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Campaign for city stormwater led by mayor

Selling stormwater

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Mayor John Suthers campaigns for stormwater fees. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Mayor John Suthers campaigns for stormwater fees.
It’s long been said that stormwater funding is the least sexy “ask” among myriad municipal services for which the city has sought voter-approved revenue, the others being roads, public safety and parks.

The city and region have made multiple attempts to fix the drainage system, but so far voters haven’t bitten. In the Nov. 7 coordinated election, the city will try again. This time it’s asking for an annual $17 million in fees to fund stormwater projects.

But unlike the regional stormwater measure that failed in 2014, this time the mayor supports the proposal. That’s why Mayor John Suthers is the chief spokesperson for the 2A campaign in radio ads that began airing Oct. 3.

Rachel Beck, a Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC official who’s running the Invest COS campaign committee (aka the “vote yes” committee), reports the ads will continue until Election Day and that other strategies include flyers targeting likely voters and Google and Facebook digital ads. “It’s a pretty broad audience we’re communicating with,” Beck says.

With just 54 percent of likely voters supporting the measure, according to a poll conducted in early August, Invest COS hopes to move the needle to put the measure comfortably over the top. “Our polling showed that people have a high level of understanding of the issue,” Beck says, adding the campaign is focusing on explaining “that this is the right solution, what the components are and what they can expect to get in return if they support the measure with their vote.”

Beck reports Invest COS, which had raised about $320,000 as of Sept. 28, won’t invest in TV; it’s too expensive, she says.

(Disclosure: Indy owner John Weiss is a board member of Together for Colorado Springs, which is supporting 2A.)

The measure, if approved, would require every household, including renters, to pay $5 a month on their water bill to fund stormwater; owners of nonresidential property would pay $30 per acre. Property owners of developed land larger than five acres would pay fees set by the city’s stormwater manager, based on the area of impervious surface on the land. The city itself would also pay the fee, which Suthers says in an interview would cost about $100,000 a year. The fees would be collected for 20 years.

Two seasoned political activists are working separately against the measure. Laura Carno, a political strategist who ran the campaign of the city’s first strong mayor, Steve Bach, in 2011, has set up a new campaign committee called Springstaxpayers.com. She says she’s raised less than $10,000 and plans a radio and digital campaign, plus TV if more money comes in. “The message will be that the city of Colorado Springs has plenty of money,” Carno says. “They just need to prioritize it.”

Anti-tax activist Douglas Bruce has printed 10,000 flyers to oppose the measure, and his noraintax.net website is urging volunteers to distribute them. Speaking of Invest COS, he says, “There’s no way you can compete with people like that — $500,000. I just hope the majority of voters will remember that we’ve been through this many times before.”

Bruce is referring to the city’s enactment of drainage fees in 2007, which Council approved without a vote of the people, and the rollback triggered by voter approval of Bruce’s Issue 300 in 2009.

Ballots will be mailed to El Paso County voters the week of Oct. 16.

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