Council requests PILT ruling
A sharply divided City Council voted 5-4 Tuesday to ask a district judge to decide what voters meant last November when they passed Issue 300 halting payments to the city from its enterprises.
Although the ballot measure targeted the Stormwater Enterprise, its wording raised questions about whether Utilities' payment in lieu of taxes should continue. The payment, authorized by the city charter and on the books for 90 years, compensates the city for electric and gas property taxes that would be paid if the utilities were privately owned. The payment totals roughly $26 million a year.
Voting against asking the District Court to decide were Scott Hente, Randy Purvis, Bernie Herpin and Mayor Lionel Rivera.
Vice Mayor Larry Small says Council will place the money in escrow until a ruling, which could take six months or longer. "Then we'll decide, based on the judgment, what actions to take," Small says.
Council indicated it might refer a measure to the April 2011 city election asking voters whether the PILT should continue. — PZ
MHS observer takes aim
Allan Roth, an investment adviser and former Memorial Health System board member, issued a report this week based on his "high level financial review" of Memorial and didn't like what he saw. He says Memorial has been borrowing to beef up its bottom line while failing to invest in new capital, such as equipment, leading him to say the system's financial condition "continues to decline."
He notes that Memorial's cost per full-time equivalent employee is $76,688, which will go up with Public Employees' Retirement Association increases planned in coming years.
Roth, who previously worked for a major corporation in the health care arena, was critical of Memorial's governance model, which "has failed and lacks the competency to govern a hospital effectively." — PZ
'Act like grownups'
Fountain City Council member Harold Thompson, who witnesses say struck Al Lender at a June 8 council meeting, wants a permanent restraining order against Lender. A hearing Wednesday was postponed until mid-July after two magistrates said they didn't have time to hear testimony from 10 witnesses.
Thompson accuses Lender in a court filing of making derogatory remarks to him after Council voted to zone Lender's medical marijuana grow facility out of business. Fountain Mayor Jeri Howells says she was about two feet from both men when Thompson lunged at Lender. Another witness, John Fay, says he was one foot from both when Thompson tried to grab at Lender, backhandedly slapped him and elbowed him.
Lender says the 11th Judicial District Attorney's Office, serving as special prosecutor, said no charges would be filed because the video was inconclusive. Fay and Howells say they weren't interviewed.
While awaiting a new judge assignment for the case, Magistrate Daniel Winograd admonished Lender and Thompson: "You don't think you could act your age and leave each other alone? Looks to me like you're grownups." — PZ
Van Hoy leaving CP
Barb Van Hoy, executive director and public face of the nonprofit Citizens Project, has resigned. Van Hoy recently scored a major victory when City Council approved a Human Relations Commission. Citizens Project, dedicated to securing religious freedom, diversity and equality in Colorado Springs, was the driving force behind the campaign to revive the HRC.
Citizens Project also announced that Kristy Milligan, its long-time development director and program manager, will replace Van Hoy as executive director.
"It is with both sadness and excitement that I take this leap of faith," Van Hoy wrote in a letter. "I will miss working with you all through CP, but I will continue to be involved in the community. I am also excited for the future of Citizens Project." She plans to be a full-time mom and part-time dance teacher. — JAS
State tops Tea Partiers
Colorado has the nation's highest number of likely voters in the Tea Party movement, according to a Rasmussen Report poll conducted in April. Of those surveyed, 33 percent say they associate themselves with the party, topping Kentucky and Alabama, both at 31 percent. Hawaii has the lowest number of Tea Partiers at 7 percent.
Jeanette Koniecki, organizer for the Loveland 912 Project, a part of Colorado's Tea Party, says she doesn't know of a specific reason why the state might rank so high. But her group has more than 600 members, so she says, "[The ranking] doesn't surprise me at all ... we're just a bunch of everyday people who love our country." — KF
FutureSelf head resigns
Amber Coté, executive director of Future Self since 2009, has announced she will resign effective Aug. 20. Coté recently helped the organization move into its own space on Vermijo Avenue. FutureSelf was founded in 2000 as a way to bring creativity-based workshops and job training to youth aged 12 to 24. Cote has been involved in the organization since 2002.
"The last year and a half has given FutureSelf the time to move into our 'own' space," Cote states in a press release. "This is an exciting time for youth development in the Pikes Peak region." — JAS
Streetcar study hits streets
The long-awaited Streetcar Feasibility Study, which explores putting streetcars in the downtown area, has been released. The 10-month study found that a small system could be funded through options that would not involve raising local taxes. It can be accessed at springsgov.com/Page.aspx?NavID=2758.
Federal transit planning grants and locally raised funds, which could not have been used to pay for transit services due to restrictions, were used to fund the study. — JAS
State gets gloomy forecast
Revenue projections released this week show the state faces a budget hole of $75 million to $320 million for the 2010-11 budget, the Colorado News Connection reported.
The Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute, which monitors state and federal legislation, issued a news release saying if Congress fails to approve additional Medicaid funding, the state would face a shortfall of $212 million to $245 million, which could impact an array of services.
"Colorado's severe budget restrictions means that the loss of the additional Medicaid money could very well result in another round of cuts for Colorado's classrooms," Terry Scanlon, an institute policy analyst, says in the release. "It could also mean cuts to services for abused children or families of people with developmental disabilities."
The institute says a bigger problem looms for the 2011-12 fiscal year when the state is expected to fall $687 million short of revenue needed. That means the state could face a $1 billion headache in the next two years. — PZ
Compiled by Kelsey Fowler, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.