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Several weeks ago, I wrote a letter about my intention to file a referendum on the City of Salida Ordinance 2022-24, which increased taxes on all Short Term Rentals. Much has changed since then.

I simultaneously sent that letter to the Mountain Mail and Council. I requested help from the Salida Clerk’s Office in guiding me through the referendum filing process but received no response. After a week, I asked again for help. I was informed the City of Salida had refused my right to a referendum, claiming the Ordinance in question was “administrative” not “legislative”. [In my opinion] It was obvious their delay in responding to me until during the year-end holidays was intentional, designed to leave me no time to seek legal counsel to determine the legality of their actions.

In addition, Council had filed emergency status, meaning the ordinance would take effect Jan 1, 2023, instead of the customary 30-day delay to allow for a referendum. This rarely used emergency status usually applies to fire and flood responses. You know, dire emergencies. Despite council inaction for years, they are now declaring affordable housing an emergency.

Regardless, Council scheming and slow responses allowed me no time to seek a legal opinion. And any legal proceeding I filed would take years. Legal costs mean I would lose even if I won. Meanwhile, the City Attorney, who made the decision to apply the doubly bogus “emergency administrative” strategy, would be rewarded by getting paid with our tax money to defend her own questionable actions. The system is truly rigged against the ordinary citizen.

What’s a lady to do? In seeking a solution, I became aware of the initiative process. A referendum repeals an ordinance. Using an initiative, I could instead repeal and replace ordinance 2022-24. I could write my own ordinance which defined a reasonable, rational level of taxes on STRs. I would still need to get petition signatures to place my initiative on the ballot of a special election.

After I informed the city of my intention to file an initiative and asked for help to guide me through the process, I again received no response. I approached the City of Salida Clerk and received what I can only call the cold shoulder. Apparently, city services are reserved for those who engage in city-approved activities. Those attempting to revise council action do not receive favorable, or even neutral treatment.

Council will tell you this issue was already decided by 2A and 2B on the Nov 8 ballot. My response is they placed these issues on the ballot at the last possible moment and left almost no time for opponents to educate the public.

Over the next weeks we will define the terms in the [potential proposed] new ordinance, then be asking for Salida voters to sign a petition to place this issue on the ballot. My sincere request is that people keep an open mind and examine the issues before deciding where they stand.

Kalen Steeves

Salida

Editor’s Note: All references to delays in the city’s response to Steeves as being unresponsive are the letter-writer’s opinion. No proof has been offered to Ark Valley Voice to support those conclusions or her claims of “double bogus” timing or the claim that “the system is truly rigged against the ordinary citizen.” The city’s placement of ballot questions on the ballot met all official timetables. At the time she sent it to the city, and to the Mountain Mail, Steeves did not share the letter she references with Ark Valley Voice.