Thursday, January 16, 2014

Council has power over C4C, Bach says

Posted By on Thu, Jan 16, 2014 at 3:53 PM

click to enlarge Councilor Joel Miller, left, takes notes during a meeting about City for Champions. Mayor Steve Bach, center, led the meeting. He's flanked on the left by Council President Keith King, and on the right by County Commission Chair Dennis Hisey. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Councilor Joel Miller, left, takes notes during a meeting about City for Champions. Mayor Steve Bach, center, led the meeting. He's flanked on the left by Council President Keith King, and on the right by County Commission Chair Dennis Hisey.

If a bomb had gone off in Room 102 of the City Administration Building today at 1:30 p.m., the Pikes Peak region would have been left leaderless.

All nine Springs City Councilors, all five El Paso County commissioners, Springs Mayor Steve Bach, several mayors of the region's small towns, and every executive from both the city and county crowded into the room to hear more about City for Champions, the city's $250-million tourism proposal.

The meeting was billed as an informational meeting, but most of the information conveyed has already been reported, such as the city needs to seal a contract with the state Economic Development Commission by April 16, that a Regional Tourism Advisory Board needs to be formed and that the Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority will be the flume for money to fund the attractions.

But the headline from this meeting is that Bach, who's fought Council on everything from the budget to legal matters, admitted Council is in the driver's seat on C4C.

Reacting to commentary from Councilor Joel Miller, a persistent inquisitor about the void of detailed C4C financial information, Bach said, "Let's consider this a new day. You should have all the information. Honestly, you hold all the cards. We should share everything we have."

Miller wasn't placated, noting that it's unlikely the citizens will be given a detailed financial roadmap for funding hundreds of millions of dollars for C4C by April 16 and also give approval to proceed. The April 16 contract will be binding in future years, and if one of the venues isn't built, the EDC could require all the money be repaid, or a portion of it.

Councilors Don Knight and Helen Collins
also expressed reservations about C4C.

While the state EDC has approved $120.5 million over 30 years, that's only 19 percent of the total needed to build a downtown sports events center, downtown Olympic museum, sports medicine center at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and new Air Force Academy visitors center.

Bach said the plan calls for the Urban Renewal Authority to change its boundaries and issue tax increment financing to be repaid with sales tax generated above today's levels by the project, along with debt issued against general fund revenues.

Bach was unequivocal in his requirement that any debt to be repaid with general fund money go to a vote of the people. And he said if the scheme doesn't make financial sense or poses a burden to taxpayers, he won't advocate for it.

"It must be fully vetted by all of us and people in the community," he said. "If it's not self-sustaining, I won't support it."

(Of course, if it becomes clear it can't sustain itself, one can only hope the discovery takes place before a contract with the state is executed.)

He also said there would be no condemnation of private property for the projects, a comment in reaction to an ordinance proposed by Miller to narrow the reasons private property can be taken by eminent domain for a public purpose.

Bach also clearly stated that Council must approve the EDC contract, saying to Miller and other councilors, "We're going to have to have your agreement on that before April 16."

Unlike in the past, Bach appeared willing to make C4C a regional effort, agreeing to regularly scheduled meetings — Commissioner Amy Lathen suggested once a month — of all stakeholders about C4C to give updates and status reports. This is a switch from the mayor's past practice of not working regionally, such as pulling out of the Emergency Services Agency that oversees regional ambulance service and refusing to seek a regional solution for flood control.

But for all his agreeable words, Bach asserted that he, County Commission Chair Dennis Hisey, and Council President Keith King would choose members for the Regional Tourism Advisory Board, which Bach said would have seven members. The City Charter states that Council creates and appoints all boards and commissions. Bach apparently seems willing to ignore that provision.

The state's terms and conditions imposed when the EDC approved the state sales tax money say the board must have representatives from the city, each project and community members.

Earlier in the day, county commissioners voted 3-2 to donate another $37,500 toward the C4C effort. The county also is conducting an analysis of whether its pledge to provide county tax money in the downtown development area makes financial sense. Commissioners Darryl Glenn and Peggy Littleton opposed the allocation.
 

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