Petition author hits legal wall
~ By Bob Volpe ~
Two citizen initiative campaign drives, which would have drastically changed how the Woodland Park government operates, have died, at least for the forthcoming election.
They were pulled from circulation last week by the petition author mainly due to legal and technical hurdles. With this action, they won’t appear on the April 2018 ballot,
One of the initiatives was aimed at changing the fundamental form of city government in Woodland Park, from a council/manager to a mayor/council government: Also referred to as a “strong mayor” government, the measure would have eliminated the position of city manager, and allowed for the mayor to be paid a $5,000 a month salary.
The other measure would have asked voters to merge the 1 percent street capital improvements sales tax with the 2 percent sales tax for the general fund. This would have allowed city council to allocate funds formerly earmarked specifically for street related projects, to be used as council saw fit.
Former councilman Bob Carlsen, who spearheaded both measures, said he pulled the petitions because the city attorney placed a series of roadblocks in his path. He said, “The City Clerk, Suzanne Leclercq, has been very helpful, even as she is learning the new rules. The City Attorney has been slower in providing timely advice as to whether the draft ordinances met the legal requirements, and then telling us at the last moment that we had one month instead of three months to collect signatures.
“So this has been a learning experience for everyone. At least now we will know how to process ballot ordinances and petitions going forward.”
At the December 21 regular council meeting, City Attorney Erin Smith announced that if the strong mayor measure passed next April, it would not take effect until April 2020. Smith concluded that an interpretation that the ballot issue would be operative in 2018 would be contrary to applicable law. This fact was further affirmed last week by a city press release, outlining Smith’s interpretation of the timeline for the “strong mayor” initiative.
Carlsen took issue with that assessment. He said, “I think she is totally wrong. I talked to the clerk down in Pueblo and they passed a strong mayor initiative in November of 2017 and they are going to elect their strong mayor in November of 2018.”
Carlsen said the delay in responses from the city attorney were the main reason he pulled the petitions. He faced a tough deadline.
To get his initiatives on the ballot Carlsen would have had to turn in his petitions to the city clerk by January 3, 2018.
Future special election?
Carlsen has not ruled out reviving his petitions after the April election.
He said, “I can start it up again in April. And then I have 90 days to collect the signatures and they have 30 days after verification of the signatures to call a special election.”
For the upcoming April election, Carlsen said he will concentrate on getting some good people elected to city council. He did not mention any names of those he will endorse.