*Note: This essay was published in the Pikes Peak Bulletin print edition on October 31, 2019. It can also be found online here, an image of the column is included below.
The MACH matters because it’s how we hold on to what makes Manitou Springs special. It matters, not just to the hundreds of our neighbors that have stepped up to support the arts and our unique heritage through the measure—but also to the non-profits that serve our community every day.
Take the Emma Crawford Coffin Races and Festival this past weekend, put on by our Chamber of Commerce, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to serve Manitou. The Chamber receives direct, ongoing funding that subsidizes a portion of its budget from the City of Manitou Springs. Without such financial support—the City to a non-profit—we wouldn’t have the frighteningly fun Coffin Races, part of what makes Manitou, Manitou.
Even scarier than the Coffin Races is how wrong the MACH opponents are. The past couple weeks in this publication, Bob Todd and his co-writers (Jay Rohrer, Becky Elder, and Susan Wolbrueck, all city council members acting in their personal capacity), have written against the MACH. As terrifying as this potential violation of Colorado’s Open Meetings Law is, with these four members gathering outside the public eye, let’s set that aside for now and focus on their misleading and incorrect claims.
They charge that public funds are “not to subsidize nonprofit expenses on a recurring basis.” That statement is false, as the Coffin Race/Chamber of Commerce example demonstrates.
It’s not just basic policy they seem confused about, it’s basic math too. They rail against “raising taxes 9 percent” and claim it would threaten “affordable living.” This argument is as preposterous as shouting at a salesman over skyrocketing windshield wiper charges when everyone knows what matters is the car’s sticker price.
Let’s break this down. Overall local sales tax has four parts: state, county, special, and city. It is true that the MACH (2D) will raise the city sales tax component from 3.6 to 3.9 percent. (Which Todd and company erroneously call “9 percent”—for fun, please take out your phone’s calculator and divide 3.9 by 3.6, and you’ll see the answer is 1.083, which is 8.3 percent, properly rounded down to 8 percent.)
But city sales tax is just a component—what matters is the overall local sales tax rate, which would increase only from 8.73 to 9.03 percent. And, remember, this 0.3 percent increase gets us back to the way it was for the past decade-plus (prior to December 31, 2018).
They throw around huge numbers to scare MACH supporters, like “there will be a $1800 tax on a $20,000 car.” Again, this is misleading, because the overall sales tax increase is just 0.3 percent. That’s a $60 increase in the tax paid on a $20,000 car (go ahead, please check the math—multiply 0.003 by 20,000 and, voila, you get 60).
Of course, the car example is extreme. Much more day-to-day would be the purchase of a latte, a penny of which would go to support arts, culture, and heritage efforts here in Manitou.
With errors as frightening as this, it’s clear some City Council members won’t need costumes this Halloween. Their arguments are scary enough.
Because we’re in the final stretch, with the vote coming next Tuesday, November 5th, it’s worth reviewing some fundamentals.
First, you can find the MACH (2D) measure on the back of your ballot. And your ballot needs to be dropped in the ballot box next to City Hall on or before that date. (Call 575-VOTE or go to www.EPCVotes.com for information.)
Second, this vote isn’t just about boxes to check, it’s about who we are as a community. It’s yes-or-no time, on several levels.
A vote for the MACH is a step toward fixing our broken Carnegie library building, something life-long Manitou resident Joanne Garrison, who spoke up earlier in this series, would love to see. A vote against the MACH is a choice to continue to routinely discriminate against the disabled by endorsing status quo at the only non-ADA compliant library in the Pikes Peak region.
A vote for the MACH supports many of Manitou’s largest, longest-serving non-profits. It also supports commerce, creativity and culture in our community through a competitive grant program, ensuring that Manitou maintains its reputation as an artsy-cultural island in a sea of same-same.
Music-lovers will find MACH aid to the growing Manitou Music Foundation, an organization we were also introduced to a few weeks back, a reason to rock. A vote against the MACH is a choice to weaken Manitou’s edge.
Because, don’t forget, it was a non-profit with public support that put on the Coffin Races this past weekend. And can you imagine Manitou without the tale of Emma Crawford?
In the end, that’s what makes Manitou Springs special—its story.
And the MACH supports those that tell Manitou’s story, which matters if you’re a resident, a citizen, a tourist, or a business owner. We’ve all got a stake in Manitou’s story. So don’t be afraid this Halloween week to set aside the scary counterarguments, join your friends and neighbors, and vote for the MACH (2D).