Time is ticking for a group of citizens trying to recall Colorado Springs City Councilwoman Helen Collins.
Group members have braved freezing temperatures as they collect signatures aimed at placing a recall question on the April ballot.
But the recall effort has some District 4 residents scratching their heads over the motivation behind the effort. Collins represents the southeast side of Colorado Springs.
"The people who brought this up about Helen Collins, I have not seen them support any issues in the Deerfield Hills area," said Doug Jones, a neighborhood activist since 1979 and a member of the Citizens Advisory Committee who works with Colorado Springs Police Department's Sand Creek division.
Jones said Collins is visible in the community, participating in neighborhood cleanup efforts and attending neighborhood meetings and block parties. He said she has "gone to bat" for the district.
Collins has a record of voting against utility fee increases, saying residents in her district cannot afford the hikes.
She wrote an ordinance to lower or eliminate city business license fees, which passed but then was vetoed by the mayor. She supported former Councilman Joel Miller's effort to make it more difficult for the city to take private property for development, which also failed.
She did not support the proposed November ballot question calling for a regional stormwater authority and property tax fee, which was rejected by voters in four cities and part of El Paso County.
Most recently, she floated a proposal to ask voters to reassign money within the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority - to take money earmarked for transit and move it to stormwater projects.
In December, three residents - Deborah Hendrix, a former Harrison School District 2 board president, Victor Torres, president of the Harrison school board, and Woody Longmire, the district's coordinator of student services, filed an affidavit to start the recall.
They have until 5 p.m. Thursday to turn in 1,485 valid signatures from Collins' district to get the recall question on the April 7 ballot.
If the group is successful, Collins will have five days to decide if she wants to resign or stay in office. If she opts to stay, City Clerk Sarah Johnson would open a candidate filing period for anyone who wants to run for Collins' seat. Those names would be placed on the April 7 ballot along with the recall question, Johnson said.
Council president Keith King said Collins has worked hard to represent her district.
"A recall effort is unfortunate, but it is part of the process," he said.
Signature collectors knocked on doors through the holiday season. It's unclear if they are paid or are volunteers. Hendrix, Torres and Longmire could not be reached Monday for comment. The group collecting signatures is required to turn in a list of paid petition circulators at the time it turns in its petition, Johnson said.
Meanwhile, someone knocked on Dennis Moore's door for a signature. Moore, a member of the neighborhood watch group who ran against Collins in 2013, said he refused to sign the petition.
"People like Helen, she speaks her mind," he said.
Moore said he had a bad feeling about the motives to remove Collins and believes the efforts are not coming from District 4 residents.
"She's an easy target to remove to ensure a sixth vote; to me this stinks of people who want someone with their way of thinking," Moore said.
Collins did not return phone calls seeking comment.
In a December interview with The Gazette, Hendrix said Collins' opposition to the November stormwater proposal was among the reasons for the recall effort.
Yet an overwhelming majority of voters in District 4 voted against the proposal.
Dede Laugesen, executive director of the newly formed group Colorado Springs Government Watch, said her group has heard concerns from District 4 residents that Collins takes policy advice from Douglas Bruce, who is best known as the author of Colorado's tax limitation law, the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, or TABOR.
The nonprofit Government Watch formed in November, and has not revealed its board of directors. Laugesen said the group is not connected to the recall effort.
Laugesen said that Collins' recent proposal to ask voters to reassign RTA money from transit to stormwater smacks of Bruce's rain tax language. Government Watch filed a request, under the Colorado Open Records Act, asking Collins for all her email and written correspondence with Bruce.
"There is a real sense that people are represented by Douglas Bruce - that she is taking marching orders from Douglas Bruce," Laugesen said. "We feel the people of her district are not being served by her recalcitrance."
Moore said he's never heard such concerns raised in neighborhood meetings.
"I question that," he said. "I have great doubt that it bubbled up from the citizens in this district."
Moore, who is retired from the Air Force, added: "If you've been in the military for 20-plus years, you don't just blindly follow anyone."
Bruce said that he talks to Collins about a variety of issues, and the two don't always agree.
"There is no there there," he said. "She is not a puppet. She's an independent person."
Contact Monica Mendoza: 636-0187
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