Mayor: Suspend city TABOR, reform PERA

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In his last “State of the City” address, Mayor Lionel Rivera today called upon Colorado Springs residents to suspend the city’s TABOR law for 2010, 2011 and 2012.

“The TABOR formula creates rapid declines in revenue limits in economic downturns, but prevents rapid recovery when conditions improve,” the mayor said. “As the economy recovers, what we refer to as the ‘ratchet-down effect’ of TABOR could restrict the city’s efforts to restore services.

“If it looks like we will be in surplus for 2010, then we should strongly consider placing a measure on the November ballot to ask citizens to allow the city to retain surplus revenue for 2010, 2011, and 2012 and add it to our TABOR budget baseline.

“It’s the only way we will recover from the ratchet-down effect and allow the natural growth in our economy to help us recover.”

He asked the council to put the idea before voters in April.

Vice Mayor Larry Small, who sits on the council, wasn’t immediately ready to embrace the idea.

“He’s never talked to us (about suspending TABOR),” Small said. “The prudent thing would be to talk to your colleagues before going public.”

In his speech, Rivera also asked for help from the county commissioners and the state legislature on other financial matters.

“We must demand true pension reform for PERA from our state legislature and new governor,” Rivera said.

“For local governments who participate in PERA, state law mandates that we contribute 13.7 percent of an employee’s salary while the employee contributes 8 percent.

“I don’t think that is fair to taxpayers or rate payers. At a minimum, the employer and employee should share the cost equally. After all, it’s our employee who will receive a lifetime benefit when they retire. If we do nothing, I would expect the mandated contribution rate for the employer to go higher in the future and we cannot afford that additional cost.

“This type of reform will save the city, Colorado Springs Utilities and Memorial Health System several million dollars a year and again will mitigate service reductions, future rate increases, or increased hospital charges.”

The mayor also criticized the county commissioners for hijacking the city’s share of the road and bridge tax.

“I’m … asking our county commissioners to reconsider their recent decision to reduce the county’s road and bridge mill levy and increase their general fund mill levy,” he said

“The effect of that policy decision was the reduction of $2.5 million annually from Colorado Springs’ historical allocation of road and bridge funds and transferring it to the county’s general fund. Those funds have historically been allocated to all the cities in the county for road and bridge infrastructure and I’m confident all my mayoral colleagues would like it restored.”

Small scoffed at Rivera’s proposal that the county return the road and bridge mill levy.

“So in exchange for that $2.7 million, are we going to create our own health department, our own human services department, and build our own jail?” he asked. “The city receives a lot of benefit from being in the county. Right now we’re in discussions with the county over SDS permitting fees, and his (Rivera’s) hostility to the county isn’t helping is at all.”

Small was equally dismissive of Rivera’s call for PERA reform.

“If he wants our legislators’ support, he might have gone to the legislative breakfasts during the last session. We had three of ‘em at 7 in the morning, and there were eight or 10 legislators at every one. He never showed.”

Earlier in the speech, Rivera praised the volunteer efforts that had allowed many city services to continue despite severe budget cuts.

He also noted with approval “historic accomplishments” such as the Southern Delivery System and the city-funded deal to retain the United States Olympic Committee for “next 30 years.”

2 Responses to Mayor: Suspend city TABOR, reform PERA

  1. Part 1:

    Today’s “State of the City” address and the public official’s comments following, for some reason, bring to mind my vintage collection of old Cheech and Chong movies – – and a story about World War II.

    In early 1940, while Germany had rolled over most of Europe, was ensconced in Norway and bombing London, Churchill and DeGaulle were sitting at Claridges — sipping tea, mind you — and Arguing.

    Arguing over WHO was going to take charge of the war effort and who was going to claim credit for being the one to win the war! The hotel was surrounded 8′ high with sand bags to keep bomb fragments out of the tea. Tea is not meant to have a metallic taste.

    Eisenhower flew in. Said: “Gentlemen, you two need to check your egos at the door, sit down and shut up cause I am here and I am going to win this war. (He did. I read the book.) (Twice)

    He won that war by having the ability to bring UNITY and COMMAND STRUCTURE and — PLANNING that drew all the parties together committed to one common goal for all of them. SURVIVAL.

    Regionally, there is NO Eisenhower on the horizon. Hell, even an Alfred E. Newman showing up would be some relief! And also. more importantly there is NO REGIONAL UNITY !

    Regionally,there is no evidence of any of the “come togetherance” and fighting spirit that drove the Allies to work as a well oiled machine to overcome the Germans first and the Japanese second.

    That was Eisenhower’s plan. Step one. Step two. Step three. (DeGaulle, go back to your corner)

    The absolute lack of any regional planning ability and the quibbling between the city and the county and even among the politicians on the same dias – – –

    What kind of message does that send to the voting public? The public does not watch and notice?

    With so many ballot initiatives crawling up on what is already likely to be a lengthy November ballot, to be read by a public who does not like anything other than simple and easy – will any of them have a chance to pass?

    There MAY be an answer – some positive suggestions in part 2


    Rick Wehner
    June 30, 2010 at 5:46 pm

  2. Part 2:

    One might consider there is wealth of accumulated business experience, logistical expertise and planning ability. Downtown. Not across from the bus terminal, and certainly not in the gaudy gold building but throughout the community. People working productively – not running for office.

    I would suggest that those from within the business community come together in one big room with hard chairs and come up with a strategy where the coordinated UNIFIED business leaders call upon the city and county officials to bring in a group psychologist (I am serious as a heart-attack) along with a motivational expert to work with them to develop a strategy where, as a group, they might achieve the ability to make it at least through the next election cycle without sending out weekly mixed messages to the public — that public which has already lost all faith and confidence.

    Witnessing in all the local TV and print press (even the ones in Spanish and Hebrew) the overwhelming evidence that there is no real short term plan being developed is doing nothing but further decreasing willingness of the public to deal with any measures brought forth.

    There is a lot going on in the way of long term planning. Really some quite extraordinary efforts underway led by those involved in the Project 6035 program – emerging evidence the embryonic stage of The City Commission will bring forth real analytical expertise that is now needed — The EDC has done a remarkable job of bringing in enough new jobs to at least keep even with the number of jobs lost due to no regional leadership and economic progress.

    These are long term, stable plans.

    What is needed right now – is a stiff jolt of caffeine ! The development of a board of credible, non- politically associated individuals who can go to the city and county and say: YOU TWO SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP – WE ARE HERE TO WIN THIS WAR.

    We know there is no new money coming in. The coming months, with no firm national signal that the recession is really in check, the certainty of property tax revenue declining – and not even new people moving in to add to the property tax rolls or increase sales tax revenues means the region is not to see any real improvement anytime soon. It is called realism.

    The public needs to hear the truth delivered by people whom they can believe in — a message that will begin to give the public some reason to feel confident.

    A message somewhat along the lines: “We may not have all the answers but we are stepping in to assist the city and the county in every way we can” — and in the meantime, we are requesting the city and county officials step out of the way temporarily until we can come up with a unified strategy that you have failed to create.

    It needs to be heard now. Not after April. NOW. From all appearances, there is nothing on the horizon in the way of candidates who will be able to do anything but further erode the confidence of the public.

    A take charge program like Iacocca did with Chrysler in the late 70’s.


    Rick Wehner
    June 30, 2010 at 6:20 pm