Apr 052005
 
Authors: James Baetke

The dynamics of the Fort Collins government were sent into whirlwind Tuesday evening when voters elected four new faces to the seven-member City Council.

"The people have recognized we need to change direction," said newly elected Mayor Doug Hutchinson.

Current council members Eric Hamrick for District 3 and Marty Tharp for District 5 – both districts heavily populated with CSU students – were not re-elected.

Diggs Brown beat out Hamrick with 59 percent of the vote and Kelly Ohlson, past City Council member and mayor in the 1980s, was elected by 55 percent of the vote over Tharp.

"I am very excited. I really believe 'Together We Can,'" Hutchinson said, using his campaign slogan.

Hutchinson has his agenda laid out. Starting this morning, the newly elected mayor is ready to "attack the problems" by setting the groundwork to some of the tribulations he would like to see fixed in the city, Hutchinson said.

Second-leading vote-getter Bill Bertschy, director of CSU's Pingree Park Campus, was battling for mayor after he was term-limited in his District 1 seat. Ben Manvel, a retired CSU math professor, will now occupy his former seat.

"I am really disappointed. I honestly was shocked. I really felt like I was going to continue on as mayor," Bertschy said. "People were looking for a change and I am sorry they went for the negative."

By this, Bertschy meant voters were shying away from the incumbents in favor of new representatives.

Ohlson, Brown, Manvel and Hutchinson are all newcomers to the council, leaving two council members entering their second term.

Outgoing Mayor Ray Martinez said this new council will open new horizons and fix some of the problems that loom over the city. The new council will "strike a stronger balance," he said.

"In essence, the public fired Eric Hamrick and they fired Bill Bertschy," Martinez said.

Martinez said he was happy to see Hutchinson win, since Martinez endorsed his candidacy.

"Doug Hutchinson was the obvious candidate to win," Martinez said.

Not only did voters get to choose council members, but they were also faced with deciding on three ballot initiatives.

The issue of fluoridation has been a boiling matter for months. Voters chose to keep fluoride in the city's water.

Proponents of ballot issue 2, which was a citizen-initiative to discontinue fluoride in city water, said fluoride is unsafe, especially for babies and small children, because it contains trace amounts of harmful toxins. Opponents said the continued practice of adding fluoride to the water is helpful in preventing cavities.

The fluoridation treatment in Fort Collins water originated in 1967. Two months ago, the Larimer County Board of Health voted unanimously to keep the fluoride in the water supply while City Council voted 4-3 in 2003 to keep it in.

Ballot issue 1 won by 72 percent of the vote, meaning the city will keep the 2.25 percent grocery tax.

People in favor of the grocery tax said eliminating it would impair vital city services, while those who proposed the ballot issue said it was unfair to the low-income shoppers. The tax was implemented in 1968 and is funneled into the city general fund.

Evan Hyatt, treasurer for the No on 1 action committee, was shocked by how wide their victory was.

"We never saw this issue as a lot of waste. We think it is a fair tax," Hyatt said.

Voters also passed a less controversial ballot initiative 3 that calls for a .25 percent sales tax increase for street maintenance.

As a losing candidate, Tharp, a retired CSU technical journalism professor, would like to have been re-elected, but she said she is ready to find "new outlets" for her enthusiasm in the city's political atmosphere. Tharp credits Ohlson's win with keen campaign strategies and tactics, maneuvers that sank her in the end.

"This was a nail-biter. I really did not know which way it would go," Tharp said.

Historically, Tharp has supported student views on neighborhood issues, such as the three-unrelated ordinance. She has publicly said she is open to both students and the neighborhoods on the issues and said she wants to shy away from discrimination against university students.

Now that the election has come to a close, Tharp is ready for a rest.

"We are going to toodle around in our RV like retired people should," Tharp said.

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