City Councilman Scott Hente took on state Rep. Douglas Bruce during a much-anticipated debate Tuesday, part of the Colorado Springs Leadership Summit XV at the Antlers Hilton Hotel.
The topic: Bruce's latest two initiatives, ballot issues 200 and 201, which are aimed at killing the city's Stormwater Enterprise and ending the system of payments between the city and all its enterprises, including Colorado Springs Utilities.
Hente told the crowd of about 200 that "one individual [Bruce], who has publicly stated his intention is to destroy Colorado Springs," is out to cripple the city budget. Hente said the enterprise system, with its current fees, is necessary to run the city, and pointed to the fact that other cities have long charged residents stormwater fees.
To which Bruce quipped, "How can you say that this is a fee just because other people are doing it? That's the same excuse your children have given you all of your lives."
Hente responded by saying that the Colorado Supreme Court has ruled twice that stormwater fees are not taxes.
Bruce argued that a spend-happy city had repeatedly looked for loopholes to avoid seeking voter approval for a variety of "illegal taxes."
In perhaps the most crowd-pleasing moment, Hente told Bruce that if he had a problem with the Stormwater Enterprise, he should have spoken out when it was being considered in joint city-county meetings. Bruce, a county commissioner at that time, attended the meetings, but Hente claimed Bruce contributed no input and instead spent his time filling out crossword puzzles.
"You had the opportunity no, you had the obligation as an elected official to speak on the subject," Hente told Bruce. "You thought it was more important to figure out the answer to 23 across."