Against a downtown city stadium? Sign here

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The effort to get a measure on the April 7, 2015, city election ballot requiring voter approval of a downtown city stadium cleared the city's title board this morning, paving the way for supporters to begin circulating petitions as soon as those petitions are submitted to the City Clerk's Office and printed.

The title as approved reads:
Section 11-80. Prior voter approval of any City built, funded and financed stadium and event center.

Shall Article XI of the Charter of the City of Colorado Springs be amended by adding a new section to provide that the City of Colorado Springs is prohibited from building, funding, or financing any stadium and event center without prior voter approval and mandating public disclosure of various cost estimates at least 60 days prior to voters' consideration of any stadium and event center proposal?
The petition committee, headed by Anita Miller, wife of City Councilor Joel Miller, will need to collect roughly 12,000 to 14,000 signatures, City Clerk Sarah Johnson says. She says she'll get an exact figure from the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office within a few days. 

Voters could get a chance to vote on whether they want local tax money used to build a downtown stadium. - CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • City of Colorado Springs
  • Voters could get a chance to vote on whether they want local tax money used to build a downtown stadium.
Anita Miller says signatures of registered voters will be collected by volunteers. "I'm confident that we will get the number of signatures," she says. "I've communicated with literally thousands of taxpayers. I'm confident that the vast majority of citizens don't want to use city funds to build a $200 million stadium downtown that we will not own."

The stadium is part of a $250-million tourism project, City for Champions, that includes three other attractions, including the Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame. The stadium is the most expensive attraction, with a price tag of roughly $92 million. Miller's cost reference includes financing charges, which can double the actual cost over the life of the debt.

The measure is nearly identical to one passed by voters in 2005 that bars the city from funding or building a downtown convention center. The first time Miller tried to get a title set on her measure, the title board balked, saying it wasn't appropriate because the measure barred use of tax money collected by the Urban Renewal Authority, and the city doesn't have direct authority over the URA, which is organized under state law.

The URA is the vehicle the city intends to use to collect tax increment financing to fund the stadium. TIF is the extra money generated due to a development and has been widely used across the country, including in Colorado Springs, most notably at University Village on North Nevada Avenue.

The California Budget Project reported in 2011:
Independent research on redevelopment in California – more broadly referred to as “tax increment financing” (TIF) in other states – is limited. Studies find mixed results as to whether TIF boosts property values and results in increased property tax revenues. However, the most comprehensive independent study of California RDAs [redevelopment agencies], conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California, found that redevelopment activities in most RDAs studied failed to generate enough growth in property values to account for the tax increment revenues they received. A small body of academic literature also examines the extent to which TIF projects boost economic activity, and some of this research finds evidence that TIF projects simply shift economic activity within municipalities rather than creating additional economic activity. For example, one study suggests that when employment increases in TIF project areas, it decreases in other parts of the city, which could mean that TIF projects draw jobs from elsewhere in the city, rather than generating net new jobs.
California no longer allows TIF financing, due to economic drains they posed for government coffers.

Language about the URA was removed from the measure that was approved today, but Adam Foster, attorney for the petitioners, says other statements in the measure would make it difficult for the city to channel money for a stadium through the URA if the ballot measure is adopted. If a downtown stadium is privately funded, the measure would have no impact, he says.

Says Miller, "I'm confident that the spirit of the initiative will shine through so that if there are any attempts to circumvent the intent, there will be the ability to fight that in court."

The committee, which also includes local activist Kanda Calef, will have 90 days to gather signatures after petitions are printed. Here's the ballot measure, before minor tinkering was done by the title board. The title quoted above is the approved language.

See related PDF StadiumBallotMeasure.pdf

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