Tuesday, October 8, 2013

City Council calls for survey results, more budget data

Posted By on Tue, Oct 8, 2013 at 2:40 PM

City Council has asserted itself twice today to Mayor Steve Bach's administration. One matter deals with Bach's $218 million City for Champions proposal, and the other with his recently released 2014 budget.

After requests by local media, including the Independent, failed to jar loose information from a poll about how people felt about a downtown ballpark/events center, Councilor Joel Miller isn't letting it drop.

click to enlarge Miller to Melcher: We're your clients, too.
  • Miller to Melcher: We're your clients, too.
He said today he originally planned to ask for the results himself, but decided to seek consensus from his peers to avoid a rejection based on the query coming from a sole Council member. And that consensus came today at the opening of Council's formal meeting, after Miller noted that Page 22 of Bach's City for Champions proposal states, "The City of Colorado Springs launched a community-wide survey to collect public input (results are pending)."

The Indy sought information on the survey back in May, including who did the survey, at what cost, who paid for it and what the outcome was. In response, we received this response on May 24:

The community has heard from numerous Downtown ballpark proponents who believe that a new multi-purpose stadium would serve as a catalyst to revitalize downtown by drawing more people downtown and encouraging housing, retail, commercial and restaurant development in the immediate area. Several recent media reports and informal polls of readers and subscribers indicate a great deal of interest and support for such a project.

The City of Colorado Springs has asked the Colorado Springs Sky Sox and the Regional Business Alliance to participate in a preliminary study to determine the feasibility of building a new “state of the art” multi-purpose stadium in downtown Colorado Springs that could become the new home of the Colorado Springs Sky Sox. We look forward to reviewing the results of that study when it is complete.

The City will have further updates to the community as relevant information is available.

After that, in July the Gazette sought the survey results, according to its news reports, and was denied, with the city calling the results "a privileged attorney work product."

While withholding the results from the public might be protected under the Colorado Open Records Act, Bach's administration might have a hard time withholding attorney work product from the Council.

Why? Because, as Miller deftly noted during an informal Council meeting this morning, the Council is also City Attorney Chris Melcher's client — a claim Melcher has hammered on repeatedly in the last couple of years while trying to convince Council not to try hiring an outside attorney for legal advice.

So, time will tell if Melcher truly considers Council his client. Now, even if Council receives a copy of the results, that doesn't mean the public will be privy to it. But at least a wider circle of folks will be in the know of what the survey really showed. Council, by the way, has refused to officially endorse the City for Champions proposal, which hinges on receiving $82 million in state sales tax rebates. The plan calls for roughly $40 million in local public money. 

As for the 2014 budget, Council asked Bach to produce the detail behind each department's budget so Council can determine exactly how Bach plans to spend nearly $400 million. The budget book released this week has only four lines for each budget: salaries/benefits/pensions, operating, capital outlay and total.

That's not enough, Councilor Don Knight says. Again, without opposition, Council directed the mayor's administration to produce the details with five business days.

City Auditor Denny Nester says he spoke briefly with a budget analyst who said the information is not readily available and that a high level of detail normally isn't provided until the budget is adopted and reformatted going into the new year.


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