Colorado City 'deannexes' in mock revote of century-old tally
A highly unofficial “revote” of the century-ago annexation of Colorado City to Colorado Springs went the opposite way this year, with deannexation winning by a margin of about 2 1/2 to 1.
The results were announced Aug. 13 during the annual Founders Day celebration by the Old Colorado City Historical Society (OCCHS).
Commemorating the founding of Colorado City in 1859, the two-hour event also featured a performance by the Legendary Ladies group. The six 8-minute reenactments of “Unconventional Women of the West” included “The Unsinkable” Molly Brown (a Leadville socialite who was acclaimed for heroism when the Titanic went down) and Bonnie Parker (of Bonnie and Clyde fame).
A nonprofit organization, Legendary Ladies dramatizes women who are “often forgotten” in history books, according to provided information. They had previously performed at the 2015 Founders Day and were warmly welcomed back by about 100 attendees in the Old Colorado City History Center.
But audience members reserved their greatest delight for the deannexation news - with grins, laughs, applause and even some shouts.
What made the results so unofficial was that anybody could vote, as often as they wanted, and cash took the place of ballots.
At a penny a vote, the OCCHS made nearly $250 from the light-hearted promotion, which started last April and continued up to the Founders Day event itself.
People could put their money into either of two antique ballot boxes (one saying yes to annexation and the other saying no). The final tally came to 6,914 yes and 17,946 no, revealed OCCHS Treasurer Suzanne Schorsch.
Clear like jars, both ballot boxes had been used in the past for actual elections, according to society Vice President Don Hansen, who portrayed 1890s Colorado City Mayor Charles Stockbridge for the day.
Schorsch said she was surprised at the margin of difference. Such a sentiment from Westsiders wasn't that unexpected, but the majority of votes came in during Territory Days over Memorial Day weekend, which reflects more of the city as a whole, she pointed out - and those votes showed the same kind of 2 1/2- to-1 differential.
Kathy McBride, an OCCHS volunteer and past president, suggested that the visiting voters may have “started thinking what a cute little town it was, and how it shouldn't be part of another city.”
What is now the Old Colorado City historic shopping district was once the centralized downtown for a lightly developed, 280-acre municipality platted around it.
In the 1917 vote, the main arguments for letting the Springs annex Colorado City involved money. The change meant lower taxes and insurance rates, a better deal on utilities and becoming part of a city that was in better financial shape. Despite starting 12 years later (1871), Colorado Springs by 1917 had grown to about 30,000 people, while Colorado City was at 4,000.
But there were discernible philosophical contrasts between the two municipalities, with Colorado Springs seen as more “proper” and upscale and Colorado City as more “wild West” and working class.
The sense of being looked down on persists to this day, with multiple Westside leaders having used the term “red-headed stepchild” over the years to describe the Colorado Springs government attitude toward the Westside, when it comes to city services.
Even now, as Hansen pointed out, comparing the History Center with the downtown Pioneers' Museum, “We don't get city funds like [they do].”
The actual vote by Colorado City residents in 1917 was 638 in favor of annexation and 461 against.
Schorsch's research has convinced her that it would have gone the other way if not for a large number of the town's young men being away to fight in World War I.
“When they came back, they asked, 'What happened to our town?'” she said.
Another Westside historian, Dave Hughes, has expressed a similar belief. In his 1970s book, “Historic Old Colorado City,” he summed up a local belief that if “the boys” hadn't been at war, “the vote would never have carried.”
A leader of Old Colorado City's economic revitalization in the late 1970s, Hughes can even envision (in a tongue-in-cheek way) how denannexation would make modern economic sense.
“Now when the price of gold hits $2,000 an ounce, we can rebuild the other side of Fountain Creek for the Golden Recycle Mill, and reprocess the 14 million tons of gold ore tailings which still assays at .0456 oz. AU per ton,” Hughes proposed in an e-mail after the Founders Day event (choosing to sidestep the fact that Gold Hill Mesa houses now sit on the land above much of those tailings).
“Then we can put up a sign at Limit Street and proclaim Colorado City reborn as its own city,” Hughes went on. “I'll be content with running the Claim Club - the first business association in Colorado City - which hung horse thieves, ran off the Indians and recorded deeds from 1859 on, while getting along with El Paso County government and ignoring Colorado Springs.”
Predictably, Colorado Springs officials have not been particularly amused by the deannexation sentiment. When City Parks Maint-enance Director Kurt Schroeder heard about the “revote” activity earlier this year during a meeting on city upgrades to Bancroft Park, he quipped, “If that happens, then we're done here.”
Asked if a deannexation is even legally possible, Peter Wysocki, the city's Planning and Community Develop-ment director replied, “The answer is yes, but it's very complicated.”
Westside Pioneer article