Editorial: Fort Collins should reject measure to create full-time pay for council, mayor

Fort Collins voters will decide on April 2 whether to approve a ballot measure calling for full-time pay for city council members and the mayor.

If approved, the citizen-led initiative — Charter Amendment 1 — would mean that council members and the mayor would receive $74,000 to $78,000 annually, according to city staff analysis reported by the Fort Collins Coloradoan. Council members would have to report monthly on their activities.

The measure is backed by Fort Collins Full Time Council, headed by council candidate Fred Kirsch. It’s opposed by a group known as Keep City Council for Citizens.

Kirsch argues that the current part-time system makes it impossible for council members to keep abreast of the issues while maintaining separate full-time jobs. He also argues that full-time pay makes service on council attractive to a wider range of would-be candidates, some of whom might find the current part-time structure too demanding on top of full-time jobs.

Currently, council members receive $815 per month, with the mayor receiving $1,224 monthly.

The new structure would be a first in Colorado. Denver’s “strong mayor” system employs a full-time council and mayor but lacks the city manager position used by Fort Collins, Greeley, Loveland, Boulder and many other communities.

Opponents of the measure argue that changing the system would be costly and is unnecessary. A full-time council would cost about $500,000 annually, they note.

Additionally, the structure would actually preclude many talented people from serving on the council, when their livelihood would be determined by voters. Being suddenly out of a job is a big risk for someone considering giving up a current job.

Fort Collins’ current system represents a city-manager system, whereby the city manager — appointed by the city council — handles the administrative functions of the city. It’s served Fort Collins well, as evidenced by the city winning the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 2017.

As noted by the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce, Charter Amendment 1 is “a ‘solution’ in search of a problem.”

As the chamber notes in a position paper on the measure: “Proponents of this measure say low city council pay limits who can run. The evidence says otherwise. Single moms, pregnant women with jobs, retirees, married fathers with school-aged children, professors, and self-employed people have served on the city council from recent memory. Then look at the large number of people currently running. There’s no real barrier.”

Charter Amendment 1 represents sheer folly. We urge citizens to vote “no.”

Fort Collins voters will decide on April 2 whether to approve a ballot measure calling for full-time pay for city council members and the mayor.

If approved, the citizen-led initiative — Charter Amendment 1 — would mean that council members and the mayor would receive $74,000 to $78,000 annually, according to city staff analysis reported by the Fort Collins Coloradoan. Council members would have to report monthly on their activities.

The measure is backed by Fort Collins Full Time Council, headed by council candidate Fred Kirsch. It’s opposed by a group known as Keep City Council for Citizens.

Kirsch argues that the current part-time system makes it impossible for council members to keep abreast of the issues while maintaining separate full-time jobs. He also argues that full-time pay makes service on council attractive to a wider range of would-be candidates, some of whom might find the current part-time structure too demanding on top of full-time jobs.

Currently, council members receive $815 per month, with the mayor receiving $1,224 monthly.

The new structure would be a first in Colorado. Denver’s “strong mayor” system employs a full-time council and mayor but lacks the city manager position used by Fort Collins, Greeley, Loveland, Boulder and many other communities.

Opponents of the measure argue that changing the system would be costly and is unnecessary. A full-time council would cost about $500,000 annually, they note.

Additionally, the structure would actually preclude many talented people…