BY FREDA MIKLIN
It’s been a decade since a race for the position of mayor of Cherry Hills Village drew more than two candidates. This November, there will be three. Incumbent Mayor Russell Stewart, Mayor Pro Tem Katy Brown, and CHV resident Jenn Diffendal, who previously did volunteer work with the city’s police department, have filed candidate affidavits to run for CHV mayor in the November 8 election.
The Villager reached out to the three candidates. We asked them why they are running, what they hope to accomplish, and their position on the two ballot issues CHV residents will be asked to vote on in November. One of the ballot issues concerns sales tax on remote sales. The other one asks if voter approval should be required for the sale of public trails and/or open spaces.
Mayor Stewart, who has served two two-year terms and is limited to one more, told us,
“Fiscal Responsibility. I hope by the end of my next term to leave the Village with a viable plan to maintain solvency in the General Fund and pay off the existing Certificates of Participation (bonds) through 2042. In 2017 the City – with no public discussion and no citizen vote – borrowed $11.5 million using COPs without a feasible plan to repay the long-term debt. The 2022 Annual Budget now discloses that “if revenues and expenditures increase as projected, the . . . General Fund will be depleted in 2032.” I support the ballot proposal to extend the 3.5% sales tax to remote sellers to keep the Village financially solvent at least through 2032. When first running for Mayor in 2018 I opposed using COPs to evade TABOR’s taxpayer voting requirements that apply to municipal bonds, and I promised to “give citizens a vote on whether to create multiple-year debt.” I support the 2022 ballot proposal on open space because it would have required voter approval in 2017 before the issuance of $11.5 million in COPs.
Property Tax Relief. I hope to honor the City’s 2002 promise to taxpayers that part of the revenue realized from withdrawing from South Suburban Parks and Recreation District would be used to reduce property taxes. I support returning 2 mills of the 7.4 mills of restricted revenue (about $286 annually for a two-million-dollar home) that the City has been receiving since exiting SSPRD. Unlike revenue obtained from sales taxes, restricted revenues cannot legally be transferred to the General Fund or used for public safety or other non-park expenses.”
Mayor Pro Tem Brown, who is completing her second four-year term on the city council, shared that she, “is focusing on her record of championing open space, public safety, and financial stability in her bid for Mayor of Cherry Hills Village. Having more than 14 years of volunteer service to Cherry Hills Village, including 10 years as a City Council member,” she feels that she “brings a depth of knowledge and perspective to the position. Most importantly, (she) brings…the demonstrated leadership necessary to deliver…large projects on-time, under-budget and without raising taxes.” As an example, Brown points to the fact that, “Last year, (she) successfully led the effort to save Quincy Farm as a public treasure and to partner with the Cherry Hills Land Preserve on promoting the Farm as a public natural space.”
On the two ballot issues, Brown told The Villager,
“Sales Tax Code Update: I support the Council referred ballot initiative to update the City’s sales tax code to collect sales tax from remote sellers. Our current code is outdated and not consistent with current law or other Colorado cities. Many vendors are already collecting sales tax today in order to comply with current state law despite the City’s current sales tax code. I feel this measure will make our Code consistent with marketplace realities and current law.
Parks, Trails, and Open Space Protection: I support the citizen-lead initiative to change the City’s charter to require voter approval for the transfer of public parks, trails, or open space. In fact, I helped circulate the petition. In my tenure on Council, Cherry Hills Village residents have consistently demonstrated that our parks, trails, and open spaces are a defining element of the unique character of our community. I strongly support the community’s desire to be guaranteed the opportunity for input into any decision to sell, give, or otherwise transfer our public open spaces.”
Candidate Jenn Diffendal responded to our email but declined to include answers to any of our questions, including her position on the two citywide ballot issues.
In addition to the mayor’s seat, city council representative districts two, four and six will also be up for election in November. There will be competitive elections for all three positions. We will have a detailed report on those races in an upcoming issue of The Villager.