Well, you can’t blame Mayor Nick Gradisar for trying.
Gradisar has been an outspoken supporter of plans to end the city’s contract with Black Hills Energy and replace the company with a government-run electricity provider. And he recently attempted to get members of the Pueblo City Council to give the appearance that they share his views.
Gradisar is unhappy because a group called Pueblo CARES, which supports Black Hills, has collected about $700,000 in contributions. So he asked the council to pass a resolution, requesting that Pueblo CARES disclose the source of those contributions.
We’ve got to admit that we’re curious about that ourselves. Speculation is that Black Hills has supplied most, if not all, of that money itself. And we don’t think it’s unreasonable for Pueblo residents to want to know that information.
But, like so many of the city’s actions related to municipalization, Gradisar’s request to the council feels more like a political ploy than a genuine search for the truth.
The council doesn’t have the legal authority to force Pueblo CARES to release details about its contributors. If getting the donor list really were the goal, then Gradisar or one of his associates could file legal action in court. As a lawyer, Gradisar knows that all too well.
However, if the council had chosen to take a position regarding the contributions, then some in the community might have believed, correctly or incorrectly, that council members were in agreement that Black Hills needs to be replaced.
And it’s clear that council members are not in agreement on that point. Although they voted unanimously to put the municipalization referendum on the May 5 ballot, that’s not the same as saying they’re all in support of a “yes” vote on the referendum question itself.
In fact, council members Dennis Flores and Lori Winner have stated publicly that they are not supporting the referendum. Others may have reservations as well.
By a 4-3 vote, the council wisely decided not to take a position on the contributions issue.
We’re still hoping council members will take a stance on whether the city should assume control of the electric service. This is a major decision that would commit the city to spending hundreds of millions of dollars over many years to provide a service that most people consider essential to everyday life.
As we’ve said before, we feel council members owe it to the their constituents to provide some guidance on this important issue. That doesn’t mean voters necessarily will agree with the council’s position, but it’s information that should be available before the votes are cast.
Flores, the council’s president, said he’s hoping there will be a vote on such a resolution before the ballots start arriving in voters’ mailboxes next week. That would be welcome.
Meanwhile, it’s hard to feel too sorry for Gradisar and other referendum supporters within city government for claiming Black Hills has put its thumb on the scales with regard to the referendum campaign.
When city officials said they planned to “study” the issue of whether to municipalize electric service months ago, we were hoping it would be an objective process aimed at getting the best data available about the pros and cons of taking that step.
Instead, we’ve seen Gradisar and others cherry pick information they feel supports the case for a city-run electric service, while conveniently ignoring other facts that don’t.
So Pueblo CARES plans to spend a bunch of money trying to counteract the efforts of a city government led by a man who seems determined to end Black Hills’ contract? Why are we not surprised by that?