Fort Collins election: Here’s help dissecting the 5 City Charter amendments on the ballot

0
0

Fort Collins voters will decide on five proposed amendments to the City Charter in the April 6 election.

The city initiated all five amendments and considers them to be relatively minor housekeeping items. Minor or not, voter approval is required to make changes to the City Charter.

The amendments are written in legalese, so you may be wondering what each one actually means. Here’s a description of each proposed amendment in a nutshell. 

Election guide:Get to know the candidates and the issues

Charter Amendment No. 1: Mayor pro-tem

Text: Shall Section 4 of Article II of the Charter of the City of Fort Collins, pertaining to the election of the Mayor Pro Tem and other Council organizational matters, be amended to clarify that the election of the Mayor Pro Tem shall occur at the meeting at which newly-elected Councilmembers take the oath of office and further to provide for election by Council of a new Mayor Pro Tem in the event of a resignation from that position?

In other words: This change would clarify when council is supposed to select a new mayor pro-tem and what council is supposed to do after a mayor pro-tem resigns. The mayor pro-tem is a council member who temporarily assumes the mayor’s duties in case of an absence, disability or vacancy.

Charter Amendment No. 2: Campaign finance

Text: Shall Section 8 of Article VIII of the Charter of the City of Fort Collins, pertaining to campaign contributions for city elections, be amended to remove the stated prohibition on campaign contributions and expenditures and instead provide that Council shall by ordinance establish prohibitions on, and requirements for, campaign contributions and expenditures for city elections, in addition to limits on contributions to support or oppose candidates for Council?

In other words: This change would remove a section of the City Charter that bars political parties, city employees, public service corporations and other people or entities “owning, interested in, or intending to apply for any franchise or contract with the city” from making monetary on non-monetary contributions to City Council elections. The city’s existing limits on campaign contributions would remain.

The amendment would add language stating council’s ability “to prohibit such campaign contributions and expenditures as it determines reasonably appropriate” and “to require disclosures and reporting of campaign contributions and expenditures.”

The city is addressing this because of concerns about whether this section should apply to city employees and because of “developments in the law that may impact Section 8’s restrictions,” according to staff materials presented to council.

“The application of Section 8 to city employees was the matter of some discussion during and after the 2019 election,” the staff materials read. “Since the adoption of Section 8 in approximately 1980, there have also been developments in the law that may impact Section 8’s restrictions on who may contribute or expend money or things of value, directly or indirectly, to assist in the election or defeat of a council candidate.”

Fort Collins 2021 mayor’s race:Meet candidates Gerry Horak, Molly Skold and Jeni Arndt

Charter Amendment No. 3: City appropriations

Text: Shall Sections 9 and 11 of Article V of the City of Fort Collins Charter be amended to provide that City Council may make supplemental appropriations from not only the City’s actual and expected revenues in a fiscal year, but also from all other sources of funds the City receives or expects to receive during the fiscal year, and to provide that the City Council may designate by ordinance as non-lapsing its annual and supplemental appropriations for capital projects and for federal, state and private grants and donations until the completion of the capital project or until the earlier of the expiration of the federal, state or private grant or donation or the city’s expenditure of all funds received from such grant or donation, but without limiting the City Council’s ability to terminate earlier any such capital project or federal, state or private grant or donation?

In other words: These changes would clarify a few things related to city funding:

  • Council can pay for city expenditures using funds from sources other than city revenue, including grants and proceeds from debt issuance and borrowing. This change would address the increase in city funds received from grants, donations and debt issuance and borrowing.
  • When council uses grants to fund city spending, that funding doesn’t lapse until the city has either used all the funding or the grant expires, whichever comes first. This change would give the city more flexibility on the expenditure of grants. 

Charter Amendment No. 4: City audit deadline

Text: Shall Section 17 of Article II of the Charter of the City of Fort Collins, requiring an independent audit of city books and accounts at least annually, be amended to increase the time for publication of a summary of such audit to seven (7) months after the end of each fiscal year, instead of five (5) months?

In other words: This change would give the city two more months to finish its annual audit and publish the summary in the Coloradoan. Staff have sometimes had trouble completing the audit within five months of the end of each fiscal year, so they’re asking for additional time.

News in your inbox:Looking for a simple way to get Northern Colorado news? Coloradoan newsletters can help

Charter Amendment No. 5: ‘Chief judge’ title

Text: Shall Section 5 of Article VIII of the Charter of the City of Fort Collins, establishing the Board of Elections, be amended to replace a reference to “Municipal Judge” with “Chief Judge” in conformance with a 2017 update to that title?

In other words: This clean-up item would update the charter to reflect the current title for the judge who presides over the city’s municipal court. The city changed the title from “municipal judge” to “chief judge” in 2017.

Jacy Marmaduke covers government accountability for the Coloradoan. Follow her on Twitter @jacymarmaduke. Support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.