Question A could make Glenwood Springs Municipal Airport only city property given specific protections by charter
A special election May 3 could determine whether a resident-initiated petition adds new language to the Glenwood Springs city charter, protecting the Glenwood Springs Municipal Airport from significant changes without voter approval.
A similar petition circulated in 2021, but City Clerk Ryan Muse was not able to verify enough of the petition signatures for the initiative to be added to the November 2021 ballot.
Whereas city-initiated questions on the November ballot asked voters if they would be willing to increase property taxes to pay for a tunnel beneath the airport or airport improvements, the resident-initiated Question A on May’s ballot is asking voters to decide if the airport’s current operations and runway configuration should be protected by the city charter.
Mail-in ballots were sent out by the city April 4, and completed ballots must be delivered to the Garfield County Courthouse, 109 Eighth St., or City Hall, 101 W. Eighth St., by 7 p.m. May 3.
Yes or no?
While city properties are given broad protections within the charter, no other single enterprise is specifically named by the charter.
One change the petition offers is ensuring the airport property can’t be sold without voter approval, but this protection already exists, City Attorney Karl Hanlon said.
“According to section 13.2 of the charter, lands owned and used by the city for park or governmental purposes must go to vote before being sold,” Hanlon said.
City Hall, the community center and the airport all fall under the category of use for governmental or park purposes, he explained.
The second change the petition suggests requires the city to continue owning, operating, repairing and maintaining the airport in at least the general condition and configuration that existed on Jan. 1, 2021, until a majority of voters decide otherwise.
However, the change would not require the city to use funds to accomplish these goals other than those acquired through the airport’s enterprise fund.
If approved, the city could still move forward with building a tunnel under the runway without a public vote, according to the ballot language.
A yes vote would protect the airport from significant changes to its operations and runway length until future voters decide a change is needed.
A no vote would allow the city to continue managing the airport property as it has since the land was donated to the city in the 1930s for a municipal airport.
The Post Independent queried people who supported and opposed the petition language about why voters should approve or deny the ballot language.
Representing the yes vote, airport user and Glenwood Springs resident Gregg Rippy responded:
“Ballot question A is simple: it requires that voters affirmatively approve any sale or change of use of the airport. This protection is afforded to parks and other properties used for governmental purposes as well as water rights.
“On March 1, 1937, the Glenwood Springs City Council approved a resolution stating: Resolution pledging the Municipal Airport of the city of Glenwood Springs will at all times be operated for the public’s benefit.
“Question A reinforces that resolution and empowers voters to have the final say. The airport has proven to be a vital asset, critical to fire safety, medical care, business and tourism. The question does not add any taxes or require that the City expend general fund dollars to the maintenance or for improvements to the airport. It does not prevent the building of South Bridge.
“This question is being referred to the voters by city council after more than 1,000 [people] signed a petition asking that it be put on the ballot. That petition was not certified, but the desire was clear: Let voters have a say on the future of this vital asset.”
Representing the no vote, former mayor and Glenwood Springs resident Leo McKinney responded:
“Just five-and-a-half months ago, the voters of Glenwood Springs were clearly asked to make a value judgment on the public benefit of the airport.
“They spoke distinctly and loudly, which is a rarity these days. By a margin of 62.7% (on 2a) the voters said they don’t want to raise their taxes to directly pay for the enterprise operation. Likewise (on 2b), 79.6% of the voters rejected the very notion of taking on debt to pay for the [airport] improvements. This charter amendment circumvents the will of the voters who have already spoken their minds on the airport, and it binds future generations without a way of paying for it.
“No disrespect is meant to those who disagree or to the users, but the airport is an underperforming asset that has not been shown to directly benefit the majority of city residents. Therefore, it is important that we maintain flexibility and not tie our collective hands. The highest and best use has yet to be determined through a deliberate and objective public process. Amending the charter precludes that process. The safeguard against unpopular choices or the sale of city owned property is always an election.”
Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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