Just after City Council denied the southwest downtown urban development plan, Public Eye ran into Chuck Miller, who heads up the city's economic development office.
For the past three years, Miller's baby has been Confluence Park. He has nurtured it, spent a lot of city money on it and developed the concept of the joint city/private developer project. But in a 5-4 vote, the Council recently rejected a proposal to allow the city to seize southwest downtown properties from longtime businesses and turn them over to developers, putting a definite crimp in the plans.
So what did Miller think of the Council vote? And what's going to happen with Confluence Park? "I don't care," Miller said in his usual sardonic manner. "I'm retiring!"
Rumors have been flying that, post-retirement, Miller will go straight to work for developers, notably Classic Homes, with whom he's forged a close relationship during the Confluence park Project. Miller, 57, denies he will run straight into the bosom of the developers. "That would be a conflict of interest," he rightly notes.
So what are his plans after working for 24 years for the City? Miller neatly sidesteps that question with a "still making up my mind."
Can anyone say ... consultant? Miller admits he likes the sound of it. While he wouldn't necessarily be working directly for developers, well, consultants need clients don't they? And developers can be very good clients can't they? Miller coyly notes that the City and other government agencies also use consultants and he is hoping to continue his involvement in projects of which he's knowledgeable.
So what will Miller get for his long tenure with the City? A gold watch? A swift kick? A straightjacket?
Maybe just some well-paying clients.
Just this week, Miller was the keynote speaker at an El Paso County Bar Association luncheon where he talked about Confluence Park and the future of southwest downtown. During the discussion, he took an obvious backing-away approach to the development project, insisting several times that it is wholly generated by the marketplace and by private developers.
Funny, but we thought the City's elected leaders and government have been "envisioning" not just Confluence Park but all its adjcacent bells and whistles -- the convention center, ballpark, luxury downtown housing-- for several years now. Silly us.
Miller gave a good needling to those cranky critics who complain that the city is spending too much time and energy revitalizing downtown. Cities all over the country have been revitalizing their downtowns and making efforts to reintegrate urbanism in a backlash to the rush-to-the-suburbs mentality, noted Miller, and Colorado Springs, defying its alleged "world-class" status, has lagged about 10 years behind the national trends.
Something very strange and wonderful happened last week in Denver. Carl Kabat, the Catholic priest who was expecting to serve at least a year in prison for trespassing while protesting the Minuteman nuclear silo site in Weld County, walked away a free man.
Members of the War Resister's National League, who were assembled in Colorado Springs for their annual meeting, traveled to Kabat's hearing last Thursday and made impassioned pleas for leniency. His supporters kept giving Kabat, who has already served 14 years in U.S. prisons for his anti-nuke protesting, standing ovations. Kabat quoted Gandhi. Hearing the case was Federal Magistrate Boyd Boland, who actually invoked the spirit of Henry David Thoreau, acknowledging the priest's singular commitment to eradicating nuclear weapons.
Kabat, 67, was dressed in his trademark clown outfit when he scaled the fence and entered the silo site northeast of Denver last August. He was peaceably protesting on the 55th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima when soldiers stormed the site and roughly arrested him hours after he had arrived. This week, rather than send Kabat back to jail, the magistrate let him walk away a free man. His supporters were stunned.
"I couldn't believe it," said Colorado Springs peace activist Bill Sulzman, who was arrested along with Kabat last year. "It was an electric time, it was kind of a happening," he said of the mood in the courtroom.
Then they realized Kabat's clothes, including his clown suit, had already been boxed up and sent to his brother in Illinois.
"We kept saying the emperor had no clothes, but it turned out Carl had no clothes," Salzman said. Of course, they wouldn't release Kabat wearing a prison jumpsuit, so someone ran home and picked up some things for him to change into.
Stories about Kabat's turn of events appeared in newspapers across Colorado the next day. But when Salzman and Kabat and his supporters saw Kabat's picture in the Rocky Mountain News, they roared with laughter. In a shot that captured the essence of the moment, the picture showed Kabat standing outside the courthouse, a security guard lighting his cigarette.