FoCo City Council shows reluctance to establish a minimum wage

Fort+Collins+City+Hall+Sept.+21%2C+2021.

Collegian | Ryan Schmidt

Fort Collins City Hall Sept. 21, 2021.

Kyra McKinley

Avery Coates, Guest Author

Fort Collins City Council voted to push back the decision to establish a minimum wage for six months at their meeting Nov. 15. This decision resulted from council members not feeling confident in the information they were given to make the changes the council wants to see.

Ordinance No. 140 is based on council feedback, which proposed establishing a minimum wage between $18-$19 within three to four years. The ordinance is based on resident and restaurant engagement and was developed from a study consisting of 1,159 employees, 267 employers and 193 individuals who labeled themselves “other.”

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In the event of this ordinance passing, starting in 2027, Fort Collins residents could also expect to see a 2% floor and a 5% ceiling for minimum wage adjustments to prevent future changes from being too dramatic. Minors would still be able to be paid 15% less than minimum wage, and tipped employee wages could be paid $3.02 less than the set amount.

“This will lead to bigger corporations being able to handle it and smaller businesses being pushed out. I would have to sell almost 60 cups of coffee an hour to meet minimum wage demands.” Adam Mapleton, local business owner 

During public comment on the issue, Fort Collins residents were split. One commenter said they thought an increase in minimum wage is important to residents’ well-being. 

“It is not simply an economic issue but a mental health issue,” Fort Collins resident Silen Wellington said. “When people are treated fairly and paid fairly, they’re less likely to commit suicide.”

Ally Eden, another resident of the city, strongly agreed with Wellington.

“People come before products,” Eden said.

On the opposite side of the argument, Fort Collins’ small business owners have a challenging time supporting the ordinance due to hardships as a result of recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Adam Mapleton, a local business owner, expressed his worries during the meeting. 

“This will lead to bigger corporations being able to handle it and smaller businesses being pushed out,” Mapleton said. “I would have to sell almost 60 cups of coffee an hour to meet minimum wage demands.”

Due to a lack of engagement from citizens and information, many council members felt they could not vote on the issue.

“I am a little concerned about Fort Collins being the only one in our region doing this,” Fort Collins Mayor Jeni Arndt said. “I’m afraid that this tool doesn’t help the people we might want to be helping.”

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Councilmember Kelly Ohlson of District 5 was the sole member who felt this issue needed to be addressed at once. Ohlson wanted to see action and believed pushing off the decision would have a negative impact.

“I don’t trust we’re going to do anything,” Ohlson said. “I thought we had the momentum to do something tonight.”

Ultimately, the council decided to postpone the decision and workshop the ordinance until then. At Tuesday’s meeting, the council also discussed Ordinance No. 136, addressing public nuisances, and Resolution 2022-122, creating an Ad Hoc Council Committee. 

Reach Avery Coates at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @CSUCollegian.