Mayor Steve Bach is demanding that he be given the power to appoint members to the foundation that will oversee proceeds from leasing city-owned Memorial Health System. And if he isn't, he will "actively oppose" the Aug. 28 ballot measure where voters will be asked to approve the lease, the Gazette reports.
Bach's comment came during a meeting with Gazette editorial writer Wayne Laugesen and was reported on the newspaper's website this morning.
At stake are hundreds of millions of dollars over the 40-year term of the lease, starting with a $74 million upfront payment and $5.6 million annually thereafter. Bach has made no secret that he wants to promote building a sports stadium in the Southwest Urban Renewal Area that borders downtown, and why not use Memorial money there to help developers along their way?
The city may or may not be subject to the Hospital Transfer Act, which dictates how money from sale or lease of a public hospital may be used. Attorney General John Suthers has said even if leased, Memorial's proceeds must be used for the original charitable purpose of Memorial; i.e., health care. But already city officials are stretching the meaning of that restriction, as we reported here.
Though City Council President Scott Hente isn't ready to accuse Bach of blackmail, he notes in an interview, "The Charter is very clear. The Council appoints all boards and commissions. He’s saying he’s going to withhold his support unless we violate the Charter."
Not gonna happen, Hente suggests. Moreover, Hente says this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance, and that he plans to enthusiastically support the ballot measure to the community.
"I absolutely support the lease," he says. "There’s no ands, ifs or buts about that."
"This is bigger than a payment to the city of Colorado Springs," Hente emphasizes. "This is the future of health care in this community, the future of TRICARE in this community. This will have a profound effect for decades on health care in this community."
The proposed lease, which will be discussed by the Council on Monday, will be posted on the city's website, springsgov.com under the agendas section, by 5 p.m. today.