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Joey BunchJoey BunchOctober 12, 20173min11850

 

A ballot question in November would fund major stormwater improvements in Colorado Springs, but taxpayers are tired of getting soaked, according to a non-opposition group that’s rolling out a radio and digital ad campaign against Question 2A on the November ballot.

“The mayor and a majority of City Council have asked for more money six times in just over two years,” Laura Carno, a conservative activist and founder of SpringsTaxpayers.com founder, said in a statement. “We found a catchy and memorable way to point that out, with a fictional game show called Tax-A-Holic.”

The ad pits a caricature of Mayor John Suthers, a prominent state Republican, against Bill Clinton. (“Bill Clinton is my name and big spending is my game.”)

Question 2A, if voters approve it, would assess residential property owners and renters and extra $5 on monthly utility bills, while non-residential property owners would pay a monthly $30 per acre for the next 20 years.

The city needs $460 million to make stormwater improvements to make sure Pueblo gets the water its entitled to via the the Southern Delivery System pipeline, as well as to satisfy a lawsuit by the Environmental Protection Agency over the city’s neglected drainage system.

The city is making piecemeal improvements using money from its General Fund budget. Suthers and two-thirds of the City Council reportedly back the proposed stormwater fees.

The measure would free up $17 million a year in the city budget, which could be used to hire more police and firefighters, Question 2A supporters contend.

“We need 100 to 120 more cops in the next five years,” Suthers told Colorado Springs TV station KOAA.

And for what it’s worth, Bill Clinton’s game wasn’t big spending. He presided over the second-lowest rate of growth in federal spending during his presidency in the past seven decades, 1.5 percent a year, second to Barack Obama at 1.3 percent, according to the conservative Cato Institute. The big spenders were Lyndon Johnson at 5.6 percent with George W. Bush and John F. Kennedy tied for second at 4.6 percent … for what it’s worth. Clinton did it by working with Republicans on welfare reform, defense cuts and trade deals, with a tailwind of a strong economy in his second term.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirSeptember 12, 20174min2110

It’s not unusual to see environmentalists on the political left come to the aid of homeowners aggrieved at developers over the latest shopping center or housing tract to intrude on their neighborhood. Less common but at least as potent is when elements of the tax-cutting, government-baiting political right link arms with the left on the same issue.

The left worries about the effect of growth and development on Mother Earth; the right worries about the impact on taxpayers’ wallets. Both end up railing against purportedly rapacious developers as well as at local land-use rules and tax policies that are said to subsidize development.

A commentary this week by Colorado College student columnist Max Kronstadt in his school’s independent student newspaper, The Catalyst, illustrates the point. An acknowledged left-leaner, Kronstadt approvingly quotes none other than Douglas Bruce — the father of Colorado’s taxing and spending limits — in an overview of an upcoming Colorado Springs ballot proposal that would assess a fee on residents to finance stormwater drainage upgrades. It’s a long-standing, hot-button issue in the city — home to both Bruce and Colorado College — that often turns into a barometer on sentiments about growth and development. Writes Kronstadt:

I had the opportunity to talk to Douglas Bruce, a former Colorado state legislator, anti-tax activist, and author of the controversial Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). He argues that the city is milking its residents for money, putting unnecessary financial strain on low-income households. “The grandma who lives in a trailer pays the same as someone in a mansion in the Broadmoor—that’s a regressive tax,” Bruce said. He also argued that the city government relaxed regulations on developers and is now forcing residents to pay for it. “The city created the stormwater issue by subsidizing developers and giving them a free pass instead of forcing them to pay to deal with their stormwater. And they did that intentionally,” he said.

Kronstadt then notes: “Though Bruce and I likely disagree on many topics, I’m with him on this one. The City Council’s plans are a gift to corporations at the expense of taxpayers, particularly low-income ones. “

Kronstadt nonetheless concludes he’ll probably vote for the fee because, “Colorado Springs has already signed an intergovernmental agreement with Pueblo County that mandates we spend $460 million on stormwater infrastructure … and the money has to come from somewhere.”

The takeaway, though, is that nowadays, Coloradans are as likely to hear the likes of Douglas Bruce chiding cities for “subsidizing developers” as they are to hear it from Bruce’s onetime adversaries on the left.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchSeptember 5, 20179min80
It takes trust to let someone carry a beer from one business to another, to drink on the sidewalks or on a closed street. Trust and an entertainment district. The Colorado Springs City Council is considering laws that would let businesses apply to create entertainment districts in which customers could wander, drink in hand, beyond […]

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Ernest LuningErnest LuningSeptember 1, 20174min3040

If former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo decides to jump into Colorado's Republican gubernatorial primary, there's one step he won't have to take. Tancredo changed his registration from unaffiliated to Republican two weeks ago "just in case," he told Colorado Politics, although he said he's still weighing whether to get in the race.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchAugust 25, 20174min920

Recalling a recent conversation, City Councilman Merv Bennett said some people joke that Pikes Peak has been replaced as Colorado Springs’ most prominent landmark. Now, it’s orange traffic cones.

The ubiquitous cones marking detours around street work are a result of construction funded by 2C, a ballot issue approved by voters in November 2015 dedicating $250 million evenly split over five years to repair the city’s crumbling streets, curbs and gutters.

In its second year, work funded by 2C is under budget and ahead of schedule, Public Works Director Travis Easton said Thursday in a quarterly update. And revenues from the 0.62 percent sales tax are higher than last year.

Through June 30, the tax has generated $20.1 million, 12.9 percent higher than last year at the six-month mark, said Corey Farkas the city’s streets program supervisor. The city collected about $51 million in 2016.

Roadwork is also up for the year, Farkas said. In 2016, 229 lane miles were paved through the tax. This year, the city has finished 137 lane miles and is on track to complete 238 by October.

Much of the work is long overdue, and is scheduled for streets that wee the subject of frequent complaints, Farkas said.

“We’ve done a lot of work on Woodmen, which was in bad shape from Lexington all the way out to Black Forest. It’s a wonderful road to drive on right now,” he said. “We’ve also fixed Lake Avenue from I-25 all the way west. That was in really bad shape.”

Not everyone might be satisfied by the pace of construction, which often is slowed by having to coordinate work being done by different contractors and Colorado Springs Utilities, Farkas said.

“We don’t want to pave a road where Utilities has bad waterlines underneath and a waterline blows and we’re digging up new roads to replace their bad infrastructure,” he said.

Las Vegas Street was one street that required coordination, Farkas said, because a portion of the street is in front of the Springs Rescue Mission, which is expanding soon. To prevent having to cut through a newly paved street to connect underground utilities, the street work was pushed back from 2018 to 2019.

When voters passed 2C they approved a specific list of streets where about 1,000 lane miles worth of work will be done, Farkas said. All of those projects will be finished by 2020, when the tax ends. And there will likely be enough money left over to fund another batch of projects.

The tax also frees up other city funds that Public Works taps, Easton said, allowing it to better maintain streets that aren’t due for makeovers.

Farkas said five years of 2C work won’t cure all the city’s traffic ailments, but it’s a step in the right direction. He said he’d like to see the tax continued for a second round to fix more of the city’s 5,691 lane miles of streets.

A full list of ongoing and completed public works projects for 2017, which include 2C projects, can be found at www.coloradosprings.gov/publicworks.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchAugust 21, 20172min740

The League of Women Voters of the Pikes Peak Region is planning a series of community conversations in Colorado Springs about how money in politics exacts a steep price on the common good.

In an email, the League of Women Voters said it is “committed to reforming campaign finance systems to ensure the public’s right to know, combat corruption and undue influence, enable candidates to compete more equitably for public office, and maximize citizen participation in the political process.”

The nonpartisan organization hopes the conversations help attendees understand campaign finance law on the national, state and local levels.

The events are:

  • Money in Politics- An Overview
    Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to noon
    Sand Creek Library, 1821 S. Academy Blvd., Colorado Springs
    Chris Jackson, a Denver lawyer who formerly worked with the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, will provide an overview of the campaign finance structure.
  • Money in Politics at the Federal Level
    Saturday, Sept. 23, 10:30 a.m. to noon
    Penrose Library, Aspen Room, 20 N. Cascade Ave., Colorado Springs
    Martha Tierney, a Denver attorney and vice chair of Common Cause’s national governing board, will discuss campaign finance at the federal level.
  • Money in Politics at the State Level
    Saturday, Oct, 28, 10:30 a.m. to noon
    Penrose Library, Aspen Room, 20 N. Cascade Ave., Colorado Springs
    Elena Nunez, executive director of Colorado Common Cause, will discuss campaign finance at the state level.
  • All Politics is Local – Money in Politics at the Local level
    Saturday, Nov. 18, 10:30 a.m. to noon
    Location TBD

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Joey BunchJoey BunchAugust 15, 20176min1254

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner sized up the crowd at his town hall meeting in in Colorado Springs.

“How many people here support single-payer” health care, he asked the a packed 400-seat auditorium at Pikes Peak Community College.

Maybe 80 percent of the hands in the room went up.

And the senator’s odds of getting his points across was defined in the instance. In sports, they’re called the boo birds, the songbirds of predictable disapproval.

“I’m trying to answer,” he said at one point. “But I don’t get the chance.”

Dressed in jeans with his shirt sleeves rolled up, Gardner gamed on, at one point asking the crowd to give him a chance to answer during one of several questions about he and his fellow Senate Republicans’ efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare.

“This debate isn’t about taking something away from people that’s working,” Gardner said at the first of three town hall meetings Tuesday. “… This is about making this work.”

In a chat Tuesday morning with Colorado Politics before the 90-minute town hall meeting, he called socialized medicine a “$32 trillion disaster and will not work for our country and will not work for our treasury, and certainly will not work to improve healthcare.”

Gardner told his assembled critics he was willing to work on a bipartisan solution to stabilize the insurance markets, protect Medicaid and cover pre-existing conditions, but bipartisanship is a two-way street. Gardner noted that Democrats pushed through Obamacare in 2010 without a single Republican vote.

Gardner helped draft the original Senate bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, and he voted for it on the floor, only to see it go down to defeat when his friend, Sen, John McCain, cast  the decisive vote to kill it last month.

Gardner said before the meeting health care is a heavy legislative lift, “because this is a very personal issue,” recalling the heath struggles of his mother, father and daughter. “We all have a personal connection.”

Health care was the powder keg in Colorado Springs, but Gardner and the liberals who packed the event had agreement, at least partially, on the egregious occurrences, including one death and multiple injuries, from the melee in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday.

Gardner said Sunday on national TV that President Trump erred in not calling out white nationalist by name, failing to call evil by its name, he said.

The president amended his remarks Monday.

“I’m glad the president has said that there is no room in this country for hate, bigotry and racism, neo-Nazis, KKK, white supremacists, that he will not tolerate,” he told Colorado Politics. “I wish he had said that earlier.”

But when an audience member asked later if President Trump was fit to serve because of his original remarks, Gardner said Trump was duly elected.

“I believe he is fit,” Gardner began, bringing on boos.

He added, “I take it nobody here voted for President Trump.”

On energy and the environment, Gardner repeated President Obama’s earlier call for an “all of the above” energy policy, which includes coal and fracking.

“I believe we have to have a mix,” he said.

And the boo birds again took flight.

The town hall  meeting on the Centennial Campus of Pikes Peak Community College was the first of three Tuesday for the congressman on his August recess.

Liberal activists have used “Cardboard Cory,” a cutout of the senator, as a stand-in to note “the senator’s lengthy public absence and to keep pressure on him to hold open, in-person town halls and events,” according to the liberal Indivisible Front Range Resistance.

Gardner has met with smaller groups often across the state, but on Aug. 4 a traditional town hall in Durango, which was supposed to provide an update on the Gold King Mine spill cleanup, turned into a showcase for protesters on health care, as well.

The senator from Yuma has two more town halls Tuesday:

  • Greeley
    Noon to 1:30 p.m. (doors open at 11)
    University School Auditorium
    6519 18th St.
  • Lakewood
    3:30 to 5 p.m. (doors open at 2:30 p.m.)
    Colorado Christian University, CCU Event Center
    8787 W. Alameda Ave.