ISSUE 200 Just say No

Filed under: Opinion |

In the April city election, you will have the opportunity to vote on a proposal to amend the City Charter to prohibit the city from “planning, building, funding, or financing a convention center” unless a majority of voters gives prior approval to the complete project at a regular or special municipal election.

If passed, the City Charter would require that no less than 60 days prior to the election the city must make available in a public document various information about the project, including (i) the costs attributable to construction, operation and maintenance of the center, (ii) required infrastructure improvements, and (iii) debt service for the project.

Does our city need this limitation? No – You already have the right to vote on this kind of issue under existing law.

For example, the TABOR (Taxpayers Bill of Rights) provision of our City Charter requires a vote to increase any tax that would be used to fund or finance a convention center – even one paid by visitors.

What will this proposal do if it passes? It would forever limit the ability of our elected representatives to plan, build, fund, or finance a convention center anywhere in Colorado Springs.

For all practical purposes, it will hamstring the ability of Colorado Springs to plan for a convention center either today or in 10, 50 or 100 years. It could eliminate any meaningful investigation by our city regarding a convention center, or even any future opportunity to rehabilitate the City Auditorium or to construct any similar project.

Why is this proposal flawed?

Issue 200 is misleading and contradictory. It prohibits planning in one section, but requires planning in another. It requires voters to approve planning for a convention center before the planning can be done. Yet it requires that there be a plan (one that requires extensive information gathering and evaluation) at least 60 days before presenting the question to voters.

This puts the cart before the horse and will inevitably lead to confusion and likely litigation over its meaning and effect. Such an insensible and vague provision should never be placed in our City Charter.

Should a single subject project like this receive a special place in our City Charter? No – this is a mistake. What type of facility or special project would next find its way into the Charter? This is not the appropriate manner to deal with such issues – our City Charter should be protected from provisions like this, not contain them.

When I spoke with one of the five people who signed the petition that initially presented Issue 200 to the City Clerk and asked him about the wording of the initiative, he answered “I didn’t even read it.” I wonder how many of the people whose signatures were obtained to place Issue 200 on the ballot read it either. I believe they were fooled – don’t you be!

So why is this proposal on the ballot?

Issue 200 was, for all intents and purposes, initiated and has been substantially funded by the lodging industry. Reports filed with the City Clerk indicate that the Broadmoor Hotel, which is in the midst of expanding its event and meeting facilities, has advanced the lion’s share (at least $65,000) of financial support for Issue 200.

In my opinion, the ballot initiative is a special interest proposal that does not have the community interest at heart. We are a diverse community with growing independence of thought. Our actions and ability to act should reflect this. We should not allow a narrow interest to control our decision-making – whether of the voters or of future City Councils – on the issue of a convention center (or in any other respect).

Bottom line: Issue 200 is a bad idea, bad law and is bad for our City Charter. You already have the right to vote on tax mechanisms that would help finance a convention center – so Issue 200 is, in reality, not designed to protect you!

Vote no on Issue 200.

Tom James is a resident of Colorado Springs and a member of the local business community