Tuesday, February 4, 2014

UPDATE: C4C still drawing a mountain of questions

Posted By on Tue, Feb 4, 2014 at 11:33 AM

UPDATE: We just were contacted by Cindy Aubrey who now tells us, "Apparently, I was wrong, and the meeting IS open." So there you have it. Meeting time and place can be found below.

—————————————ORIGINAL POST TUESDAY, FEB. 4, 11:33 A.M.—————————-

We just got word via e-mail from city communications director Cindy Aubrey about tomorrow's meeting: "Have just been told that this is not a public meeting. Commissioner [Amy] Lathan is organizing a monthly public meeting which will soon be announced."

———————————ORIGINAL POST TUESDAY, FEB. 4, 11:33 A.M.————————-
City Council met in a special meeting Monday to discuss what role it will play as the City for Champions tourism venture advances.

The two-hour discussion ran the gamut from financing to what boards will make which decisions, with several councilors calling for a ballot measure for voters to weigh in on the projects.

Several members of the community, led by Mayor Steve Bach, are proposing the city build four projects to enhance tourism: a new Air Force Academy visitors center, a University of Colorado at Colorado Springs sports medicine center, a downtown Olympic museum and a downtown sports and events center.
Gaebler: Wants to do good for community.
  • Gaebler: Wants to do good for community.

Total cost is $250 million; interest costs raise the amount to over $600 million. Of that, $120.5 million will come from state sales tax rebates over 30 years and another $350 million will come from local taxes.

Councilors agreed that holding town halls to get citizen feedback is a good idea, but none is scheduled yet.

Those expressing reservations about C4C included Don Knight, Helen Collins, Andy Pico, Joel Miller and Keith King. They asked:

—Why can’t the public see the operating plan for the downtown stadium if 100 percent of the $92.7 million cost will be publicly funded? (City economic vitality chief Bob Cope said operations pro formas contain proprietary information and can't be released to the public. He also said all four will be run by non-profits, although he acknowledged no decision has been made about who will own the downtown stadium. Miller said if the public is going to pay for the stadium, the voters should see the pro formas.)
—Who will own the stadium?
—Should voters have a say in whether the projects are built, even if no local general fund tax money is used?
—Who should choose the Regional Tourism Authority Board members, and what powers should it have?

While Pico said he wouldn’t support committing any city funding without a vote of the people, Councilor Jill Gaebler noted Council approved urban renewal debt for University Village on North Nevada Avenue without a vote of the people, as well as the city’s $53 million U.S. Olympic Committee headquarters and training center projects.
click to enlarge Miller: Doesn't plan to stop asking questions.
  • Miller: Doesn't plan to stop asking questions.

“These visionaries that came forward with these projects are only trying to do good for our city,” Gaebler said.

(The Urban Renewal Authority has defaulted twice on University Village's bond debt, and the USOC deal has drawn sharp criticism from voters for years. Some say it led to the mayor-council Charter change.)

Gaebler also criticized some of her colleagues for using language such as "railroading" and commentary about C4C's multi-million cost to scare people.

Said Miller, “To embark on something taxpayers will pay $350 million for, we’re entitled to some questions, and I will ask them.”

He also said the best gauge of whether to move forward is the public. "Let’s get the buy-in from the voters, and then we go forward," he said. "Then there's no ambiguity or doubt of where we’re going."

A meeting is slated for 7:30 a.m. Wednesday at UCCS's Heller Center Main House. The panel who will attend includes King, Council President Pro tem Merv Bennett, Bach and County Commission Chair Dennis Hisey. This appears to be the start of what eventually will become the Regional Tourism Advisory Board. It's unclear if the meeting will be open to the public, with Bennett saying he didn't know if it will be open and King saying he thinks it will be closed. We've asked the mayor's communications department, and will circle back if and when we hear anything.

While Council is charged in the City Charter with appointing all boards and commissions, Interim City Attorney Wynetta Massey (Chris Melcher's replacement) told Council on Monday, the state Economic Development Commission "is authorizing creating of this body, not the City Council. I do not believe it is an advisory body to the City Council that would require appointment by City Council."

She also told Council it may have no authority to A) negotiate the agreement with the state or B) sign the resolution once it's done and presented to the EDC. The deadline is April 16, unless an extension is requested.

"I don’t know whether Council has the authority to sign the resolution," she said. "I’m pretty sure the Council will see a copy of the resolution, but don’t know if Council has any authority to negotiate terms of the resolution."

Council asked for a legal opinion on whether the city executing the resolution commits the city to build all the projects, regardless of whether enough donations can't be raised or the tax rebate money doesn't pan out to be enough.

Council also asked for a legal opinion about whether the downtown stadium qualifies as a convention center. Voters adopted a Charter amendment in 2005 that bars the city from planning, building, funding or financing a convention center without prior voter approval.

Toward the end of the meeting, Council members expressed interest in working with the county on a third-party analysis of use of local tax increment financing to fund City for Champions. No consultant has yet been chosen.

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