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Council has right motives 

Are they heroes or fools? Are they boldly protecting Colorado Springs' best interests, or are they brazenly knee-jerking?

Is the City Council making some brilliant moves, or are our elected leaders going overboard in making deals that many constituents might not condone?

In the two latest cases, involving Frontier Airlines and the U.S. Olympic Committee, the outcomes look to be positive for the city.

Frontier has agreed to locate its maintenance operation at the Colorado Springs airport, probably leading to the Denver-based airline adding service here in the future. The airline will bring 225 good-paying jobs, a substantial economic impact.

Next, sometime after the holiday weekend, the USOC apparently will announce the decision to keep its headquarters in Colorado Springs, moving the Olympic House to a downtown-area location and opening up more space for housing and training athletes.

In both cases, City Council members have pulled strings and put together proposals that might not have been done in the past. Also in both cases, some will insist it's subjective trying to gauge exactly what Colorado Springs would've lost.

The two situations have something else in common.

Some people won't be happy. The naysayers believe Council went too far in luring Frontier, giving away $300,000 a year in tax revenue during a time when the city budget is being tightened. Of course, as Councilman Jerry Heimlicher puts it, "That's property tax we would never get anyway if Frontier didn't come here."

Airline service also has been a high priority for Mayor Lionel Rivera throughout his tenure, as he has worked to replenish albeit slowly the local void left after Western Pacific's spectacular demise in 1998. There has been progress, such as the addition of United's nonstops to Los Angeles and San Francisco, plus, more recently, ExpressJet's direct flights to San Diego, Sacramento and Los Angeles/Ontario.

Rivera's main target had been Southwest Airlines, but Southwest now is developing its presence and choices in Denver. Bringing in Frontier, with hops to Denver connecting to many flights from there, could help fares and perhaps will resemble the choices Continental provided local travelers until the mid-1990s.

The cost factor is a trade-off, but down the line it should be worth giving up the tax revenue.

As for the USOC, that deal is more about preserving one of the city's treasures. Some will say that, as long as the Olympic Training Center wasn't leaving, we shouldn't care so much about Olympic House. But it's really not that simple.

If the USOC had moved its offices elsewhere, rest assured that would have been one foot out the door and it would have left Colorado Springs all the more vulnerable to losing practically the entire Olympic presence someday.

Don't say it wouldn't have happened. Just look at Kansas City, where the National Collegiate Athletic Association was a major presence for decades until the NCAA left for Indianapolis in 1999. It was a painful blow for Kansas City.

We still are waiting for specific details, but obviously the USOC's demands for new office space were substantial. If Colorado Springs hadn't come through, with Rivera and Vice Mayor Larry Small leading the push, another city (or other cities) would have pounced on the opportunity.

Most likely, City Council members are bracing themselves for the fallout, especially after residents learn how far they went to keep Olympic House here.

From this perspective, though, Council did the right thing by realizing Colorado Springs couldn't afford to lose the USOC offices. If that had happened, the city would have had to abdicate some of its special titles such as home of the U.S. Olympic movement, and America's Olympic sports capital.

It is true that one or two individual sports such as basketball and cycling might move elsewhere, anyway. Various sports' national governing bodies have checked out that possibility through the years, and occasionally it will make sense. But as long as the USOC offices are here, the large majority of sports aren't going anywhere.

There will be other times, inevitably, when the City Council will deserve whatever criticism it gets. But this time, let's applaud the councilors for not taking the easy way out. In these two cases, they saw the importance of cultivating the local air service and keeping the USOC intact here for another generation.

No matter what others might say, that's a win-win.

routon@csindy.com

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