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Ballot brawl

War between Bruce and City Council escalates

After more than a decade of largely successful battles against lawsuits filed by anti-tax activist Douglas Bruce, the Colorado Springs City Council switched to the offensive last week by voting unanimously to sue him.

The suit comes in the wake of Bruce, an elected county commissioner, filing a pair of petitions for the November ballot. The first gradually would eliminate the city's property tax, reduce its sales tax and refund money collected by the city for street lights. The second would require repayment of future city bonds within 10 years.

City Councilman Richard Skorman says the measures would "paralyze city government."

The District Court lawsuit aims to halt the items from appearing on the ballot and charges that Bruce attempted to illegally modify the city charter with the petitions.

"He tried to back-door amend the charter," says Mayor Lionel Rivera, who adds that charter amendment petitions require more than 25,000 signatures collected within 90 days.

City Clerk Kathryn Young certified last week that Bruce's petitions had contained around 18,200 valid signatures collected over 180 days. That's enough for an ordinance change on the ballot, but not a charter change.

Although Bruce has sued the City of Colorado Springs a dozen times, this marks the first time Council has slapped back at Bruce.

"It has escalated beyond his snipping and sniping at little things," says Councilman Jerry Heimlicher.

Beyond the lawsuit, which he says is focused specifically on the legality of the petitions, Heimlicher questions Bruce's motives.

"His long-term plan appears to be to dismantle government," he says, "and not have government at all."

Bruce, in response, calls City Council "blatantly corrupt, dishonest and belligerent," the city attorney "incompetent" and the mayor "illiterate."

"I've never heard of a government suing for petitioning the government," he says.

On a local talk radio program he repeated what he described as the opinion of his attorney, David Lane, that "a blind retarded monkey could win this case." Lane also represents CU professor Ward Churchill.

Not to be outdone, the city has hired former Colorado Supreme Court Justice Jean Dubofsky, at a rate of $225 an hour, to combat the county commissioner.

"We're finally not just sitting back and accepting his shenanigans," Skorman says.

-- Dan Wilcock

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