Ballots To Get Mailed-Out This Week In Pivotal Vote
The city of Cripple Creek will soon host its first recall, special election in two-plus decades, as the New Year starts out with a bang for the gaming community.
The mail-in vote is slated for Tuesday, Jan. 24.
At issue are two elected positions, held by council members Mark Green, a representative of Ward Four, and Charles Solomone, of Ward Five.
Challenging the targeted members are Bruce Brown and Jared Bowman, who are well-known members of the community.
Ballots will be mailed out this week to approximately 700 voters, according to City Clerk Malissa Gish.
The recall vote is being conducted by the city and culminates a well-publicized campaign effort that garnered enough signatures to force a vote. “We really didn’t have a choice,” said Mayor Milford Ashworth at the time the council agreed to move the election forward during a highly contested meeting in November.
The recall vote largely centers around a decision made by the majority council members last summer to support a plan for a small gift shop at the Cripple Creek Heritage Center. Many small business operators and citizens packed the council chambers and questioned the council’s stand on this issue and others pertaining to council’s interest in the health of non-gaming businesses. They alleged that this plan allowed a city department to compete with private, small businesses.
They accused the leaders, in making this decision, of not listening to the citizens, and pursuing a special agenda.
The recall also stems back to a heavily contested letter that generated considerable comment by community residents, entitled “What Happened to Cripple Creek.” Critics of the current leadership guard have maintained that most council members have lost their footing and no longer support special events and aren’t connected with the community that much. They have heavily criticized the city’s plans to no longer sponsor special events, and accuse certain leaders of no longer supporting the town’s pro-visitor and family-friendly attitude.
But the targeted members also have their supporters.
During a meeting to okay the special election, many speakers questioned the city’s expenses for the election and the validity of the recall effort, and what it was trying to achieve.
They believed this would further divide the community, and presented photos indicating that the gift shop in question hardly competes with current operators.
Questions also were raised by the signing of the recall petitions by Mayor Ashworth and Councilwoman Melissa Trenary. City attorney Erin Smith didn’t find a conflict of interest problem with these signatures, as long as these leaders signed appropriate documentation with the Secretary of State’s Office.
In any case, the Jan. 24 verdict will determine whether Green and Solomone can retain their seats on the council for the reminder of their terms. Solomone’s term is slated to end in a year, while Green’s post expires at the end of 2024.
In their defense, the targeted council members say the city has made considerable progress in the last year and a half, and has opted for doing business differently than past years. They cite such issues as housing and infrastructure and employee morale. Their defenders have complimented their desire to challenge the previous good ol’ boy system.
Critics, though, say the current council leadership isn’t committed towards helping small businesses enough.
The cost of the special election must be paid by the city and the costs to date are estimated at around the $20,000 figure.
This marks the first real big issue for Cripple Creek in 2023.
The last time the town held a recall vote was more than 20 years ago when two members received the boot in a recall that involved a number of court hearings. The latest recall effort hasn’t been quite as controversial.
For more information about the election and voting details, call 719-689-2502.