Recall election litigation moves forward

Cross Currents”: A column by Bill Christopher
Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 3/8/21

They say the wheels of justice grind way too slow. That is true in the pending litigation brought against the City of Westminster by the Westminster Water Warriors. The plaintiff is fighting the …

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Recall election litigation moves forward

Posted

They say the wheels of justice grind way too slow.

That is true in the pending litigation brought against the City of Westminster by the Westminster Water Warriors. The plaintiff is fighting the clock as far as reaching a successful court decision to then get on with the actual recall election of Mayor Atchison and City Council members Seitz, Skulley and Voelz.

Adams County District Court Judge Kyle Seedorf held a conference on Feb. 25th focused on pursuing summary judgment.

However, the attorney representing the city through the city’s insurance pool, CIRSA, wanted a hearing in case of appeal. You can quickly see where this is heading as far as dragging out the decision on whether or not there are legal grounds to hold the recall election. An appeal of the trial court’s decision is on the city’s radar and will drag this litigation on and on.

Debbie Teter, a representative of the Water Warriors, stated, “Time is not on our side and the city knows this.”

The timing could be very interesting

Basically, the needed evidence to decide on whether the city clerk exceeded her authority in throwing out so many signatures due to a variety of minor flaws is already before the court.

Judge Seedorf has set the dates of April 7 and 9 for the hearing. It’s important to keep in mind the City Charter provision (Section 3.18) which addresses the situation if there was to be a special election within 90 days of the city’s regular election. In such overlapping timelines, the Charter mandates that “the Council shall postpone and consolidate the recall election with such other City elections.”

The election of the mayor and three city council members will take place on Nov. 2 per standard procedure. If the recall election were to take place later than August 3, it would be consolidated into the Nov. 2 date. Wouldn’t that be special! It raises some interesting questions that I do not know how to answer.

Solving the pandemic should not be political

I simply don’t get it. A recent Monmouth University poll showed only 39% of Republicans have either received the COVID vaccine or plan to get it. However, in general, Republicans are quick to push for opening schools, relaxing regulations to open more businesses or more fully open ones already open and to not wear face masks.

I know your leader doesn’t pay attention to scientific facts, but don’t you care about your families, the kids in your children’s school or your business associates? Oh, you were curious about the response from Democrats? The same survey showed 72% saying they are pro-vaccination and got it or will get it.

Hey Republicans, this unaffiliated voter doesn’t get your line of thinking.

City announces modifications in utility billing

Turning to Westminster’s high water rates, something must have sunk in at City Hall. City staff has rolled out a multi-faceted plan to help keep the 2022 water and sewer rate increases down.

Did you get that? The rates are going up AGAIN next year. That means Mayor Herb and the three followers (Seitz, Skulley and Voelz) will likely vote once again for higher water and sewer rates.

There are two policy changes they plan to implement which they say are in response to customer feedback. First, beginning later this year, everyone’s utility billing will be based on a 30-day cycle. Secondly, water usage will be calculated on a per-gallon rate; not the current 1,000 gallons rate.

Neither of these practices will save you any money, but perhaps it will make some customers more comfortable with the credibility of the billing system.

Proposals to modify the impact of utility rate increases

Two other measures mentioned can play a role in impacting the water rates.

The first proposal going to City Council in mid-March is a recommendation to partially tap into the Rate Stabilization Reserve cash balance, which currently has a balance of approximately $17 million. This account is intended to help offset lost income when there is a rainy season and lawn irrigation demands are down.

Another measure would have the city reworking its schedule of utility infrastructure projects to push some of them farther out in time. The main exception to those delays is that the new water treatment plant project, Water 2025, would not be slowed. As you might expect, this project is the most costly among water capital improvements.

I am delighted to learn that the light bulb came on for city staff to re-evaluate the need and timetable for each utility infrastructure project. I have been harping on this very point for more than a year. I have thought their timetable and magnitude of projects have been overly zealous and overly cautious.

The final measure mentioned reflects several future financial projections based on current market conditions which are more favorable than previously used. These have to do with bond financing of utility infrastructure projects over the next 20 years.

Staff predicts reduced costs of over $200 million over that period of time.

By the way, do you have any ideas on why these measures popped up now? I do. In a word - ELECTION.

Seitz, Skulley and Voelz don’t want any high water or sewer rate increases approved during the election campaign as such action would be detrimental to their chance of getting elected.

Extending school year makes good sense

Kudos to Westminster Public Schools leaders for providing a solution to the lost learning that students have experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Like school districts everywhere, the virus made students switch back and forth between in-class learning and virtual learning.

The District has announced its plan to extend the school year an extra 12 days, to June 11.

The voluntary opportunity has received strong support from WPS parents with an approximate 67% response in favor of the additional learning opportunity. It’s a good way to partially resolve the “lost learning” experience of too many youth. When you are handed lemons; make lemonade and Superintendent Pam Swanson and the School Board did just that!

Walk the talk

This one is too good to pass up. You will recall two “fresh in your mind” situations with elected officials who shot themselves in the proverbial foot over ill-timed travel.

First, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and more recently Texas U.S. Senator Ted Cruz learned the hard way that someone’s watching when you head out of town during tenuous situations.

Hancock had just re-emphasized how important it was to stay home and not travel during the Thanksgiving holiday to avoid possible exposure to the COVIDd-19 virus. He then hops on a plane to meet family members out-of-state to spend the holiday.

In the case of Cruz, he flew to Cancun, Mexico with his family for a family vacation during the severe weather and power outage which occurred across Texas.

I suppose the lesson learned for elected officials is not only to check your crystal ball for possible catastrophes when booking a trip but remember to “walk the talk.

Bill Christopher is a former Westminster city manager and RTD board member. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.

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