(Editor’s note: This is a revised version of a story that was posted Monday with updated information. The proposal at the end is unchanged.)
“Colorado Springs Forward” is a relative newcomer to a long list of action-oriented community nonpartisan groups, but it may become a formidable player nonetheless. During the past several months, it has quietly prepared an amendment to the Colorado Springs City Charter that would change the governance of Colorado Springs Utilities.
The organization had originally planned to ask City Council to refer the proposed amendment to the voters. If Council had refused to do so, CSF might have begun the process of gathering signatures to put the measure on the April city election ballot.
After circulating a draft of the proposed amendment to elected officials and business leaders, the group has decided against submitting it in its present form.
“We want to present City Council with a menu of things that we think ought to be considered,” said CSF board member Doug Stimple. “We really want to change the way the dialogue goes forward. Maybe by January we can come up with something we can present to the voters.”
The Business Journal obtained a preliminary draft of the amendment. It’s unlikely to be on the ballot in its present form, but it’s a fascinating window into the thinking of a self-selected group of longtime community leaders.
As presently conceived, it would replace City Council as CSU’s governing board with a nine-member board of individuals who have “extensive experience as a corporate executive or have expertise in utilities or utility-related fields, including but not limited to finance, management, construction, operations or rate-making.” The board members would be paid, and would determine their own pay. Such pay might be quite generous, since the amendment further states that “In setting the compensation for Board members, the Board of Directors shall be guided by several goals: compensation should enhance the ability of the Utilities to attract and retain qualified Board members with experience in governance of entities or businesses with budgets of similar magnitude to that of the Utilities; compensation should fairly pay Board members for work required in a company of the size and scope of the Utilities; and compensation should align Board members’ interests with the long-term interests of Utilities.”
Board members would initially be appointed by the Mayor and approved by Council. Subsequent vacancies would be filled by the board itself without reference to any elected official. Mayor and Council could join together to remove any individual board member, but remaining board members would fill the vacancy thus created.
The proposed amendment also requires that CSU furnish water free of any charge to water city medians and city parks, and that unspecified “special districts” shall not be charged for any water used to irrigate public parks, rights-of-way and medians owned, operated or maintained by the special districts.
Colorado Springs Forward describes itself as “a broad-based alliance of people and organizations that care deeply and are committed to the success of the Pikes Peak region. Our individual members and member organizations have demonstrated a profound interest in all aspects of our community. We pledge an ongoing investment of time, energy and resources to protect and enhance the business climate and the quality of life across the greater Colorado Springs region so that we may all enjoy a dynamic and vibrant community that we are proud to call home.”
“We need small, efficient, effective and balanced local government helping Colorado Springs meet its full potential,” a letter on the website states, “— not squabbling bureaucratic debates.”
Present board members include Kathy Loo, Bob Cutter, Phil Lane, Tom Neppl, Gene Renuart, Doug Stimple, Ben Sparks and Lisa Tessarowicz. John Cassiani is the organization’s paid executive director, while veteran lobbyist William Mutch will serve as “policy director.”
Here’s the amendment. Significant changes to the present charter, as far as we can decipher are in italics.
ARTICLE IV. THE MAYOR
4-10. Creation of the Office of Mayor; General Powers. There shall be, and hereby is, created the office of Mayor. The Mayor shall be the chief executive and shall enforce all laws and ordinances; the Mayor shall possess, have and exercise, all the executive and administrative powers granted to the City by article XX of the Constitution of the State of Colorado, and all executive and administrative powers contained in the Charter of the City, and otherwise existing by operation of law, except as hereinafter delegated to the departments hereinafter created, and except the powers granted to other elective officers by this Charter. The Mayor shall be considered the head of the City government for the purpose of executing legal instruments, for all ceremonial purposes, and by the Governor or other constituted authority for the purpose of military law. The Mayor may take command of the police and govern the City by proclamation in times of public danger or emergency. The Mayor shall from time to time give the Council information on the condition of the City and recommend such measures as he or she may deem expedient. The Mayor shall execute all contracts and see that all contracts and agreements with the City are faithfully kept and fully performed, except that the Mayor shall not sign contracts on behalf of Utilities which shall be a separate City owned enterprise whose contracts shall be signed by the Utilities Director. The head of every department shall report to the Mayor all facts and information known to him or her concerning the violation of any contract or agreement with the City.
4-40. Specific Powers and Duties of the Mayor. The Mayor shall be responsible for all executive and administrative affairs of the City, except those reserved to Council herein, including but not limited to, the following:
(f)Appointments. Subject to confirmation by the concurring vote of a majority of the members of City Council, the Mayor shall appoint individuals to serve at the pleasure of the Mayor in the following positions. If Council fails to begin the confirmation process for any appointment within thirty (30) days thereof or fails to take final action to approve or deny the appointment within ninety (90) days thereof, the appointment shall be deemed confirmed.
(6) Members of the Board of Directors for Utilities;
ARTICLE VI. UTILITIES
6-10. Utilities Director, Appointment, Board Oversight. The Board of Directors for Utilities shall select and employ the Utilities Director by majority vote. The Utilities Director shall be responsible for and held accountable for the operation of Utilities, including the fiscal and operational performance of all utility services, and shall have the power to hire and remove all employees of Utilities who shall be City employees. The Board of Directors shall have a fiduciary duty on behalf of the City and the citizens to oversee the operations and the fiscal performance of Utilities and to oversee the performance of the Director. The Board shall be regularly informed on all material matters facing Utilities and the Board shall hold at least two study sessions annually to evaluate and review the performance of Utilities.
(a)The Board of Directors for Utilities shall consist of nine (9) members. One (1) initial Board member shall be appointed by the Mayor only, for a term of four (4) years. One (1) initial Board member shall be appointed by the Council only, for a term of four (4) years. The other seven (7) initial Board members shall be appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by City Council. For the seven (7) remaining Board appointments, three (3) Board members shall be appointed for terms of two (2) years; three (3) Board members shall be appointed for terms of three (3) years; and one (1) Board member shall be appointed for a term of four (4) years. Terms of Board members shall be limited to twelve (12) consecutive years. A Board member may be removed by the Mayor with the concurrence of two-thirds of the City Council. Following the initial appointments, the Board of Directors for Utilities, by majority vote, shall fill any vacancy occurring on the Board, including a vacancy occurring as a result of a Board member’s removal. A member appointed to the Board of Directors for Utilities shall have extensive experience as a corporate executive or have expertise in utilities or utility-related fields, including but not limited to finance, management, construction, operations or rate-making. Board members shall be compensated. The Board of Directors for Utilities shall annually review and approve the compensation of members of the Board who are not employees of the Utilities. In setting the compensation for Board members, the Board of Directors shall be guided by several goals: compensation should enhance the ability of the Utilities to attract and retain qualified Board members with experience in governance of entities or businesses with budgets of similar magnitude to that of the Utilities; compensation should fairly pay Board members for work required in a company of the size and scope of the Utilities; and compensation should align Board members’ interests with the long-term interests of Utilities. Utilities shall include the departments designated by the Utilities Director and approved by the Board of Directors for Utilities. Each of said departments shall, as far as practicable, be administered as an entity. All revenues of each department shall be placed in the Utilities gross income fund, from which all operating and maintenance expenses shall be deducted. The funds of Utilities shall be kept separate from the funds of all other departments of the City.
(b) The net earnings of Utilities shall be appropriated for the necessary requirements of any of its departments, or of Utilities as a whole.
(e) The Board of Directors for Utilities shall cause to be printed annually for public distribution a report showing all costs of maintenance, extension, and improvements; all operating expenses of every description; the amount set aside for sinking fund purposes; the value of any utility service given without charge; allowance for interest, depreciation, and insurance, and estimates of the amounts of taxes that would be chargeable against such property if owned by a private corporation.
6-50. Water Rights. The City shall have the authority to buy, exchange, augment, lease, own, and control water and water rights. In consideration of and as fair compensation for the use by Utilities of the public rights-of-way in connection with its water and wastewater distribution and collection system, the City shall not be charged for any water used to irrigate City owned parks, rights-of-way and medians or parks, rights-of-way and medians which the City has a legal obligation to maintain. In consideration of and as fair compensation for the use by Utilities of the public rights-of-way in connection with its water and wastewater distribution and collection system, special districts shall not be charged for any water used to irrigate public parks, rights-of-way and medians owned, operated or maintained by the special districts. Utilities may adopt reasonable rules and regulations in order to establish best practices for use of irrigation water.
6-60. Emergency Warrants. If at any time since the passage of the last annual appropriation ordinance the monies appropriated and available for Utilities shall be insufficient in the judgment of the Board of Directors for Utilities to meet any Utilities emergency, the Board of Directors for Utilities may, upon passage of a resolution declaring an emergency, cause warrants to be issued payable out of the receipts of Utilities for the ensuing year, including the proceeds from the sales of bonds. Said warrants and monies realized thereon shall be applied only to meeting the emergency so declared.
6-70. Utility Rates, Tariffs, Debt and Budget. The Board of Directors for Utilities shall establish a budget which shall include rates, tariffs, debt requirements, rules and regulations, and extension policies for the services provided by Utilities. The Mayor, with the concurrence of two-thirds of the City Council, may veto the budget adopted by the Board. In the event of a veto of the budget, the prior year’s budget shall apply with necessary adjustments to account for debt service obligations. Rates shall be established by the Board of Directors for Utilities. The Mayor, with the concurrence of two-thirds of the City Council, may veto rate changes adopted by the Board.
6-80. Sale, Conveyance or Leasing of Utilities. The Board of Directors for Utilities shall not sell, convey or lease all or any substantial part of the property of Utilities or any Utilities Department without an affirmative vote of the electors of the City; provided that the foregoing shall not apply to the sale, lease, or conveyance of property of Utilities or any Utilities Department (i) which occurs in the ordinary course of business, or (ii) which shall cease to be necessary for the efficient operation of the utility, or (iii) which shall have been replaced by other property serving substantially the same function.
6-90. Compensation for Use of City Services, Rights-of-Way, and Exclusive Right to Serve Customers. In consideration of and as fair compensation for the administrative costs incurred by the City to coordinate functions and services with Utilities, for the exclusive right of Utilities to serve electric, water and sewer customers, for the use by Utilities of the public rights-of-way used by it in connection with its electric distribution system, and in further consideration of the unique relationship of Utilities and the City, in which Utilities is a City-owned enterprise, Utilities shall pay to the City each year an amount equal to three percent (3%) of the entire gross revenues collected by Utilities from any and all customers in the preceding calendar year for all services and products.
6-100. Effective Date. The foregoing amendments to the City Charter shall go into effect 180 days from certification of the election results.