Out-of-state petition circulators collected almost 65 percent of the verified signatures required to put Issue 300 on the Colorado Springs ballot last fall, an analysis of the petitions on file in the City Clerk’s Office shows.
“They leave and then we stumble down the road of unintended consequences,” said Richard Skorman, a downtown businessman and former city council member.
Issue 300, which was authored by anti-tax advocate Douglas Bruce, effectively ended the Stormwater Enterprise.
Vice Mayor Larry Small said Thursday the measure will also reduce the money available in the city’s general fund by roughly $100 million or the next eight years or so. “It’s going to have a huge impact.”
Bruce has asked me not to email him or call him ever again so I couldn’t get his input for this piece.
The out-of-state circulators, who came to Colorado Springs to gather signatures for the Bruce-backed measure, as well as three anti-tax measures that will be on the statewide ballot in November, won’t talk about the organization of the petition drives or how they wound up in Colorado Springs.
“Here’s the deal. We’re in politics. We do petitions. And one of the things this fraternity does is we don’t talk about what we do. Don’t call me back again,” said Steve Rickabaugh, contacted on his mobile telephone this week.
Former Gazette staffer Perry Swanson did a computer analysis of the petitions. That analysis shows that Rickabaugh collected 2,259 verified signatures, or 15.1 percent, of the signatures verified for Issue 300.
Six of the out-of-state circulators – including Rickabaugh — lived in an apartment house Bruce owns on Boulder Street, according to affidavits on file with the City Clerk’s Office.
To most people, the signature-gathering process seems like the very bedrock of grassroots democracy. Reflecting that sentiment, U.S. Supreme Court noted a few years back noted that the right to petition is at “the zenith of our system of ordered liberties.”
But these days, petition drives, particularly when they deal with money issues, are cloaked in secrecy and often resemble stealth campaigns where both the financial backers and nomadic circulators prefer to remain anonymous.
“We’re putting issues on the ballot. We don’t want reporters getting involved,” said one veteran petition collector who asked that his name not be used because it could hurt his ability to make a living.
Opponents of the statewide measures – known as Amendment 60, Amendment 61, and Proposition 101 — have filed campaign finance complaints with the Secretary of State’s Office, demanding to know who the backers are. The complaints are scheduled to be heard in late March or early April.
Larry Bradshaw, another veteran petition circulator who came to Colorado Springs last summer to gather signatures for Issue 300 and the three statewide measures, lived for a while at the Chateau Motel on south Nevada Avenue.
Bradshaw and another man named Richard Riscol, who is still living at the motel, collected 1,702 verified signatures for Issue 300, or 11.4 percent of the total.
Bradshaw and Riscol were unwilling to discuss their activities. “I don’t talk about my work. I like to keep my business private,” Bradshaw said when contacted on his mobile telephone. Riscol also declined to comment through the front-desk clerk.
Jane Harwell, another former Boulder Street resident, would not say anything at all about her petition-gathering efforts.
“How’d you get my number?” she asked before hanging up.
Even the notaries public who notarized the affidavits that the circulators turned in with their petition packets were tight-lipped.
Jennifer Gleason, contacted in person at her residence on South Willamette, said, “I did it as a part-time job.”
She then opened the front door to her apartment house. “You can go now.”
(Perry Swanson contributed to this report.)