by Rick Langenberg:
The cities of Woodland Park and Green Mountain Falls are preparing for municipal elections that could play a big role in determining the future political and economic course of both communities.
In GMF and Woodland, the majority of elected seats will be determined by the outcome of these votes, scheduled for April 1 and April 8 respectively and conducted with vastly different formats. Contenders for these seats can start circulating candidate petitions early next month.
Green Mountain Falls
It’s no secret that Green Mountain Falls has featured its share of political turmoil, capped by such issues as the closing of the marshal’s office, the selection of the first ever-town manager and concerns over fiscal accountability, government transparency and infrastructure enhancements. After months of verbal wrangling at public meetings, this political furor could reach a preliminary conclusion during the April 1 city election.
The forthcoming GMF election slate will be highlighted by the possibility of six citizen-driven petition efforts; four trustee recalls and a proposed initiative and referendum. These have been sponsored by the Concerned Citizen of Green Mountain Falls, an organization formed last summer and revamped several months ago.
The recalls, if enough signatures are generated, call for the removal of four current elected leaders. But in reality, only two of these propositions really have any tangible impacts. These deal with the ouster efforts against trustees Ralph LoCascio and Howard Price, who were both elected in 2012. The other recalls, organized against Mayor Pro Tem Jane Newberry and Trustee Margaret Peterson won’t have much meaning, since these two leaders must either run for re-election or are restricted by term-limits.
Newberry can’t run again for her trustee seat, but can contend for the mayor’s spot. If she does run for the mayoral position, Newberry must challenge incumbent Lorrie Worthey, who announced last week plans to seek re-election.
Besides the recalls, the Concerned Citizens are seeking to overturn a law that authorized the designation of a new town manager and set duties for this position. Several weeks ago, the trustees finalized a town manager ordinance and approved the contract for Robert McArthur, who has assumed the joint duties of public works director and town manager. The group also wants to outlaw any member of the board of trustees from working for the city or doing contract labor for four years after they leave their elected post. According to the clerk’s office, both the proposed initiative and referendum petitions have not been approved yet for circulation. The only petitions given the preliminary okay so far are the four recall documents. The Concerned Citizens group plans to kick off its recall campaign on Super Bowl Sunday in front of the former marshal’s office, according to group leader Judy Wiedner.
Regardless of the success of these petition efforts, voters at the very least will decide the fate of the mayor’s seat and three trustee spots.
The forthcoming city election will be handled by the clerk’s office, with assistance from El Paso County . Originally, GMF wanted the county to run the election, but with a probable bill of nearly $10,000, elected leaders last week agreed to let City Clerk Chris Frandina manage the election. It will be conducted through a designated polling place at the current town hall (at Joyland Church) on April 1 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Registered voters can still cast tallies through the absentee-voting process, but new rules apply for this process. A letter will soon be sent to residents explaining the new procedures, stemming from a new election law.
No election in the recent history of Green Mountain Falls has generated this much controversy.
For more information, visit the GMF government website or call 684-9414.
The election drama isn’t quite as lively in Woodland Park . Still, the stakes are quite high in Woodland with three council positions and a mayoral spot up for grabs on April 8. The council seats under consideration are those held by Eric Smith, Ken Matthews and John Schafer, along with the mayoral position occupied by Dave Turley. Both Matthews and Schafer were appointed to their respective positions, following council resignations.
In Woodland , the main issues center on the future of the downtown, with plans for a main street and creative arts district, and talk of a new aquatic center. In addition, Woodland Park must deal with several key development and housing projects and more service challenges, as the city now has to fund its own building department. The impacts of the new Andrew Wommacks Ministries project will also be on the radar.
Woodland Park will conduct a complete mail-in ballot format, but legal provisions are available for those who want to register on Election Day.
The city has scheduled an information session on Wednesday Feb. 5 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. to update potential candidates on the process and provide them more details regarding duties and responsibilities of a city council person and mayor. A Woodland Park candidate’s forum, sponsored by the Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce, is scheduled for March 19. For more information, call 687-5295 or visit the city’s main government website.