by Rick Langenberg
Woodland Park voters for the second time in 10 years said absolutely no way regarding the prospects of opening up the city’s purse strings to future companies through the use of financial incentives. But at the same time, they highly favored using the Internet and social media sites for publicizing their local expenses. And down the road in Green Mountain Falls, residents gave the thumbs-up to the town’s first property tax hike in nearly 30 years. In addition, current council member Dave Turley will become the new mayor in Woodland Park, while former education teacher Lorrie Worthey will assume the head leadership spot in Green Mountain Falls.
These are some of the highlights of Tuesday’s municipal election, featuring a number of pivotal contests in both Woodland Park and Green Mountain Falls.
Probably the biggest surprise of Tuesday’s election dealt with another convincing blow for a staunch effort to do away with the city’s current prohibition against offering financial incentives, such as tax and infrastructure waivers and fee breaks, to future companies, operators and developers. By a convincing 826 to 462 margin, voters made it clear they don’t want city hall to get involved in the development business. This measure, which was first approved in 1988 to stop a former Wal-Mart project, has now been reaffirmed two times in the last 10 years by convincing tallies. The April 3 vote, though, was somewhat surprising as the entire city council backed the proposition to end the ban against incentives, describing the current law as archaic. Several veteran leaders argued that this ban places Woodland Park at a disadvantage in attracting future companies to the area.
But many current business operators and residents disagreed with what they described as a free-for-all movement to promote incentives at all costs. During public comment on this issue, some argued that such a policy wasn’t fair to current business owners and could create an unfair playing field. Originally, the council had toyed with only allowing incentives through future tax waivers, but most leaders thought this idea was way too complicated.
Now, the only way incentive packages can occur is through the Downtown Development Authority (DDA). With this strong of a tally, it’s unlikely that the pro-incentive movement will occur again in the near future. Voters in Woodland Park, though, weren’t totally in the “no” mood, when it came to ballot issues. Voters clearly gave the go-ahead for a plan to save the city money by using the Internet and social media sites, instead of a designated newspaper, for listing their monthly expenses. This measure, which passed by a 946 to 360 vote, was not discussed much during public hearings.And in the city’s sole contested seat, Dave Turley emerged as the clear favorite to succeed Steve Randolph as the next mayor. Turley, a councilman for the last two years, beat veteran council member Betty Clark-Wine by a convincing 710 to 507 margin. With this vote, Clark-Wine, who also serves as the Teller County assessor, will find her stint on the council screeching to a halt. However, the remainder of Turley’s current council term will now be up for grabs.
Most political insiders had predicted that Turley would capture the mayoral seat. He has gained much popularity in the last few years for his involvement with such organizations as the Pikes Peak Rotary Club, the Teller County Republican Central Committee, American Legion and a spree of youth groups. Plus, he played a big role in bringing several big baseball tournaments to the area. Both mayoral candidates shared similar views on several key issues and often scrutinized the spending pursuits of city hall.
For the uncontested council seats, former planning commission member Carrol Harvey got the most tallies with 932 votes, followed by Bob Carlsen with 874 and Gary Brovetto with 812.
Green Mountain Falls
Green Mountain Falls voters gave the okay to the first property tax hike in nearly 30 years in approving a 3-mill hike by a 123 to 82 tally. The tax is part of a push to give the town government a little more financial breathing room. It is also part of an economic sustainability movement, highlighted by the fact that current revenues can’t meet projected expenses. For the last two years, a major campaign has been orchestrated to study short and long-term ways to generate more revenue for the town.
But in what some locals may regard as a big upset, Lorrie Worthey, who frequently attends town meetings and has advocated the need for new ideas and fresh faces, defeated veteran council member and long-time resident Dick Bratton for the mayor position by a 129 to 79 vote. Worthey, whose husband Marshall had served as a trustee for the last eight years, conducted an aggressive campaign in the last few weeks. She has cited necessary improvements in the running of the city government and has advocated uniting the town and representing the citizens more. With her victory, Bratton, for the first time in more than 15 years, won’t be a part of the town elected board. He had served as a previous mayor for eight years and a trustee member for nearly a decade. Bratton’s defeat was part of a reform movement, aimed at getting new people on the board. Plus, recent angst over the recovery efforts associated with the arson-related burning of the historic town hall building, and a desire to hear more citizen input, commanded much attention in recent months.
However, the one exception to this anti-status quo trend was the selection of current mayor and former council member Tyler Stevens. In the race for three trustee positions, Stevens, who couldn’t run for mayor again due to term limits, garnered the most tallies with 140. The other two winning trustees were Howard Price and Ralph LoCascio, who snagged 137 and 110 votes respectfully. They are both familiar faces in town and have advocated changes in the way business is handled in the city.
On the short end of the stick in the trustee race were Michael Lohman and Don Ellis.