The campaign is led by councilwoman Jan Martin, who yesterday persuaded her council colleagues to refer the issue to the November ballot. Joining her at the podium were former councilwoman and nonprofit leader Mary Ellen McNally, councilman Jerry Heimlicher and firefighter J.J. Halsey.
“We’re not asking for a tax increase,” Heimlicher said, “We’re asking the citizens to make a decision. This isn’t a scare tactic – but it is scary.”
Heimlicher made reference to anti-tax activist Douglas Bruce, who was there taking notes.
“The primary opponent of this measure will tell you that everything is just fine – and that the issue for you to decide is between a tax increase and a tax cut,” he said, “but if his measure passes and takes away another $25 million to $30 million from the city, then the cuts will be much worse.”
The proposed cuts would drastically affect not only the city’s appearance, but its ability to deliver essential services, according to Martin and Halsey.
“We’d close five visitor centers, Rock Ledge Ranch, the Pioneers Museum, all the pools, six community centers, eliminate the flowerbed and stop irrigating 85 parks and historic medians,” Martin said.
J.J. Halsey noted that 35 positions in the fire department would be eliminated.
“That would make it really hard for us to deliver services,” he said. “We’re not just leaving vacant positions unfilled – we’d be making deep cuts.”
The city manager’s proposed budget cuts call for axing two fire squads and for cross-staffing heavy rescue with a truck company, thereby eliminating 24 firefighters.
Terry Sullivan, CEO of Experience Colorado Springs at Pikes Peak and Mike Kazmierski, president of the Economic Development Corp., were in attendance. Both said that they, as individuals, support the proposed tax increase.
“I’m just here as myself, not as a representative of the EDC,” said Kazmierski. “So I’ll leave before the speeches. Our board hasn’t taken a position on the issue as yet.”
Sullivan echoed Kazmierski.
“I’m supportive, and I imagine that many of our members will be as well,” he said. “But I don’t know that we’ll take a formal position.”