Throughout the week, we are sharing reasons why you should vote NO on Colorado Springs ballot question 2A. First, Rebecca laid out why the City doesn’t need any more of your money. Second was Sunday’s blog that detailed how the City’s finance office personnel are grotesquely celebrating a new revenue stream, namely more of your money.
Colorado Springs city government follows a familiar pattern when it comes time to refund taxpayer money via a TABOR ballot question. Politicians figure out what department and projects they think you will support at that given time. Then, they claim that’s where the TABOR money will go if the ballot item passes. This time around, it’s supposed to go toward public safety.
On August 3rd, Mayor Suthers’ COVID Financial Recovery Plan was shared with the public. The plan states the intention is to, “retain and spend up to $1.9 Million collected over the 2019 TABOR cap solely on Public Safety.” Then on August 11th, Mayor Suthers went before city council and asked for them to place the TABOR issue on the ballot to fund public safety. Council members Don Knight and Andres Pico were the only members to vote against referring the issue to the November ballot. On October 4th, Mayor Suthers wrote in a Gazette op-ed that issue 2A would, “allow the city to retain $1.9 million in revenue in excess of the TABOR cap that it collected in 2019 and use it exclusively for public safety.”
Notice the words solely and exclusively above when referring to how the TABOR money would be spent on public safety. Solely and exclusively. Sounds pretty straight forward. If the voters allow the City to retain the $1.9 million in TABOR overage, all of it will solely and exclusively go to public safety. We can all agree that means police and fire.
In a recent batch of emails that we obtained through a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request, some email chatter between Chief Financial Officer Charae McDaniel and a city staff member cast considerable doubt on where the TABOR funds will actually be spent. We’ve confirmed that “CCBC”—in the subject line below— is the City Council Budget Committee. It appears that some City Council members at a CCBC meeting were advocating for the TABOR funds to be used for public transportation and affordable housing. There is no mention of public safety spending in the emails. Additionally, we believe CFO McDaniel is referring to Mayor Suthers Chief of Staff, Jeff Greene in her reply below. Of note, Ballot question 2A is the only TABOR question on the ballot in this election.
The yellow highlights below are ours, to draw attention to some key points.
So once again, voters have been sold a bill of goods. The City has no intention of TABOR overage money being used for public safety. The Mayor tells a story of using the money solely and exclusively for public safety. Internal emails tell a very different story.
So, does the Mayor not know what is going on in the City, or is he turning a blind eye to what the money would really be used for? In either event, the Mayor earns some Pinocchios from SpringsTaxpayers.com.
To be clear: additional bus routes and affordable housing don’t fall under the public safety category. Voters are being duped by the language in this ballot question. The City of Colorado Springs doesn’t need your money for public safety. They want your money —to use however they see fit. Taxpayers don’t deserve this level of dishonesty. A NO vote on 2A will tell them you’ve had enough.
Now, about that redacted portion in the email above. We followed up on it.
We contacted the City to request the CCBC meeting minutes. We wanted to see a record of who said what in that meeting. We included the above emails in our request as a reference. Here is their reply. Again, the yellow highlighting is ours:
So, there are no CCBC meeting minutes. According to the City, the City Council Budget Committee, purportedly made up of City Council members and other City officials has meetings are not subject to Sunshine Laws, as they “do not formulate official opinions, recommendations, or policy.” Got it.
And we’re not buying it when they say that the email is strictly about CARES Act funding. Sounds like damage control to us.
Stay tuned for the 3rd installment.