Suthers: "We need the help of voters."

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Mayor John Suthers, left, stands near Council President Merv Bennett at the podium, backed by other Council members and tax hike backers. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Mayor John Suthers, left, stands near Council President Merv Bennett at the podium, backed by other Council members and tax hike backers.

Mayor John Suthers held a rare news conference today to plead with voters to approve 2C, the city's proposal to raise sales taxes by .62 of a percent to fund road repairs.

Speaking to a crowd of roughly 30 people from the steps of City Hall, Suthers said he's met with many potential employers in his first five months in office, who question what the city is doing to invest in infrastructure, even as they contemplate investing millions in moving here or expanding here.

He also noted "a lot" of good news regarding the Colorado Springs Airport, jobs and economic outlook is "coming down the pike," creating momentum.

"We need to seize that momentum and demonstrate our ability as a community to do the things a community needs to do," he said.

He repeated his oft-cited statistics, saying 60 percent of the city's streets are in poor condition, due largely to setbacks in funding posed by two recessions over the last 15 years. Forty-six percent of the roads, he said, will be "impacted" by the $50 million per year the tax will generate.

"We need the help of the voters to deal with our roads," Suthers said.

Calling claims by the proposal's critics that the money would be funneled to a downtown stadium "nonsense," Suthers promised that "not a dime of this money is going to anything other than road repairs and improvements."

City Council President Merv Bennett spoke briefly saying, "We are in lock step with the mayor."

City officials have pledged to contract out all the work, including inspectors to oversee the work. A 2003 city audit, however, showed that it's more economical to have city street crews perform repairs and improvements and even suggested further analysis of the city creating its own asphalt plant, like Denver has. However, City Auditor Denny Nester said since that audit, the city has laid off hundreds of workers, many in the public works department, so it might not be positioned to take on a citywide repairs program.

Standing near the curb was the sole Council member who voted against the measure. Helen Collins, who's facing an ethics violation involving a land deal with anti-tax activist Douglas Bruce, noted that the "vote yes" campaign by Springs Citizens Building the Future hasn't spent a penny in Colorado Springs. Rather, all $72,579 in reported spending so far has gone to companies and consultants in Florida, Virginia and the Denver area. Most of the money raised so far by the committee — $179,775 — has come from paving contractors, developers, builders and community leaders.

Asked what she thought of the news conference, Collins said, "It's not a very good turn out," an observation made by others privately.

For voter information, go here. 

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