Cripple Creek Recall Vote to Get Finalized This Week

Heritage Center Gift Shop Could Face the Political Guillotine

Rick Langenberg


Although it’s not quite a done deal, Cripple Creek’s first recall ouster vote in 20-plus years appears headed for a successful conclusion for those who want to fire two current leaders.


However, one of the seats, involving the Ward Five spot, is still regarded as too close to call, according to election insiders.


With this outcome, Cripple Creek will most likely see a familiar face, Bruce Brown, a former veteran mayor, return to the council table. And the fate of a retail gift shop, operated by the Cripple Creek Heritage Center, definitely remains in jeopardy. Plus, the town could actually experience more special events and festivals, but don’t bet yet on a return of the Salute to American Veterans Rally.


These are some of the probable impacts of a special recall election that garnered much media  attention and cost the town more than $20,000 to operate


Based on the preliminary results released last week, voters of Cripple Creek, in a small turnout, opted to oust Councilman Mark Green of Ward Four by a 55 to 33 margin, with 51 voters casting tallies for Brown.  Voters for Ward Five, in an extremely tight race, sought to give veteran council member Charles Solomone his walking papers by a 45 to 41 tally. Most voters in this ward also picked Jared Bowman as a replacement, but by a very tight margin.


Officials caution that these results are not final, as more ballots, especially those overseas and outside of this area, have not been tallied. There also are a few ballots from each ward that weren’t counted, or “held in reserve,” on the evening of Jan. 24.


These pending tallies could impact the Ward Five race, but most likely won’t change the Ward Four outcome.


The election results will be finalized on Feb. 2, according to City Clerk Malissa Gish.


“I think it is pretty much a done deal,” said Brown, in commenting on his probable victory. “I felt pretty confident going into this, since I know a lot of people in town.”


Brown’s only regret is that not many people voted, with the election generating a less than 25 percent turnout.  Plus, the campaign also included some ugly moments, such as accusations made against certain nonprofits, including the Cripple Creek Elks.


“That was unfortunate,” said Brown. “They do a lot for the community. I hated to see them get dragged into this.”


If his victory is confirmed this week, the town’s former mayor said his main priority is to get up to speed on the key issues facing the town and meet with City Administrator Frank Salvato.


As for one of the key consequences of the preliminary vote results,  Brown said he and other recall supporters would like to further examine the situation with the Heritage Center, and if a decision can be reversed, okaying plans for a gift shop there.


“That was really what this (the recall campaign) was about,” admitted Brown.


Steve Zoellner,  long-time resident and former council member, who  helped spearhead the recall, echoed similar sentiments. “If they voted to change this (an original ban on the Heritage Center to house a retail operation), they can change it again.”


Both Brown and Zoellner were referring to a previous decision last summer to reverse a previous stand and policy by elected leaders, and to okay plans for a retail outlet at the Heritage Center.


This outraged many non-gaming business operators and citizens who packed a council meeting to protest this action, approved by a 3-2 vote. They argued that such a use gave the go-ahead for the city to compete with small business owners.  A recall campaign was orchestrated shortly after this decision.


As for other future changes, the former mayor denied reports that the recall campaign was about bringing back the Salute Rally.  He believes that event is now doing well in Woodland Park, and doubts the festival organizer, Jim Wear, wants to have it return to Cripple Creek.


“I just really liked that event and the ceremonies,” said Brown, in refuting reports that the recall was a sugar-coated attempt to bring back the rally and pay the organizer thousands of dollars for returning the festival to Cripple Creek.


Brown said the recall supporters, though, do remained committed to the idea of pursuing special events and festivals more, as a way to promote tourism and family entertainment. This is a tradition that some civic leaders believe  has gone by the wayside, in the wake of COVID epidemic and the policy of the majority council members.


No Hard Feelings

In an interview last week, Green said he didn’t have any hard feelings about the initial results, and was waiting for the final outcome.


He stressed that the current council achieved quite a bit during the last two years.


“If people decide to recall me, that is fine. About 90 percent of what I wanted to do we achieved,” said Green. He especially cites the city’s progress in the area of housing, infrastructure and in helping pave the way for a citizens’ vote on legalizing retail marijuana. Green worked with the casino association in making that become a reality.


He mentioned the advent of a daycare as the only part of the missing equation regarding the resolution of key community needs.


“In the last year we accomplished more than what occurred here for the last 15 years,” said the Ward Four representative.


Green admitted they followed a different business model than what the town used before and tried to get away from past practices, which the council member believes weren’t working from a long-term economic development perspective.


Marijuana Discussion

Both Green and Solomone will be seated as current council members at this week’s Feb 1 meeting. The council is tentatively planning on having a workshop on the issue of licensing marijuana establishments.


During the Nov. election, voters overwhelmingly approved getting rid of the current prohibition against having recreational and medical marijuana outlets and also okayed the associated taxes with this proposition.


But the council then imposed a 180-day moratorium to set guidelines and zoning rules for where future marijuana outlets can occur. The main questions center on where these establishments can be located and who can receive the licenses.


Green said he has received many inquiries from potential marijuana shop entrepreneurs. “ I have had people knocking on my doors wanting to know more about this,” said the councilman.