Tuesday, October 2, 2012

UPDATE: Don't cut our military, county commissioners say

Posted By on Tue, Oct 2, 2012 at 11:59 AM

The city was aware that having three Councilors on the trip to Washington, D.C., would require notice of meetings. Those notices, however, might not have been posted in a timely way, because the person in charge of doing that was out of the office due to illness.

We've not heard back from the county.

———-ORIGINAL POST, MONDAY, OCT. 1, 2:35 P.M.—————

U.S._Capitol.jpg

Don't go looking for members of the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners this week. Four of the five are in Washington, D.C., on a trip hosted by the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, formerly the Chamber and EDC.

Commissioners Amy Lathen, Sallie Clark, Peggy Littleton and Darryl Glenn are there through Thursday, along with communications director Dave Rose. Only Dennis Hisey stayed home.

Colorado Springs City Council members Merv Bennett, Val Snider and Brandy Williams also are attending.

Which raises the question of whether these folks will form a quorum at any time during the five-day trip when they meet with lawmakers or regulators. The Colorado Open Meetings Act defines a meeting as "any kind of gathering convened to discuss public business." It further states that all meetings of a quorum, or three or more members, whichever is fewer, at which public business is discussed or formal action might be taken, are considered open. An open meeting requires 24 hours public notice be given.

For commissioners, four definitely creates a quorum. For councilors, the rule of three applies. We've asked the county and city to explain how meetings during the trip are being handled so that the open meetings law isn't violated. We'll let you know what we hear back from them.

Meantime, Rose says the priorities for commissioners include lobbying for more money from the Natural Resource Conservation Service, which already has provided $200,000 for reclamation of the Waldo Canyon Fire burn area on private land. But it's not just money they're asking for. "We also want their planning and expertise," Rose says in an interview.

Commissioners also want the federal government to fund the Interstate 25 and Cimarron Street interchange.

The highest priority, though, is sequestration — the Budget Control Act of 2011 — the automatic cuts in defense spending due Jan. 2 unless a different budget bill is passed. The bill was approved by lawmakers as a condition of allowing the government to increase its debt ceiling.

Board of county commissioners sequestration
  • Lathen: Wants to preserve military spending.

"We believe 18,000 Colorado jobs are at risk," Rose says, referring to military positions. An additional 42,000 jobs created because of those military jobs also could disappear, he says.

"The military is already in the process of trimming its ranks," he says. "We know it, because we're ending up with more 25-year-olds at DHS [the Department of Human Services]" seeking benefits such as food stamps.

"We want Congress to not do the automatic sequestration," he says, but rather find other ways to cut.

According to the Southern Colorado Economic Forum report issued last Friday, active-duty and civilian employment at military installations grew to 61,501 in 2011 from 61,192 in 2010. Fort Carson is due to see 2,700 soldiers moving here late this year and early next to staff the newly created Combat Aviation Brigade.

Moreover, "federal expenditures account for approximately 50 percent of the Gross Metropolitan Product in El Paso County," the economic forum report says. "The community appears to have a disproportionately high dependence on the military."

That's why the Budget Control Act of 2011 is such a scary thought. To comply with the act, Congress will have to cut $1.7 trillion, half of which would come from the military, the economic forum reports.

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