Voters approve spending issues by comfortable margins

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Colorado Springs voters upset the gloomy prognostications of many seasoned political observers on Tuesday night, passing both the revived stormwater fee (Issue 2A) and the proposed $42 million School District 11 tax increase by comfortable 56-44 margins. Voters also approved by two-to-one margins Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority Issue 5B and El Paso County Issue 1A, which designated locally generated funding for widening Interstate 25 between Monument and Castle Rock.

Speaking to a celebratory crowd at Phantom Canyon Tuesday night, Mayor John Suthers was pleased.

“I can’t adequately express how proud I am of the citizens of Colorado Springs,” he said. “To be a great city, you must invest in critical public infrastructure, and by passing Issue 2A, our citizens have once again shown their willingness to do so. And businesses are much more inclined to invest in a city that invests in itself.”

Suthers also thanked the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC for leading the campaign, and gave a special shout-out to campaign manager Rachel Beck, who is also government affairs manager at the Chamber & EDC.

“I think I’m going to cry,” said Hannah Parsons, chief economic development officer at the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC and incoming CEO of Exponential Impact, a security technology accelerator. “I know that Rachel didn’t want to do it, after losing the last one, but we persuaded her, and look what she’s accomplished. I’m so proud of her.”

“I can’t adequately express how proud I am of the citizens of Colorado Springs.” 

— Mayor John Suthers

Suthers had campaigned aggressively for Issue 2A, reminding voters of the lawsuit brought against the city by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment and Pueblo County, which cited the city’s egregious failure to comply with its MS4 stormwater discharge permit.

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“In the last two and a half years we have taken huge strides to fix our public infrastructure and to accept the challenge of General Palmer and the residents of Colorado Springs who have gone before us — we are now working together to build a city that matches our scenery,” he said.

Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart said the passage of 2A marked a “new relationship” between Pueblo and Colorado Springs.

“I think it’s wonderful to have two communities rolling up their sleeves to tackle problems the two communities share,” he said. “Our [intergovernmental agreement] with Colorado Springs is a good example of how not investing in the maintenance of stormwater drainage and flood control systems drives up costs. We’ve gotten hard-won, hard-fought commitments from Colorado Springs to improve Fountain Creek and be responsible.”

The approved ballot measure implements a monthly fee that will be assessed to residential and non-residential properties beginning in July 2018. Residents will pay the fee via a flat $5 per account charge on their utility bill. Non-residential accounts will be assessed a fee of $30 per acre. Fees for properties larger than five acres with significant areas of pervious surface will be assessed by the Water Resources Engineering department.

Council President Richard Skorman applauded the coalition that helped bring about 2A’s passage, noting that the Sierra Club, the Housing & Building Association of Colorado Springs, the Pikes Peak Association of Realtors, the Council of Neighbors and Organizations and Colorado Springs Forward joined together with many other groups to support the measure.

Suthers also gave particular praise to the six councilmembers who had voted to put 2A on the ballot: Skorman, Jill Gaebler, Yolanda Avila, David Geislinger, Tom Strand and Merv Bennett.

“Do you know how much revenue we lost [during the last 26 years] when the voters phased out that half-cent sales tax in 1991?” asked Bennett.

His answer was $948 million.

“With 2C and 2A, we’re finally catching up,” he said.

El Paso County Commissioner Stan VanderWerf was also pleased by the election results.

“I think it’s really a matter of trust,” said VanderWerf. “If people trust that elected officials will keep their promises, and spell out how they’re going to use the funds, they’ll vote for necessary projects.”

District 11 supporters were equally delighted.

“Thank you to District 11 voters for investing in our kids and our schools,” said local entrepreneur Lauren Hug, who led the 3E campaign for Friends of District 11. Hug’s two children attend D-11 schools. “Funding our central school district will have positive impacts throughout our community for decades. This was a community-wide effort involving hundreds of volunteers, many of whom don’t have children in the district. Friends of D-11 and the Yes on 3E campaign prove change is possible when a community is invited into the political process and empowered to make a difference.” n CSBJ