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City attacks reports at crunch time 

When the SCIP-01 bomb dropped this week, the city freaked out and called a press conference to attack the Gazette for misrepresentation and inaccurate reporting.

The only problem was, while it may have delivered its findings in an inflammatory way, the city's daily newspaper did not inaccurately report the news.

On Tuesday, a week before the April 3 city election, the Gazette published a front-page story reporting that the 107 SCIP-01 capital improvement projects will cost $758 million -- not the $640 that has been touted by tax-hike proponents during numerous political forums and repeated by the media.

The discrepancy was due to City Council's January decision to put on the ballot a .9 percent instead of a 1 percent increase in the city's sales tax to pay for capital improvement projects. The open-ended tax was initially slated to pay for the projects over 10 years, but the City Council adjusted the projects for completion in 12 years, an extension that increased the overall price tag.

Actually, because the projects are based on a fluid sales tax, the city can't pinpoint an exact final cost of the projects. But rather than simply explaining the apparent discrepancy, and their own failure to accurately detail the fluidity of the costs, numerous city leaders gathered on Tuesday to attack the Gazette, which has endorsed the tax increase.

"We felt compelled to call a press conference to refute these inaccuracies," said Councilman Jim Null, who, running unopposed for re-election, has adopted the role as the city's champion of the sales tax. Null was flanked at the press conference by City Council members Bill Guman, Richard Skorman, Lionel Rivera, and incumbents Judy Noyes and Linda Barley.

However, throughout the SCIP-01 campaign -- which stands for Springs Community Improvements Program 2001 -- city representatives and SCIP-01 proponents have repeatedly referred to the projects' pricetag as totaling $640 million. The night before the Gazette article appeared, during a candidates forum, Null himself claimed the projects cost $640 million, an assertion he has made at numerous other public appearances.

But on Tuesday, Null disregarded his own past statements and said that, when it comes to claims made by candidates running for public office, "[candidates] forums can't be used for accuracy."

During the press conference, Null said he did not believe the city had requested a formal correction in the Gazette, but rather hoped that the daily newspaper would realize it was wrong in its analysis and it, and other Colorado Springs media, would correct the "inaccuracy."

Not everyone believed that the city's attack on the Gazette was appropriate. At-large Council candidate Tim Pleasant -- who has been a vocal opponent of SCIP-01 -- called the response "classic spin-doctoring by the city government."

District 4 candidate Margaret Radford said the city should have simply corrected the erroneous figure that they allowed to propagate -- and should have published the correct amounts of the project estimates much earlier.

"This is much ado about nothing," said Radford, who supports the SCIP-01 proposal. "I don't see the city's need to get defensive about this."

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