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EDITORIAL: Councilman Murray's weird, hyperbolic tale

By: The Gazette editorial board
November 4, 2017 Updated: November 4, 2017 at 9:21 am
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photo - City Councilman Bill Murray
City Councilman Bill Murray 

Voters, don't be fooled by the creative fear of a city councilman who wants stormwater measure 2A to fail.

Councilman Bill Murray went public Thursday with a statement so detached from truth it deserves a "Four-Pinocchio" rating from the Washington Post.

Murray is an outspoken opponent of 2A and a supporter of funding city government by legalizing and taxing recreational pot.

Mayor John Suthers and the City Council put a fee for stormwater infrastructure on the ballot, seeking voter permission for something they could have imposed by fiat.

The city's stormwater facilities are so broken and outdated the Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment are suing. The case was a big factor in deciding to propose a fee to pay for upgrades and repairs.

Our community's longstanding neglect of stormwater infrastructure endangers public health and safety and the environment downstream.

If voters fund a resolution to those dangers, they reduce the need for heavy-handed court intervention and punishment.

In a Gazette news story Thursday, Murray cited the lawsuit is good reason to vote against 2A.

The councilman said voters should defeat the measure because the lawsuit could result in a $500 million judgment. If so, city officials might jack up the fee, he said, to pay the settlement.

It is a strange, ignorant and hyperbolic claim that requires suspension of reason and logic.

The proposed fee is designed to meet obligations of an agreement Colorado Springs made with downstream neighbor, Pueblo, in negotiations to permit our community's new Southern Delivery System water pipeline.

The agreement requires the Springs make annual investments in stormwater projects that average $20 million a year over the life of the agreement. The ballot measure allows the city to raise the stormwater fee to meet the terms of that agreement, but city officials doubt they will need to.

To believe Murray's scare scenario, one must imagine the city raising fees for something other than meeting the agreement with Pueblo. The fees would be raised to pay a whopping half-billion-dollar judgment that would make funding the desired stormwater repairs nearly impossible.

That won't happen. No court anywhere is going to levy such a heavy claim in this case. Legal experts believe the most punitive judgment imaginable would not surpass $50 million.

Furthermore, it seems doubtful city officials could lawfully raise the fee to pay a big judgment even if they wanted to.

The issue is clear. Defeat of 2A increases our city's stormwater liability, which will be resolved by our free will or by force of law. Passage of 2A greatly reduces our liability.

Colorado Springs has a responsibility to manage its stormwater runoff. That means passing 2A, or allowing the court to impose solutions and punitive fines to get the essential result.

Passing 2A does not pose the threat of a menacing judgment. Taxpayers have much more reason to fear the measure's defeat.

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