Columns » Public Eye

Seizing control of City Hall


Everyone knows that when it comes to partisan politics in Colorado Springs, the Grand Old Party is king. It used to be a joke that you couldn't even get elected to the City Council unless you were a card-carrying member of the Republican Party.

The joke, of course, is that the City Council is supposed to be nonpartisan. That means that political affiliation is not supposed to be a factor. It's even written into the City Charter.

Yet currently, seven of nine Council members (including the mayor) are professed Republicans. Incumbent Richard Skorman has in the past been a Republican, but is no longer, and non-Republican Councilwoman Judy Noyes is not running for reelection.

The joke, it turns out, is on us.

This year, for the first time in recent history, the El Paso County GOP juggernaut has decided that the current nonpartisan/Republican City Council is, well, just not Republican enough.

Steamed by recent decisions made by the current nonpartisan/Republican Council, many ultra-conservative Republican power players have turned to the upcoming Council race with a clear objective: to take over City Hall.

Specifically, they are mad, mad, mad over the Council's recent decision to conduct the upcoming election using mail ballots. They think that mail ballots will reach far too many voters, which could result in a lot of people voting. And these Republican elitists do not like this kind of inclusion. They prefer to control the election by making voting as difficult as possible, so as to encourage a fraction of only the most fervent ideologues to turn out the vote.

But the super-conservatives' most raging fury this year is over the Council's recently adopted domestic partner insurance benefits program for city employees, some of whom are -- get this -- gay.

The city expects the yearly cost of taxpaid benefits could be as high as -- get this -- $58,000! Newly elected County Commissioner Wayne Williams says that the Council's domestic partner decision is a slap in the face for "the majority" of the city's residents. Williams maintains that people believe that cost cuts into much-needed capital improvement projects. So Williams is supporting mayoral candidate Lionel Rivera, who opposed the same-sex benefits measure last November.

It should be noted that neither Williams nor his favored candidate Rivera have publicly objected to the hundreds of thousands of taxpayer-subsidized dollars that have, for example, been spent on out-of-town consultants for studies that have in the past decade ended up on shelves, gathering dust. These types of "consultant costs" have also certainly cut into the city's needed capital improvement projects. So what we're really talking about here is politics, not government waste.

Specifically, Williams, a former county GOP party chairman, is working alongside newly-elected County Commissioner Jim Bensberg to get Rivera elected.

In a classic tit for tat, Bensberg, who has maintained a curt "I have no comment for the Independent" attitude for months, can thank Lionel Rivera's wife for helping him get elected to office. Lynn Rivera served as Bensberg's campaign manager in his successful bid for commissioner last November.

"As a resident, I care about how this city is run," Williams said.

Undoubtedly, come Election Day, April 1, the county commissioners and their friends are hoping that Independents, Democrats and even moderate Republicans living in this city don't vote.

Of course, Rivera is not the only Republican in the game. The other three serious mayoral candidates -- Sallie Clark, Ted Eastburn and Jim Null -- also proclaim to be dyed-in-the-wool Republicans.

Null, for example, is supported by our current mayor, Mary Lou Makepeace, who is so Republican that she handily defeated two other Republicans in the last election, Sallie Clark and Will Perkins.

As for Eastburn, his Republican support network reaches the giddiest of heights. He is supported by El Pomar's Bill Hybl, indisputably the most powerful man in southern Colorado. Eastburn also has the blessing of his old friend and colleague, the recently named U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a close friend of President George W. Bush.

But Eastburn's highest-ranking friends' position is apparently not enough to assuage many local Republicans. After all, Eastburn, like Null, voted in favor of the city's domestic partner insurance benefits program.

Last Saturday, the Republicans held their annual central committee meeting in Colorado Springs. Mayoral candidates Rivera and Clark, who both opposed the $58,000 domestic partner benefits program, were invited to speak to the crowd of 300. Republicans Eastburn and Null, were not.

So much for the big tent.

Add a comment

Clicky Quantcast