NEW UPDATE: Mayor has the power to quash pot ballot measure


  • Peazo Cogollo

UPDATE: We just heard from the city on this issue, and the City Attorney's Office says the city code was changed to put to rest the conflicts contained in the City Charter. Here's the message in full:

The blog stated, “Turns out, the mayor might even have the authority to veto an initiated measure.” While it is true that City Charter § 3-70(e)(2) does not extend the Mayor’s veto power to Council referrals of initiated ordinances or Charter amendments, City Code § 1.2.108(B)(3) does:
3. The Mayor shall not have the power or authority to disapprove by veto the following types of ordinances:

a. Ordinances pertaining to quasi-judicial decisions or acts.

b. An ordinance approving bonds to be issued by the City on behalf of Colorado Springs Utilities, Memorial Health System or any municipal enterprise.

c. An ordinance pertaining to any act permitted by article VI (Utilities) of the Charter.

d. An ordinance submitting a Charter amendment, referring an initiated ordinance or Charter amendment, or referring a Charter convention question to the qualified electors. (Emphasis added.)

When we were working through the comprehensive revisions to the City Code to implement the Council-Mayor form of government, we identified the lack of Charter clarity as it pertained to the veto power over Council referrals of initiated ordinances and Charter amendments. This language was added to the City Code to ensure that any initiated measure meeting the signature requirement would be placed on a ballot for the electorate to consider.


UPDATE: Former Council President Scott Hente says he thinks this is a wrong conclusion about the Charter.

Specifically, he states in an email to us: 
I'm not sure I entirely agree with your assessment of the Charter. 12-10(e) of the Charter says "...the Council may, of its own motion, submit to electoral vote for adoption or rejection at a general or special municipal election any proposed ordinance or measure in the same manner and with the same force and effect as is provided for initiated ordinances.15 (1979; 1985)"

I think it's important to note that the wording says "...Council may, of its own motion..." That implies to me that Council, on its own authority, can submit an initiated ordinance.

I think it's also important to note that the years mentioned after this part of the Charter (1979 and 1985) indicate that this part of the Charter was not changed in 2010 when the Charter was changed to reflect a Council/Manager mayor form of government (often, erroneously, referred to as a "Strong Mayor" form of government.

If you point out that the Charter is in conflict with itself over this issue, I would agree. As we have previously discussed, there are other items in the Charter that are in conflict as a result of the 2010 vote.
So we went to the author of the latest version of the City Charter, Kevin Walker, who headed up the Mayor Project and drafted the change that brought us the mayor-council form of government in 2010.

Walker says Hente is right and that the charter as written isn't clear, and that one interpretation is that only those instances listed in the Charter for when the mayor cannot veto a Council action apply, whereas Hente has identified other places in the Charter that say the Council acts outside the veto authority of the mayor.

Charter commission anyone?

———————————-ORIGINAL POST 11:54 A.M. TUESDAY, APRIL 28, 2015—————————————————————-

Something John Suthers said last night during the KKTV/Gazette mayoral candidate forum with Mary Lou Makepeace got me to wondering.

In response to a question about allowing recreational marijuana sales in the city, Suthers said that while he opposes it and feels opening the door to rec sales will do nothing to stem the drug cartels' activities, if City Council votes to place a measure on the ballot, he wouldn't stop it.

Initially, I thought, "Whoa, since when does the mayor have veto power over a Council referred measure?" But guess what, the mayor does, in fact, have that authority. Council could then override the veto with six votes, if they could muster that support.

Turns out, the mayor might even have the authority to veto an initiated measure. That means that when a group of citizens circulate petitions to place a measure on the ballot using signatures of the electorate and bring it to Council and Council then places it on the ballot (assuming enough valid signatures were obtained), the mayor can stop it dead in its tracks unless there are six Council votes to override his veto.

That doesn't seem right to me. But according to the City Charter, here are the only times the mayor cannot veto a Council action:
Notwithstanding the foregoing subsections, the Mayor shall not have power to disapprove by veto the following listed types of ordinances, this limitation applying only to the following specifically identified ordinances: an ordinance accomplishing any quasi-judicial act; an ordinance approving bonds to be issued by any City enterprise; an ordinance pertaining to article VI, "Utilities," of this Charter; an ordinance submitting a Charter amendment to a vote of the qualified electors; or an ordinance proposing a Charter convention. (2010)
To translate, the mayor can't veto zoning, annexations and other land-use actions (quasi-judicial act); nor can the mayor veto Council's votes to issue debt by one of its enterprises, such as Springs Utilities; nor can he veto any action involving Utilities. 

Lastly, and perhaps more importantly to the pro-marijuana community, he can't veto a City Charter amendment. Hence, to sidestep a veto by a mayor who adamantly opposes recreational marijuana, one strategy would be to write the ballot measure as an amendment to the Charter. 

In contrast, there's no such work-around required for Makepeace, who says the city should allow recreational sales, regulate them and collect the tax from them. Here's a release she issued on Monday:
Mary Lou Makepeace, candidate for mayor of Colorado Springs, has announced her support of legalized recreational marijuana in Colorado Springs.

"The people of Colorado Springs voted to legalize recreational marijuana, and I support their decision," says Makepeace. "Legalizing marijuana will make our community safer by marginalizing the black market. We will be able to regulate it, as we do cigarettes and alcohol. And we will be able to benefit financially from its legal sale."

Makepeace notes that support for recreational marijuana cuts across all sectors of our community.

"I have heard from young professionals and senior citizens, liberals and conservatives that they want their voices to be heard," she continues. "I say it is time for Pot for Potholes."
In any event, Suthers has promised not to stand in the way of a ballot measure approved by Council, and Makepeace is ready to let retailers open shop.

The runoff election, being conducted entirely by mail, will be May 19.

The Independent has endorsed Makepeace.

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