Colorado Springs Issue 2C Letter to Gazette

I have received my original and corrected copies of the required NOTICE OF ELECTION. The postage was clearly designated for a non-profit organization. That sounds like our city.

It is interesting that we can complain about our representatives being asked to vote on legislation that they don't get a chance to read while this notice shows neither the actual amendments nor a reference to a place where they can be found. You can try which is in the un-revised notice but it isn't very helpful. Perhaps it's on the Gazette's web site and the editor will add a link.

If that's just an oversight it's a shame. More likely it's deliberate because asking the citizens to read might affect their decisions the wrong way while the carefully edited summaries of written comments create more favorable advertising.

2C is a contract that involves citizens' money. Voters should think about reading the proposed contract before they sign it. Isn't that what you're exhorted to do for any contract? Finding the document to read will take some work that could be avoided if the text were in the notice. Not reading it before voting is a dereliction of your responsibility as a citizen.

And, by the way, the same comments apply to the other proposed amendment for this election.

Colorado Springs Issue 2C Later Comments


I really thought that was a synopsis of some more descriptive legislation that would require voter approval but, after considerable searching and asking, I now believe that the paragraph above IS the entire legislative content. The most recent "FACTUAL SUMMARY", the third mailing by the city, clearly says "The proposals are set out in their entirety; you should read them for yourself."

So, considering that the text comes from folks who created "Certificates of Participation" and "fees" that must be paid to avoid jail rather than optional payments for services, we need to examine seriously what the words say.

$46 million is a decimal number presumably expressed in 2009 US dollars. The change is a mil rate which is a number to be multiplied by an assessment made by the state and a correction factor long ago arranged so that businesses would pay more than homeowners. The city does not control that calculation and so has no way to accurately equate $46 million with 6 or higher mil rates. It is an approximation. Which of the values really applies after the vote is taken? Other mil rates in the area are adjusted each year so that the overall taxes collected correspond to the appropriation in dollars for the school system or other entities. Anything pretending to be a legal contract needs to be more specific.

Just what does "continuing thereafter" refer to? Does it say that the mil rate will increase one mil per year continuing after four years? It's certainly possible to read it that way and remember about those COPs and fees which do worse violence to long-established English nouns.

The taxpayer bill of rights requires voter approval of taxes that exceed statutory allowances for growth of the population and inflation. This question is presented because the city apparently needs more than the adjustment allows. We have been presented with a plethora of numbers to show the need and they might well prove that a temporary increase is required. Perhaps even the rates of increase set by TABOR should be changed. But the city has not shown a need for continuing changes that flow decades into the future. It's hard to believe that city spending per citizen increases with the count of citizens while the cost of building a car decreases with the number of cars built.

The most recent mailing gives a hint about what the city council means by "VOTER-APPROVED REVENUE CHANGE" when it posits "Issue 2C proposes to exempt the revenues generated from the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) spending and revenue limitations pursuant to Colorado Constitution, Article X, Section 20, and City Charter, Article VII, Section 7-90".

Now I don't quite understand what, in the synopsis, proposes anything. Proposals are made by humans and written down in English text. Hopefully the text clearly describes the proposal but it can't make a proposal. The meaning must not depend on a sentence in a "Factual Summary" sent out by the city or even on the minutes of a council meeting.

Apparently the city fathers are proposing that the entire $46 million and anything collected by a mil rate thereafter will be a separate account that simply isn't covered by the law. It's the same kind of thing that was accomplished with the enterprise technique that removes stormwater fees from the budget. Nothing would prevent annual increases in the mil rate by a simple act of the council without an election. Our TABOR limits would apply only to the sales tax collected. Don't they really apply to city spending rather than revenue?

So. . . A vote no is appropriate for the proposal in its current form. Send it back for rewrite in clear text which might be one of these: Remove the city from TABOR limits in so many words without obfuscation. Ask for a one time infusion of a specified amount to help with temporary problems. Ask for changes to the rate at which TABOR allows per capita spending to increase.

And . . . Absolutely insist that the entire text of a complete contract with the citizens be published well in advance of the next vote.

Your comments are welcome and might appear here depending on how I feel. Send them to Doug McNutt. Include "2C" in the subject line to get by my spam filters.