Two local residents sued the City of Manitou Springs today claiming that their petition for a referendum on a recently adopted ordinance to provide subsidies to the Cog Railway for the next 50 years was illegally rejected. In their lawsuit, John Shada and Brenda Kay Gillen challenge the claim by the Manitou Springs City Clerk that the agreement is not subject to voter repeal because it is an “administrative” issue rather than “legislative.”Here's a copy of the lawsuit, filed by Howard Morrison, husband of former Manitou Mayor Marcy Morrison, as provided by the plaintiffs:
Shada, a former two-term Manitou City Councilor, helped lead the successful campaign to save Waldo Canyon. Gillen is a writer and editor active in environmental and affordable housing causes. They are represented by local attorney Howard Morrison, a 52-year resident of Manitou.
Shada explained, “The Cog Railway agreement will be the biggest issue to impact Manitou Springs in our lifetime. Any decision of this magnitude needs to be made by the voters of Manitou Springs.”
Shada and Gillen are seeking a Declaratory Judgement requiring the Manitou City Clerk to allow them to collect the 223 petition signatures from registered voters to force City Council to either void the ordinance or to put the ordinance on the ballot for a binding up-or-down vote.
The Court filing explains that the ordinance in question is indeed “legislative” because it amends the City’s Amusement Tax legislation enacted in 1971.
“We are in favor of the Cog Railway resuming operations,” Shada continued. “but we just believe that six people, in 2 weeks of public process, should not be making such a large financial concession. The ordinance is an unprecedented deal — it’s an enormous tax give-back to the Cog Railway spanning 50 years. We’ve seen estimates that this will cost our tax base upwards of $61.5 million.”
“This unprecedented deal provides an enormous long-term tax break to a private corporation owned by Phillip Anchutz, the richest man in Colorado. No financial need was ever documented,” said Shada. Mr. Anchutz, also owns the Broadmoor Hotel and the local daily newspaper the Gazette, was reported have a financial worth of $14 billion by Forbes in May 2018.