The following Q&A, which was part of a recall election guide published in a recent print issue of the Westminster Window, has been edited for length and clarity. The recall election guide included Q&As with the two candidates involved in the recall election, Jon Voelz and Kathleen Dodaro, and the two groups campaigning for either side, Defend Westminster and the Westminster Water Warriors.
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The following Q&A, which was part of a recall election guide published in a recent print issue of the Westminster Window, has been edited for length and clarity. The recall election guide included Q&As with the two candidates involved in the recall election, Jon Voelz and Kathleen Dodaro, and the two groups campaigning for either side, Defend Westminster and the Westminster Water Warriors. For more information and previous reporting on the recall election, see the recall election web page.
Q&A with Water Warriors organizers Scott Ireland, Debbie Teter, Sandra Pospisil and Bruce Baker
Window: What is this recall election about?
Water Warriors: With residents throughout the city struggling to pay summer water bills that often exceeded car payments and even monthly home mortgage payments and pleas for relief being ignored by city leaders, a grassroots effort began last summer to recall those on the city council who failed to support lower water rates (former mayor Atchison, current mayor Seitz, and councilors Skulley and Voelz). As members of the Westminster Water Warriors group walked nearly every street in the city to gather support for the recall effort they observed firsthand the negative impact the excessive water rates have had on the city and its residents from the numerous brown and dying lawns to the heartbreaking stories of those deciding whether to pay their water bill or to purchase needed food or medicine.
Westminster city staff have said that the water rate model is necessary to finance critical utilities infrastructure, such as replacing the Semper Water Treatment Facility. Do you agree with that analysis by city staff? If not, why?
What we do know is that we were told for years that the city’s water delivery system and infrastructure were in good shape and adequate to support future planned growth. Then suddenly it wasn’t. We also know that Westminster’s current water rates are unreasonably high and simply aren’t competitive with surrounding cities. We also know that the city is very good at marketing and delivering only the message that they want its residents to hear, including convincing some that the only way to ensure future clean drinking water is to make extraordinary financial sacrifices now.
The recall election was ultimately secured by a few signatures on Voelz’s recall petition. Meanwhile, it will cost the city up to $250,000 to run this recall election, which is for a council seat that is up for election in November. Do these facts challenge the justification for a recall election?
The right to recall is a fundamental right of our democracy … $250,000 for a special election is a lot of money, but compared to what? Compared to the over $50 million that the city took in last year in water sales alone? Is Jon Voelz more concerned about saving residents money or in saving his job on city council? Clearly, it’s the latter, or otherwise, he would have resigned his position just like former mayor Atchison did. It was Jon Voelz’s choice whether to try to keep his position by prevailing in a special election or whether to eliminate the expense and need for an election altogether by simply resigning.
Both groups involved in the recall have received substantial support from outside the community. The Water Warriors hired former Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, a Republican, as the group’s attorney. Defend Westminster has received donations from prominent politicians and political groups in the wider region, many of which are Democrat-affiliated. At this point, how much of this local dispute has stayed local?
The Westminster Water Warriors group is supported entirely and solely by the financial contributions and tireless volunteer hours of hundreds of Westminster residents of both political parties who are concerned about their excessive water bills and the direction their city seems to be going. While Defend Westminster has received most of its financial and legal support from Democrats outside the city, the Water Warriors have received absolutely no outside help save for the legal assistance that they paid for, which was only necessary because of mistakes made by the city clerk (in erroneously rejecting entire sets of petitions) and to defend against the superfluous protests and legal appeals that were subsequently made by the Jon Voelz team -- all of which only served to bleed the Water Warriors group of limited financial resources and to delay the recall election by six months.
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