Stop letting our public safety money go into the sewer. Vote for city measure 2A after ballots arrive in the mail this week.
Colorado Springs has neglected stormwater infrastructure for so long we have mounting environmental and public safety issues within the city and downstream. Crumbling and otherwise inadequate drainage facilities cannot handle the runoff created by the expansion of impervious surfaces associated with extraordinary population growth.
As one of the consistently fastest-growing cities in the U.S., we have added impervious surfaces with new rooftops, parking lots, roads, sidewalks and more. We have added wastewater liability and growth capacity by building the billion-dollar Southern Delivery System pipeline, which transports water from Pueblo Reservoir to our businesses and homes.
The crisis has grown so critical the federal and state governments have intervened with a lawsuit that could add tens of millions or more to the cost of improvements that will be made one way or another, if even by force of law.
Much of our stormwater system is nearly 150 years old, and 80 percent of our city's growth has occurred within the past 50 years.
A 1999 flood caused 68 million gallons of sewage to spill into Fountain Creek. Subsequent weather events have proved our drainage system's inadequacy and the dangers it poses.
The City Council voted in 2005 to enact a stormwater fee, making Colorado Springs like every other major city in the United States. Because it was done crudely by fiat, without adequate public input or public education, residents balked. Four years later, they voted against what was marketed as the "rain tax," and the council responded by canceling the fee.
Loss of a reliable stormwater upgrade plan almost cost us a permit from Pueblo County to use our new pipeline.
To make progress on $460 million in pressing stormwater upgrades, city government taps general fund money we need for public safety and other essential services. Police department resources have suffered so much the emergency response time last year edged up from 8 minutes to more than 11. The police chief dissolved the department's gang task for to put specialized officers on routine patrol, bringing response times closer to an acceptable range. Gang violence has increased without the gang task force.
City officials estimate the city needs to hire up to 120 additional cops in the next five years to recoup what has been lost to pay for stormwater.
Measure 2A would assess residents an extra $5 on monthly utility bills. Businesses and other nonresidential property owners would pay a monthly $30 per acre for the next 20 years.
City officials estimate 2A passage would liberate about $17 million a year for police and fire protection.
Organized 2A opponents have offered no way out of the crisis or the lawsuits it has generated. Instead, they attack Suthers with an ad calling him a "tax-a-holic" big spender.
Fake news is alive and well in Colorado Springs.
The attack ad ironically compares Suthers to former President Bill Clinton, who reduced the rate of spending growth, reformed welfare and cooperated with Republicans to balance the federal budget.
Even sillier, Suthers finds himself a target for doing what previous city leaders refused to do when trying to solve the stormwater crisis. The mayor is asking voters for a fee, even though he and the City Council could impose it without concern for public sentiment.
Colorado Springs has emerged as a world-class city attractive to strong employers and envied by municipal leaders throughout the country. Maintaining that trend requires residents to protect public safety funds and fix our crumbling infrastructure before the federal and state governments take over the process and commandeer our money.
Vote "yes" on 2A. Vote to keep essential city services in the general fund and out of the sewer.