumulated $10,706; and Gordon Klingenschmitt, $9,142.
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , ,

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Campaign roundup: A town hall, endorsements, a new voter is born

Posted By on Wed, Feb 13, 2019 at 11:29 AM

2019cityelectionbug-01.png
UPDATE:
Late yesterday, we heard from Tom Strand and share his comments:
I have checked and met with three staff attorneys of the City Law Office. Their opinion is that as long as we ( Bill and me) do not talk about the upcoming election and ballot issues, or any campaign matters , this Town Hall is an appropriate opportunity to reach out to constituents on matters of concern to them and that we, as current elected officials, can and should address. There is no violation of the Code of Ethics or the Election Campaign Regulations. As such, I plan to be there tomorrow evening.
———————ORIGINAL POST 11:29 A.M. WEDNESDAY, FEB. 13, 2019———————-

The April 2 city election is just around the corner. Here are some tidbits from the campaign trail:

City councilor town hall:
Incumbent City Councilors Tom Strand and Bill Murray will host a town hall meeting on Feb. 14 —  as nine other candidates are vying for one of three at-large seats. The meeting will take place at City Hall, 107 N. Nevada Ave., and deal with some issues that can be seen as talking points in the campaign. From the notice: "Topics could include - but are not limited to - City for Champions (C4C) projects, bike lanes, Homelessness Action Plan, and issues impacting Colorado Springs Utilities."

We asked the city if either Strand or Murray hosted a town hall in the first four months of 2018 and found out they did not, although they did convene town halls in September 2018, and in June and September 2017.

Campaign rules bar the use of public money for election campaigns, so we asked Strand and Murray about the timing of this event.

"Both Tom and I have been briefed on what we can and cannot say and do during this town hall," Murray said via email on Feb. 12.

Strand had more to say. "I am asking for legal advice from our City Attorney and Staff before we proceed with this Feb 14 Town Hall," Strand tells the Indy via email. "We generally have been conducting 'At Large' City Council Town Halls every 3 to 4 months during our tenure. This one will just solicit concerns from the constituents for our response and action. It in no way is intended to be a campaign speech or event."

We haven't heard back from Strand since that Feb. 12 message, but there's been no notice issued that there have been any changes in the planned town hall.

Council candidate Tony Gioia has his hands full with this bundle of joy. - COURTESY TONY GIOIA
  • Courtesy Tony Gioia
  • Council candidate Tony Gioia has his hands full with this bundle of joy.
Endorsements:
Val Snider, who served on Council from 2011 to 2015, is taking another run at the office after sitting out a term. He's snagged support from former Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace, former Council President Scott Hente and former Council President Pro Tem Jan Martin.

New in town:
Council candidate Tony Gioia and his wife, Sara, are the proud parents of Gabriella Marie, who was born Feb. 7. She's their first child. She's expected to go home on Feb. 14, Valentine's Day.
(Disclosure: Gioia is a former Indy's distribution employee.)

Let us know:
If you have an item of interest about the city election, which will elect three at-large Council members and a mayor, send them to zubeck@csindy.com. The Indy is interested in learning about endorsements and campaign events, as well as fact-checking campaign materials. 
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Saturday, February 2, 2019

UPDATE: First campaign finance reports filed for 2019 city election

Posted By on Sat, Feb 2, 2019 at 8:39 AM

2019cityelectionbug-01.png
UPDATE:
John Pitchford, who's running for mayor after filing and then pulling out of the at-large City Council race, has filed a report showing he's raised $104,163 via a loan to himself.

So it seems Pitchford will have the resources to take on well-funded incumbent John Suthers.

—-ORIGINAL POST 8:39 A.M. SAT., FEB. 2, 2019—
The first campaign finance reports filed after the field of Colorado Springs City Council and mayoral candidates was set in late January suggests it could be a costly race, although many candidates didn't file reports by 5 p.m. on Feb. 1.

Voters will choose three at-large candidates from a field of 11, and also select a mayor at the April 2 city election.

In addition, voters will decide whether to allow Springs firefighters the ability to collectively bargain with the city over pay, working conditions, equipment and benefits.

Firefighters for a Safer Colorado Springs the "vote yes" committee, raised only a few bucks in the last cycle, but had brought in $221,000 previously, spending all but about $12,000 on polling, petitioning and consulting.

The vote-no effort, launched by Mayor John Suthers and the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC in a Jan. 15 letter that pleaded for donations, is called Citizens Against Public Employee Unions.

The committee reported $37,450 in donations in the last week weeks of January. Big donors include Folium Biosciences, $25,000; Gaylord Smith and Gary Loo, $5,000 each, and Nunn Construction and its owner, $2,000.

Meanwhile, Suthers, seeking a second term, is way ahead of other candidates, having raised well over $100,000.

Juliette Parker, one of his three opponents, reported raising $250. Lawrence Martinez didn't file a report and John Pitchford's report shows him giving himself back money that he loaned for a council run, which he's backed out of.

In the race for the at-large City Council seats, former state Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt has raised $11,916, including $5,000 he loaned himself.

Terry Martinez, a longtime educator, has drawn $9,944 in contributions.

Athena Roe reports she's raised no money, while incumbents Tom Strand raised $2,451 and Bill Murray $1,100, of which $500 was a loan from the candidate.

No other candidates had filed reports by the end of business Feb. 1.
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Parks advocates gain clout on special panel to form ballot measure

Posted By on Tue, Jan 22, 2019 at 1:21 PM

Citizens crowded into public meetings in 2016 about the city's trade of Strawberry Fields open space to The Broadmoor. Most who attended the meetings opposed the trade and now want a ballot measure requiring voter approval of future such deals. (Kent Obee is third from left in the front row.) - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Citizens crowded into public meetings in 2016 about the city's trade of Strawberry Fields open space to The Broadmoor. Most who attended the meetings opposed the trade and now want a ballot measure requiring voter approval of future such deals. (Kent Obee is third from left in the front row.)
After nearly two years of urging City Council to protect the taxpayers' parks and open space from land swaps like the one involving Strawberry Fields, a citizen group has been granted a seat on a special committee that will study a possible ballot measure.

Save Cheyenne, a nonprofit that formed amid debate surrounding trading Strawberry Fields to The Broadmoor in 2016, wants voters to weigh in on whether other city parks and open spaces should or should not be protected from a similar measure in the future.

Called Protect our Parks, the measure hasn't gotten traction, despite Council President Richard Skorman having at one time been the leader of Save Cheyenne. (He stepped down after being elected to Council in 2017.)

The city's swap of Strawberry Fields, 189 acres of open space near North Cheyenne Cañon, to The Broadmoor for forested acreages and trail rights-of-way in May 2016, created a huge controversy that triggered a lawsuit and court fight that ended last year when the Colorado Court of Appeal turned away Save Cheyenne's entreaties to undo the deal and allow voters to have a say in the swap.

At Council's Jan. 22 informal meeting, Save Cheyenne president Kent Obee told Council the city has three types of property:

1. Historic park land dedicated to the city by deed restriction by city founder Gen. William Palmer and other philanthropic donors, such as the Perkins family's gift of Garden of the Gods.

2. Property purchased through the Trails Open Space and Parks tax approved by voters that automatically is protected from sale or trade via the TOPS ordinance.

3. All other park land and open space not protected by either a deed restriction or the TOPS ordinance.

As Obee noted, "They belong to all of us. We think all of us should have a say when something is decided about giving away or trading park land."

Obee also noted that at least 40 cities and towns in Colorado have protections from sale or trade of park land built in to their city charters, including home rule cities like Colorado Springs. Others rely on a state statute that provides for elections to dispose of park land in local jurisdictions.

"We do want to go ahead with this," Obee told Council about the ballot measure. "We’re willing to work with you. We’re willing to be part of any committee or process you can outline. We think it’s important for the community, and we’re not giving up."

The city attorney has issued an opinion saying the POPs ballot language is confusing, causing Council to shy from referring it to the April 2 city election ballot.

But on Jan. 22, Council agreed to study a ballot measure further, and Mayor John Suthers' Chief of Staff Jeff Greene also consented to such a committee, which will arrive at an appropriately-worded ballot measure to submit to voters at the November election. That's the same election at which Suthers plans to seek voter approval of a five-year extension of his .62 percent roads tax.

The exact composition of this committee wasn't articulated, other than designating members of Obee's group and two City Council members to serve.

Said Skorman, "I hope we don’t have any of these types of transactions [like Strawberry Fields] coming forward that would be affected if we had acted sooner. I want to make sure that we’re not doing something that’s preemptive to voters. I wouldn’t want another trade to come forward in the next month that may be susceptible to a vote of the people."

Greene said city officials "aren’t entertaining any park land swaps," and "We are not anticipating any kind of transaction involving a large land exchange such as Strawberry Fields."
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Parks protection ballot measure has lots of problems says city attorney

Posted By on Thu, Jan 17, 2019 at 5:39 PM

Kent Obee and dozens of other citizens opposed the Strawberry Fields land swap and now propose a ballot measure to stave off a similar action. - CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent
  • Kent Obee and dozens of other citizens opposed the Strawberry Fields land swap and now propose a ballot measure to stave off a similar action.

City Attorney Wynetta Massey has a lot of reasons why City Council shouldn't refer a measure to the April 2 ballot that would propose requiring a vote of the people before the city disposes of park land and open space.

The measure, Protect Our Parks, or POPs, is slated to be discussed by Council at its Jan. 22 work session.

But Massey clearly outlines why the measure is a bad idea from the mayor's and Council's perspective of wanting to maintain control over the ability to trade, sell or otherwise get rid of parks property. "The transfer of parkland is an administrative function of the Mayor, Parks Department, and City Council," she writes.

The POPs measure grew from Mayor John Suthers' and Council's controversial decision to trade the 189-acre Strawberry Fields open space to The Broadmoor in 2016. Most of the property, adjacent to North Cheyenne Cañon, has been placed in a conservation easement, which is designed to allow public access to all of the land except an 8-acre riding stable and picnic pavilion area reserved for Broadmoor guests.

Opponents of the swap, who formed the nonprofit Save Cheyenne, took the measure all the way to the Colorado Court of Appeals and lost. The state Supreme Court refused their plea to hear the case. They also raised questions about how the property was appraised.

(Notably, now-City Council President Richard Skorman was an original leader of Save Cheyenne, before being elected to Council in 2017.)

Now, POPs advocates want to be sure another Strawberry Fields swap or give-away doesn't recur, and want voters to approve a Charter change to prevent it.

But Massey's five-page legal opinion obtained by the Indy outlines myriad reasons why Council should not refer such a measure. She takes issue with the word "transferred," saying its an "undefined term." She notes the ballot language would ask for protection of "city parks" but isn't clear what that includes. (Read her entire opinion on the next page.)

It is perhaps notable that while some Councilors (Skorman included) favor the legal change, the mayor, who opposes it, has the power to hire and fire Massey. Past City Councilors have unsuccessfully sought to change city law to allow them to hire a separate attorney in cases where the mayor and Council have opposing viewpoints.

Kent Obee, who led the Strawberry Fields swap opponents, says he interprets Massey's opinion as a roadblock.
"They're just trying to throw every legal roadblock they can at what is basically a pretty simple issue," he says. "It is just nitpicking to try to block us or slow us down."

He notes that over 30 cities in Colorado, including Denver, Boulder and Aurora, have such protection for city parks.

Obee says if the measure isn't referred, proponents likely will try to petition the measure onto the November ballot, which also is likely to contain a five-year extension of Suthers' 2C road improvement tax.

For more detail, see the next page.



Here's the research upon which POPs is based:
Massey's opinion:
The ballot language:
Section 1: City owned parks and open space may not be sold, traded, exchanged, transferred, disposed, abandoned, conveyed, or otherwise alienated unless said transaction is approved by the voters in a City regular or special election.
Section 2: City parks shall be defined as: Any city owned land intended for use as public parkland or open space.
Examples of parks and open space include, but are not limited to: (a) city owned land that is in operation as a park or that is in a condition or state of readiness and availability for use as a park or open space; (b) land that is zoned or platted for the intended use as a park; (c) parks or open spaces identified in the Colorado Springs Parks System Master Plan dated September 23, 2014, Appendix A, and identified as parks classified as: regional, community, neighborhood, open space including special resource areas, sports, and special purpose parks; (d) future approved additions to the inventory of parks and open space as identified in future Colorado Springs Parks System Master Plans or similar documents; or (e) any part or portion of an existing park or open space.
Section 3: Exclusions: no vote is required for certain “specific transfers”, or “proposed parks”:
(a) Easements for utilities, right of ways or emergency services;
(b) Any court ordered transfers of title, possession or similar matters;
(c) Creation of a conservation easement or other similar actions intended for park protection;
(d) Survey, boundary or encroachment adjustments;
(e) Short term leasing or permitting in a manner consistent with parks use;
(f) Any land deemed unsuitable for park use due to safety or environmental issues;
(g) Proposed parks, in the planning and development process, under the Park Land Dedication Ordinance (PLDO) or similar ordinances;
(h) Transfers of trails, rather than parks or open spaces, for the purpose of development of trails, access to parks, improvement of a park or realignment of a trail;
Section 4: Nothing in this amendment shall lessen any existing park or open space protections.
Examples of existing protections that will not be lessened include, but are not limited to: (a) deed restrictions; (b) conservation easements; (c) protections under the Trails, Open Space and Parks (TOPS) Ordinance; or (d) parks with historical designations.
Section 5: The purpose and intent of this amendment is to protect parks by recognizing the value that parks add to the community, users and property holders. Sale or transfer of parkland affects individuals that relied on representations of continuing park usage.
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , ,

Monday, January 14, 2019

41 percent of Suthers campaign fundraising comes from Broadmoor zip code

Posted By on Mon, Jan 14, 2019 at 5:00 PM

Suthers: Wealthy people always give more to causes. - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • Suthers: Wealthy people always give more to causes.

Mayor John Suthers is off to a smashing good start in fundraising for his re-election campaign in the April 2 city election.

According to four reports filed since October, the most recent submitted on Jan. 2, Suthers has raised $95,797 from 247 donations. He had $45,160 on hand to begin with and has spent $18,639, which means he has $122,318 in the bank.

(So far, no candidates have qualified for the ballot, though the City Clerk's Office is in the process of verifying petition signatures.)

Of Suthers' total raised in this race, 41.5 percent — $39,730 — came from donors in the 80906 zip code. Of his 247 donors, 101 gave 80906 as their address.

The zip code is known for including wealthier residents, as it encompasses The Broadmoor, and it's also Suthers' home zip code, though he doesn't live in the Broadmoor area itself.  According to this website, the 80906 zip code has an average household income of $97,557 a year, compared to $77,814 for the city as a whole and $81,528 for El Paso County.

The site also shows that 10.1 percent of households in the 80906 zip code make more than $200,000 a year, compared to 4.7 percent in Colorado Springs and 5.2 percent of the county.

Those figures for 80906 would be higher, except that it also includes an area to the east, including Stratmoor Hills where incomes are more modest.
We asked Suthers, who's also served as district attorney and Colorado Attorney General, to comment on such a large portion of his campaign contributions coming from the southwest segment of the city. He responded via email, saying:
To clarify, while I have lived in the 80906 zip code all my life, I do not live in the Broadmoor and never have. I have lived in the Cheyenne Canyon [sic] area and in Skyway. But I spent most of my summers as a kid mowing lawns in the Broadmoor. Some of my customers have been lifelong political supporters.

My experience is that people with higher amounts of discretionary income are more likely to contribute to charitable and political causes and that as a result a disproportionate amount of our community's philanthropic and political giving comes from the 80906 zip code. You might check statewide and national political campaign giving from Colorado Springs and citywide charitable giving to analyze this.

The bottom line is that throughout my career my political support in Colorado Springs has been wide and deep and I believe it still is.
Two candidates have expressed interested in trying to unseat Suthers. They are Lawrence Martinez, a home care specialist, and Juliette Parker, who runs a nonprofit.

Voters will also elect three at-large City Council members on April 2 and decide whether to give firefighters collective bargaining powers.
  • Favorite

Tags: , , ,

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Wayne Williams: Council might be a warm-up lap for mayor's race in 2023

Posted By on Wed, Jan 9, 2019 at 12:28 PM

Williams: Playing the long game? - COURTESY OF WAYNE WILLIAMS
  • Courtesy of Wayne Williams
  • Williams: Playing the long game?
Long-time local Republican politician Wayne Williams turned in a candidate petition on Jan. 8 to run for an at-large seat on the Colorado Springs City Council in the April 2 election.

OK. That's not news. But Williams tells the Independent the rumors are true that he's eyeing a run for mayor four years from now.

"The reason I'm running for Council is because I want to do a good job for Colorado Springs. If I'm successful and do a good job, that's something I would likely look at," he says, referring to a mayoral run.

If he ran and won, Williams, who served a term as Colorado Secretary of State before being defeated by Democrat Jena Griswold in his re-election bid in November, would be the second mayor of Colorado Springs in a row who had previously been elected to a statewide office.

Mayor John Suthers served as Colorado Attorney General before becoming mayor in 2015.

Suthers could make history of his own if re-elected this year by becoming the first two-term mayor under the mayor-council form of government approved by voters in 2010.

Williams, 55, who's lived in the Briargate area for 26 years, would be well-positioned to seek the mayor's seat. The at-large seat is a citywide race, and Williams has the name recognition needed to appeal to voters across the city. He was elected twice to serve the northern district as an El Paso County commissioner; he won the county-wide election in 2010 for clerk and recorder, and he captured a term as Colorado Secretary of State in 2014. (The Indy endorsed Williams in his 2018 re-election bid.)

Williams says he's not concerned about the abysmal Council salary of $6,250 a year, because he plans to keep his law practice going and also enter the consulting world in the field of elections. (Williams was recognized for excellence in managing elections while Secretary of State, although he was also criticized for turning over voter information to President Trump's voter fraud commission.)

In addition, Williams' wife, Holly, was sworn in on Jan. 8 as an El Paso County commissioner, a post that pays $120,485 a year.

While some have speculated the Williamses could encounter conflicts of interest if one holds a county seat while the other holds a city seat, Williams dispelled concerns over that. "Sometimes our interests align and sometimes they do not," he says. If a perceived financial conflict of interest arose, he would recuse himself, as would his wife. The city and county cooperate on some projects, but that coordination doesn't necessarily pose a financial conflict for office holders, he noted.

Asked about his obviously partisan background in a city race that is, by City Charter, nonpartisan, the former El Paso County GOP chair says his service in various political offices has been "fair and nonpartisan." He also notes that Irv Halter, who ran for Congress as a Democrat and served in Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper's administration, signed Williams' Council candidate petition, as did Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn.

It's unclear whether Williams will have a leg up in fundraising against his competitors. He says he expects only a few thousand dollars to be left from his Secretary of State campaign, which he could legally transfer into his Council campaign, as did former state legislator Keith King. King transferred $10,459 to his city campaign when he successfully ran in 2013.

Others who've said they'll seek one of three at-large seats up for grabs include incumbents Tom Strand and Bill Murray (Merv Bennett is term-limited), former Councilor Val Snider, Army veteran Tony Gioia, and Terry Martinez, former Will Rogers Elementary School principal and former candidate for House District 18.

Filing deadline is Jan. 22.
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , ,

Friday, November 30, 2018

Scientist Trish Zornio mulls run against Cory Gardner

Posted By on Fri, Nov 30, 2018 at 4:46 PM

Trish Zornio wants scientists in politics. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Trish Zornio wants scientists in politics.
Trish Zornio knows unseating Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner as a relative unknown and political first-timer is a long shot.

It's partly for that reason that the 33-year-old science lecturer says she embarked on a 64-county "exploratory tour" of Colorado to determine whether a grassroots campaign could be successful.

Zornio, who teaches behavioral neuroscience at the University of Denver, says the moment that triggered her decision to run for office came when she sat in the audience of a Senate hearing on automated technology while on a work trip to Washington, D.C., several years ago.

"I had this moment of realization where I realized there wasn't a single scientist on that panel," Zornio said at an event Nov. 28. "I set about asking the question, Can we incorporate scientists into elected offices and can we bring in different types of expertise to a place that has typically been reserved for people of different backgrounds in more of the law and more of business. So can we actually put scientists on the science committee?

Zornio has already hit 60 counties — which she points out many candidates don't even bother to do. Should she decide to run, she faces an uphill battle against Gardner, who reportedly already has $1 million on hand for his next campaign, and a pool of Democratic candidates that could include Colorado House Speaker Crisanta Duran, former state senator and gubernatorial candidate Mike Johnston, U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter and Gov. John Hickenlooper. (So far, just one candidate, nonprofit director Lorena Garcia, has announced plans to run.)

Zornio answers questions from audience members at Library 21c on Nov. 28. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Zornio answers questions from audience members at Library 21c on Nov. 28.

On her Nov. 28 tour stop at Colorado Springs' Library 21c, Zornio answered questions from audience members about her stances on various issues. Here's a few questions and answers (edited for brevity) so you can get to know her:

Jack Heiss: Through the passage of a recent I think ill-informed tax cut and what amounts to a drunk sailor budget that were passed, we're pushing trillion dollar ... deficits. The dollar won't take it for very long...We got to fix this now. What do you say, how do you fix this without losing an election?

This is very personal to me. Because unlike many of the people who are making the decisions in office today, I will be here for 60 years hopefully, and I'm going to have to be part of that economy that's struggling as a result… One thing in particular that I would really like to see is that we have a comprehensive understanding of where the money is actually going and that we can actually vet for the way it's being spent currently, because sometimes there are aspects of the budget that are not being monitored in that same sort of way, in military especially. That's not to suggest that I want to cut in any sort of way security or anything like that, but I do want to address how we are spending those military funds, and then I also want to address health care.

Jacob Foreman: Would you in Congress support ... talk of a policy called the "Green New Deal" ... [to] enact a New Deal kind of economic policy to put Americans to work in clean energy jobs and help to transform our economy?

Absolutely we need to vigorously address infrastructure needs… So we talk a lot about the need to move to say electric vehicles or to move to renewable energies like solar and wind and such. What we don't often remember to talk about is right now our national grid structure is not actually set up to be able to go fully renewable, and we need to invest in the research to have battery storage and transmission lines that will actually be able to accommodate that kind of renewable energy and the output — being able, so like when it is not sunny in an area that you have battery storage such that people can still use active power at the rates that they are accustomed to... We also have to take it a step further. It's not just transportation and energy sectors. It's everything from single-use plastics [to] textile productions.

Pam Lively: Are you prepared to fight an ugly campaign? Because your potential opponent is not a nice person and is backed by dirty money.


I've actually met Sen. Gardner... I have to say, we differ immensely on policy stances and the way that we would probably do things in office, but actually he is a nice person. We had a great chat and his family is wonderful... A lot of people have asked me, actually, “Do you have thick skin?”... And truthfully, I don't. I'm human, just like every other one of you here. And quite frankly, I'm very happy about that. If I don't, if I have skin that is so thick that I'm immune to what anyone says, I don't think I would be a very good representative... I also have spent three years preparing and having conversations on what this would look like. I am definitely aware of the things that happen on campaigns. And that's not the fun part, but I think it's the necessary thing to have to deal with, and I plan to surround myself with people who would help me get past that sort of stuff if we go this route.

Danette Tritch: What do you see as what our health care system's ready for, and what would you be advocating for in terms of health care?

You have a health care system that needs to service over 325 million people. That's a very complex, advanced system and change is not going to happen immediately, and it's one of the things that if we want to actually achieve this, we need to be systematic in approach but still swift in approach… Comprehensive medical programs actually at large have to start with one thing. And it cannot be for-profit on basic medical procedures. It cannot. I've worked in hospitals, you do not have the luxury, if you're having a heart attack, [to say], “Please give me the list of providers for the free-market approach to my health care.” You don't get to do that. So the base and the core value is everyone needs to have access, because we've made that decision already… The emergency department is open for anyone regardless of your ability to pay. Let's do it the economically and more preventative way, right? So let's make sure that everyone has access, and let's make sure that we do it in a way that is thoughtful. And what I mean by that is that it's probably a combination of some of these systems... There's probably an element of single-payer, but with a capitalistic overlay…There's probably an ability to expand Medicare… We want to expand it to things like really strong mental health services, preventative care, eyes… We have a whole team of people ... and we're analyzing some of this information right now, and we're going to roll out a two-, a five-, and a 10-year plan on what this would look like.

Stephany Rose Spaulding (former Democratic House candidate): In the last two years or so our Supreme Court has been hijacked from us. As a member of Congress, do you support the expansion of the Supreme Court, or what alternatives might you propose to level out the Supreme Court? And even other federal courts, because we see it happening still across the board. The decks are stacked.


We're two years out, hypothetically, and there's some things underway that could potentially change what happens between now and then, so it does make that a little more challenging to address what is the best option, say, in 2020. One of the things that I was interested in though is that the [American Bar Association] and a number of lawyers have actually come out against the recent nomination, wondering if that was actually out of character... So I'm curious to see if one of the things that shakes out is whether or not we can actually challenge that particular nomination.

Jillian Freeland: Related to Justice Kavanaugh, can you speak to the MeToo movement, holding our politicians who have been accused of sexual assault accountable?

A lot of people have asked me, what was the thing that ultimately is getting me here… So before MeToo … about a year, year and a half, or something, I actually filed my first harassment and retaliation claim with HR of the place where I was working, and I'd never done that before, and it was terrifying. And the first thing that they told me at HR was, “Are you sure you want to do that? He's a pretty notable person here. He brings in a lot of money.” And I said, “Excuse me?” And then I was actively encouraged not to report. I was actively encouraged to find another job that better suited me... It's actually one of the things that I'm waiting for MeToo to hit, is the academic and medical scene... When I made this file with HR the retaliation actually worsened, and it got to the point where this person had repeatedly told me so many times that I needed to learn my place... About the sixth time he told me to learn my place, and I had this moment when I realized, “Oh my goodness, he's right.” And it clicked. And I went, “It's not working for men like you.” ... That was literally the thing that made me [start] this, because I realized right away, he's right, I shouldn't be working with men like that. Absolutely. Yes to investigations, yes to clearing house, absolutely.
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, November 12, 2018

El Paso County sheriff faces new lawsuit

Posted By on Mon, Nov 12, 2018 at 9:39 AM

Keith Duda and his daughter, Caitlyn, filed a lawsuit on Nov. 9 against El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Keith Duda and his daughter, Caitlyn, filed a lawsuit on Nov. 9 against El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder.
Former El Paso County Sheriff's Sgt. Keith Duda and his daughter, Caitlyn Duda, have filed a federal lawsuit against Sheriff Bill Elder, alleging retaliation against them for reporting incidents that involved Lt. Bill Huffor.

The lawsuit, filed Nov. 9, also alleges Elder retaliated against Keith Duda for supporting the campaign of Elder's primary opponent, Mike Angley, though he did not do so on county time. Duda also alleges that Elder fired him after a story appeared in the Independent about the retaliation against him and his daughter.

From the lawsuit:
Keith Duda also spoke to the press as a private citizen about a matter of public concern: unlawful discrimination, retaliation, and political retribution in the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and by EPSO members.

Keith Duda was not acting pursuant to his job duties when he spoke to the press about unlawful discrimination, retaliation, and political retribution in the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and by EPSO members.

Keith Duda’s speech about unlawful discrimination, retaliation, and political retribution in the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and by EPSO members was not personal to him, but was directed to informing the community at large about acts committed by EPSO employees.
We've reached out to the Sheriff's Office for a comment and will update if we hear back.

The Sheriff's Office declined to comment.

Here's the lawsuit:
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , ,

Monday, November 5, 2018

Time to vote is now!

Posted By on Mon, Nov 5, 2018 at 9:26 AM

2018electionbug.jpg
Less than half of Colorado's 3.8 million registered voters had cast ballots by the morning of Nov. 5, one day before the Nov. 6 midterm elections.

According to Secretary of State Wayne Williams, 1.5 million voters had cast ballots, with women casting 55,000 more ballots than men and Democrats (519,833) casting about 4,700 more ballots than Republicans (515,131). Voters who are unaffiliated at cast 461,154 votes, Williams report showed.

In El Paso County, 170,519 people had voted by the morning of Nov. 5 with 39,320 Democrats voting, 79,862 Republicans voting and 48,681 unaffiliated voters casting ballots.

The point is, VOTE!

To find out all the details of how you can still vote in this crucial election, go to www.epcvotes.com.

Do not mail your ballot. It's too late for the U.S. Postal Service to guarantee election workers will receive your ballot.
  • Favorite

Tags: , , ,

Recent Comments

All content © Copyright 2019, The Colorado Springs Independent

Website powered by Foundation