The Colorado Springs City Council slapped down five of Mayor Steve Bach’s vetoes Thursday.
Among the council overrides that restore funding:
• $175,000 to repair and maintain city-owned tennis courts.
• $84,295 for an additional code enforcement officer.
• $43,000 to make a half-time position full-time to help the council with media relations and communications.
“This is American government at its best,” council President Scott Hente said afterward.
“This is our system of checks and balances that we have where the mayor clearly has veto authority but ... the legislative body has the authority to override the chief executive’s veto with a supermajority, and that’s what you saw happen today,” he said. “This is not a good thing or a bad thing. This is how our system is designed to work.”
Only council member Angela Dougan sided with Bach on all his vetoes. Tim Leigh voted with the mayor on all but one, which was largely a housecleaning item.
Dougan said she supported the mayor because he made a “great case” that the city will run out of money in the near future if it keeps spending at the current rate.
“I think this tells the mayor that they wanted to have some nonessential core service spending and they were going to do whatever they had to do to get it done,” Dougan said about her colleagues.
After Thursday’s special council meeting, Bach issued a statement in which accepted that council had the final say on the 2012 budget.
“City Council has the last word on this matter, and we respect that,” Bach said. “Our focus will remain on transforming City government to be fiscally sustainable while we continue to work to improve customer service and retain great employees.”
Overriding a mayoral veto requires a supermajority, or six votes.
The council voted 7-2 to override a veto to move Colorado Municipal League and Pikes Peak Area Council of Government dues from a general costs budget to the council’s budget. Dougan and Leigh opposed.
“I didn’t understand the mayor’s explanation of this one. It doesn’t have any cost change,” Councilman Merv Bennett said. “It seems to me that CML and PPACG are items that primarily pertain to council. It’s not a staffing situation so I didn’t understand his explanation.”
Budget Manager Lisa Bigelow said the mayor wants to review all organizational dues and determine “whether or not they can justify the costs.”
Bennett, who previously announced that he was supporting all the mayor’s vetoes, said he voted in favor of the override because it has a “zero cost change to it.”
The vote to restore funding for tennis courts, an additional code enforcement officer and to make a part-time position full-time to help the council with communications was 6-3. Bennett, Dougan and Leigh voted in opposition.
The fifth override was a procedural change to increase the general fund by $361,000 to balance the budget. The increase factors in the council overrides.
“This puts us in balance with the previous votes that we took,” Hente said.
The council didn’t override the mayor’s veto of $10,000 in funding for the Old Colorado City Historical Society. Only Councilwoman Lisa Czelatdko supported that request.
Only three council members — Hente, Jan Martin and Bernie Herpin — voted to override the mayor’s veto of a proposal to authorize Parks Department staff to grow flowers for the Springs in Bloom program. The three council members are referred to as the “holdovers” because the six other council members are serving their first terms.
Bach has argued that only he can tell the parks staff what to do as the city’s chief executive with “all executive and administrative authority.”
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