Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Bach conference hits briefly on the good and the controversial

Posted By on Tue, Mar 13, 2012 at 2:27 PM

Steve Cox speaks to the press about cameras.
  • Steve Cox speaks to the press about cameras.

Mayor Steve Bach didn't take any questions at today's monthly press conference, instead leaving most of the talking to his staff.

But at least one controversial issue managed to surface anyway — the push to put cameras in the downtown area to watch citizens.

City Chief of Economic Vitality & Innovation Steve Cox briefly addressed the issue, reminding reporters that the topic will be discussed in more detail at today's City Council meeting. But he did say he believed the cameras were needed, saying: "The only thing we can do if we don't get that force multiplier is to put more police officers in the downtown."

Cox, who noted that video monitoring would be manned by volunteers, but that the feed wouldn't be available to the general public, said he hoped the media would "get on board" with the plan for downtown.

Downtown Solutions Team leader (and local developer) Chuck Murphy also spoke on the camera issue, saying, "Some people think it's an intrusion. I don't think it's an intrusion to anyone who's behaving."

Toward the end of the meeting, Cox also addressed other issues facing downtown.

There were a few interesting tidbits. For instance, Cox said that Homeward Pikes Peak executive director Bob Holmes would be meeting with the city and human services providers soon to talk about the future of homeless services. The mayor has said that he wants to consolidate all those services into a single area, though that seems unlikely given that service providers are not run by the government. (Read more about that idea here.)

Cox also said grants were being looked at to improve the creekside area near downtown.

The rest of the meeting raised fewer eyebrows, with the mayor and his staff noting achievements in core areas. In the mayor's opening statements, he reiterated that his top priorities are creating and saving jobs, transforming city government, and building community.

On the jobs front, Bach noted that he's been visiting primary employers in the area and asking for advice on what other companies might be courted into relocating to the Springs. He's been in talks with the EDC (a branch of the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and EDC) and the Small Business Incubator about nurturing start-ups. On the same note, the mayor and his staff have met with local banks and urged them to increase lending to small-business start-ups in the area.

Bach noted that his administration had seen some successes lately. Both Bal-Seal and Stellar Restaurant Solutions have announced expansions, with Stellar relocating its headquarters to the area. Bach is also working to retain El Paso Corporation, which was recently bought out and could close its Springs branch.

The mayor also highlighted his efforts to reach out to neighboring governments, including his recently formed Pikes Peak Mayors Caucus (a meeting of all local mayors) and meetings with Pueblo leaders and Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Next up to the podium was Donna Nelson, city economic vitality specialist and leader of the Spirit of the Springs initiative. Nelson highlighted her program's achievements.

She noted that the newly created Spirit of the Springs Celebration Awards were leading to more positive press for the city. For instance, two school districts, Academy District 20 and Cheyenne Mountain District 12, both received the awards after they were accredited with distinction by the state.

Spirit of the Springs has also held two rallies, a large-scale Bring a Turkey to Work Day event (for city employees to support Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado), and will soon host a golf tournament at The Broadmoor as a fundraiser. A large-scale viewing party for the opening ceremonies of the Olympics (think a big screen and a festival downtown) is already being organized in partnership with the United States Olympic Committee and the Downtown Partnership.

Nelson has also focused on increasing volunteerism. She's partnering with Fort Carson's Adopt a School Program to bring more retired military, police officers and firefighters into the program, which provides volunteers to help teachers in the classroom. Nelson is also heading an effort to bring new leadership programs to local middle schools and community centers, and she recently organized a series of parks clean-ups. The first was held at Monument Valley Park and attracted large crowds of volunteers.

"My big problem now is I have a ton of volunteers," Nelson said with a smile.

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