Oct 19, 2010 11:32 PM by Jeannette Hynes

Mayor: Strong mayor issue falls short

Issue 300, the so-called "Strong Mayor Proposal" would change the charter of Colorado Springs making the mayor a full-time executive position and eliminating the city manager position. That mayor would no longer be a part of council.

Lionel Rivera has been Colorado Springs' mayor for more than seven years. He once supported Issue 300, but recently changed his position. He says the mayor should be a full-time job, but this measure falls short and could cost the city money instead of saving money.

"Nine council members who are basically paid three dollars an hour need a professional staff to help them oversee their responsibilities. You have to explain that to the public, if you want to change this, it might be a little more expensive. In the long-run, there might be a better way to go," explains Rivera.

Rivera is also concerned about this issue cutting the mayor out of Utilities decisions, specifically on the millions of dollars the enterprise pays to the city, instead of paying taxes.

Those who want the Strong Mayor form of government say they were limited by what they could put on the ballot and couldn't address all the fine print at once.

Supporters say it is time for a change in Colorado Springs.

"A full-time leader who is accountable directly to the voters, directly elected by the voters. We deserve a full-time mayor," says Mary Ellen McNally, The Mayor Project spokesperson.

Those against Issue 300 say some changes need to be made in local government, but changing the form of government isn't the answer. They want someone with experience to manage the city.

"We have enterprises. We have Memorial Hospital. We have Utilities. We need someone who knows how to handle these things. A politician may or he may not," says Jane Merritt with League of Women Voters of the Pikes Peak region.

News First 5 will rebroadcast Tuesday night's debate on the Strong Mayor issue Friday - Wednesday night from 7:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. on News First Now (Digital channel 5.2, Comcast Cable channel 9 in Colorado Springs, and Comcast Cable channel 247 in Pueblo).  You can also watch it on your computer.  Look for it on's home page.


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