Douglas Bruce, the county commissioner from Colorado Springs whose anti-tax stance and nasty name-calling of public officials and activists is legendary — and who has sponsored quite possibly more lawsuits against government agencies than anyone in the history of the state — is back from his six-week vacation to the Ukraine.
And hopes by his colleagues – that the longtime bachelor would return with a bride — were apparently just wishful thinking. “He’s back, and he’s grumpier than ever,” reports El Paso County Treasurer Sandra Damron.
In fact, the first thing that Bruce did upon returning from his vacation earlier this month, was all but promise to sue the county that he helps oversee.
There’s more.At his first county commissioner meeting, Bruce accused his four fellow Republican colleagues of scheming, in his absence, to increase the county sales tax without voter approval.
Bruce said he has already had lined up a plaintiff, an unidentified business owner who he said was similarly outraged at the thought of what Bruce described as “voluntary servitude” – that is, having to collect taxes without being compensated.
After he was done with his monologue, Commissioners Wayne Williams and Sallie Clark jumped in with rebuttals.
There is no plan to increase the sales tax – much less without voter approval, Clark and Williams said. Rather, the county, short on cash, plans to temporarily reduce the fees that business owners currently get to keep for collecting and handing over county sales taxes. It is perfectly legal, Clark pointed out, and hardly revolutionary.
“It would be unfortunate if one of our commissioners put forth a lawsuit against the county for something that is lawful, and spent additional taxpayer money having to defend something that is lawful,” Clark noted. “That would be a waste of money in of itself.
“I’m not real excited about reducing [the vendor fee], but the money has to come from somewhere,” continued Clark, who owns a bed & breakfast in Colorado Springs and herself would be affected.
“As a business owner, I want to know the roads are paved and the parks are open and [visitors] have a nice community and a safe community to come to. As a business owner, I feel it is something I need to contribute.”
Since his return earlier this month, Bruce has also sued the City of Colorado Springs – for the second time – over a voter initiative he wants to pursue to challenge the city’s new stormwater enterprise fee program, which is expected to raise $15 million a year to pay for drainage projects.
Bruce filed his first lawsuit over the issue after a title-setting board ruled his measure, to overturn the fee, violated city and state laws that require such proposals stick to single topics. That suit was tossed out in early June.
Bruce, author of the 1992 statewide Taxpayer Bill of Rights, is up for reelection next year, and is being challenged by GOP activist Amy Lathen. Rather than run for a second commissioner term, he is reportedly considering a run for the state House of Representatives next year, to replace Rep. Bill Cadman.
Cadman, in turn, is widely expected to run for the state Senate, to replace term-limited Sen. Ron May.
Cara DeGette is a senior fellow at Colorado Confidential, and a columnist and contributing editor at the Colorado Springs Independent. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org