Voters likely to see 2 charter amendments on April ballot

January 24, 2011

Colorado Springs voters are likely to be asked to decide in April whether they want more district representatives on a future City Council.

Mayor Lionel Rivera mustered enough support among his colleagues Monday to refer to the April ballot a question to revise the makeup of the council from five at-large and four district council members to six district representatives and three at-large.

Rivera said most cities with a strong-mayor form of government, which voters approved in November, have councils composed entirely or mostly of district representatives. Under Rivera’s proposal, the two at-large candidates with the fewest votes in the April election would serve only two-year terms.

“The citizens need more direct contact with more council representation (under a strong-mayor system), so district reps would allow that to happen,” he said.

The council must vote Tuesday to refer the question to the ballot.

A council majority also endorsed a proposed ballot measure that would allow the city’s first strong mayor to attend the council’s executive sessions, which are held out of public view.

Real estate and personnel matters are among the topics discussed in closed session.

The charter change approved by voters allowed the mayor to attend only open sessions, City Attorney Patricia Kelly said.

Rivera proposed four charter changes to fix what he said were intentional omissions in the initiative to switch to a strong-mayor form of government.

But he got support only for two.

Several council members advocated for a comprehensive charter review.

“I understand the intent of the (proposed) charter amendments, and in many cases, I agree with the content,” Councilman Tom Gallagher said.

“What I’d like to see us do instead is commission a charter review commission ... to craft a charter for the strong mayor rather than amending and amending and amending,” he said. “I’m afraid if we do this we’re going to look a lot like a lame-duck Congress trying to shove things through before we’re gone.”

Councilman Randy Purvis said he’s been calling for a charter rewrite since the November election.

“One of the complaints that I have had and that I heard voiced a lot about the existing strong-mayor issue is that it looks like it was done via a search and replace function in Microsoft Word or whatever way you simply take the words ‘city manager’ and delete that and put in the word ‘mayor,” he said.

“That’s a way to do it, but I don’t think it’s an efficient or an effective or a coherent way to do things,” he said. “The proposals we have before us simply perpetuate that kind of complaint.”

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