Thursday, May 8, 2014

UPDATE: Councilman vs brick wall

Posted By on Thu, May 8, 2014 at 2:02 PM

click to enlarge Miller: Still hitting against C4C.
  • Miller: Still hitting against C4C.
UPDATE: Councilman Joel Miller issued a letter dated today to the Springs Parks Board urging members not to endorse City for Champions. 

In the letter, he says that while the net benefit to parks might look enticing, such benefit might not pan out over time.

"While it may tug on one’s hopeful spirit to finally have adequate funding to care for and expand our parks and trail system," the letter states, "the pretense is faulty at best."
The letter: 

——— ORIGINAL POST 9:24 A.M. May 8, 2013 ———
Councilman Joel Miller continues to beat his head against what might seem like a brick wall.

First, he's still trying to get data used to support the state's allocation of $120.5 million in state sales tax rebates for the city's $250-million City for Champions venture. And he's preparing for a showdown on Tuesday over his eminent domain ordinance, which could make it more difficult for developers to acquire property for the C4C projects planned for the downtown area.

Back in January, Miller asked city economic vitality official Bob Cope for the data that led Summit Economics, a local consulting firm, to conclude that the proposed downtown stadium would attract 781,000 visitors per year. That's 110,000 more than the city originally estimated. That number, 672,000, was agreed to by the state's third-party analyst, Economic & Planning Systems, Inc., though EPS noted, "The estimated annual Stadium attendance of 672,000, which is 90 percent above the existing attendance of 345,000, is aggressive but potentially achievable."

Before the state Economic Development Commission awarded the $120.5 million, the figure got bumped up to 781,000, and Miller simply wants to see the data that formed the basis for the higher figure. Especially, Miller says in an interview, considering that 84 percent of the stadium's $92.7 million cost is envisioned to come from local tax money. (The other 16 percent will come from the state rebates.)

After waiting for several months, the city finally told Miller the city doesn't maintain that data and to get it from Summit Economics. Miller asked Summit for the data, and got this e-mail reply today from Tom Binnings, one of the firm's principals:

Councilman Miller,

My team has been working diligently to meet your request which cost money. Thus far, to review your original request and to go back to our numbers and resurrect a project from which we have moved on has involved 6 hours of our time. While I intend to bill the City for this project, there is no certainty of payment. In other words, there is a reasonable probability our work is pro bono. We try to fill in requests like this between many other paying projects so as to minimize the disruption on our business.

From your email, you are now adding to the list of requests. Furthermore, I am unaware of any request dating back to January. While I am fine with overseeing the process of responding to assist our community in its deliberation process, your comment “that is withholding critical information and borderline deceitful” is inappropriate.

I met with Bob Cope yesterday and he asked we dig deeper for the “full accounting” you requested. In addition I am cramming on economic development analysis for Colorado Springs, a market analysis for innovative programing for a charter school, a presentation I’m delivering in Denver next week on the Colorado economy, my own personal analysis of your eminent domain proposal, and, most importantly, am leaving tomorrow to attend my 5th and youngest child’s graduation from college. So, spending time on documentation for what I consider to be “water under the bridge” (as Colorado Springs was awarded the RTA grant) and not time pressed (as Colorado Springs was given 5 years to break ground) is a lower priority for me than you.

I currently estimate you will have your original request completed along with your supplemental request listed in your email by the end of next week. In the future I expect greater professional courtesy and will endeavor to give you the same.

Tom Binnings
Summit Economics, LLC
Miller responded to Binnings:

Dear Mr. Binnings:

To be clear:

1) This shouldn't involve any new work. Mr. Cope cites Summit Economics for the source of data for stadium attendance and "fiscal bonus" and many other tables and charts. Consequently, all of this information and data should have already been paid for and retained as work product. If the City will be double billed, that is another issue. Does Summit not keep a list of assumptions for the data it produces? That is all I have asked for. If the assumptions are so convoluted that it will take a vast amount of time and effort to reproduce attendance figures and economic impacts, it lends credibility to the argument that the forecasts are/were unreasonable.

2) To the point that this is "water under the bridge..." unless you are backing off the projections that were presented to the state, the "water under the bridge" is the entire basis upon which the state will potentially refund $120.5 million over 30 years and upon which this community may base its decision to spend hundreds of millions of dollars. So if these numbers are no longer valid, why are the citizens and OEDIT and the EDC still being told that they are? The EDC will be considering a resolution binding us to an agreement based on your analysis and I'm sure they' be interested if the analysis can no longer be substantiated.

3) Regarding information presented to the parks board [showing how much money C4C would bring in that could be used for parks], this is again simply an issue of what assumptions were used to generate the data. I repeat, I want only the assumptions that were used to arrive at the data the City paid for you to generate and I will reproduce it independently. This should not be difficult to present if reasonable records of the assumptions you made to develop your case were maintained.

4) I have no lapse in professional courtesy. Mr. Cope offered access to this information in January. This is not being done for me personally, but on behalf of the citizens of Colorado Springs. He then put me off for three months and finally directed me to contact you, Mr. Binnings. Your assumptions and generated data are being used to justify to the public, the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars over the next 30 years and the fact that it has taken four months—whether that is internal to the city or to Summit economics—will be shocking to the public. Although your role in convincing the state to award double what a reasonable third party recommended, the City and the community is mobilizing down the path toward attempting to realize the benefits you predicted and will potentially be doing so for the next 30 years. Not appreciating the public's interest in this endeavor begs the question of professional courtesy and respect of the tax-paying citizen.

Joel Miller
Meantime, the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs has mounted a campaign opposing Miller's eminent domain ordinance, which would restrict the city from using eminent domain except for public purposes, such as water pipelines or public roads.

The ordinance is on City Council's agenda on Tuesday.

Citing a previous Supreme Court decision that said economic development is a public purpose, Miller wants to prevent that from happening here.

This is related to the City for Champions project, because eminent domain might come into play in acquiring property for the stadium and the downtown Olympic museum. Both are envisioned to be located southwest of Colorado and Cascade avenues in an urban renewal area.

Today, the HBA issued this "Call to Action" to its members:
Colorado Springs City Councilman Joel Miller is pushing a new ordinance to discourage our City's urban renewal and community redevelopment/infill projects. While we are very strong advocates for private property rights, his proposal appeared at the last minute last month, sought no serious stakeholder input, and is extreme in its content.

We are working to defeat this ordinance when it is considered next week,
Tuesday, May 13th, during the Colorado Springs City Council meeting.

We need your help in two ways:

Attend the City Council meeting,Tuesday, May 13th, beginning at 1:00 PM, to show your support for our City and the positive direction of urban renewal in our community. HBA is a strong proponent of private property rights and has fought for private property at every level of our government.
This ordinance is not needed as there is no record of abuse in our City and this has become a political issue instead of a response to an actual community threat. In fact, this ordinance would actually hinder the types of redevelopment projects our City needs.

PLEASE contact Council President Keith King, and Councilmembers Andy Pico and Don Knight, asking them to OPPOSE the Miller ordinance.

City President Keith King
City Councilmember Andy Pico
City Councilmember Don Knight

Here are a number of points to consider:

City Council is already in control of eminent domain: Under current statewide law, a city council retains complete control over use of eminent domain by an urban renewal authority. An urban renewal authority cannot use eminent domain unless authorized in the urban renewal plan adopted by City Council after a public hearing.

Colorado law already prohibits use of eminent domain for economic development or enhancement of tax revenue: It does allow eminent domain for purposes of eradicating blight but with a "clear and convincing evidence" burden of proof of necessity.

Private party transactions are already fully protected: If property would be taken by eminent domain and transferred to a private party, state law requires an additional authorization to be made by City Council after a public hearing and opportunities by the affected property owner and others to submit alternate development plans.

The proposed ordinance is in direct conflict with Colorado law: The CSURA gets its authority from the state Urban Renewal Law and must follow the procedures established in that law. The ordinance and the state law are in direct conflict. Neither the CSURA nor the City would be able to follow the processes established under the Urban Renewal Law if the ordinance were to be implemented. Colorado courts have established that urban renewal is a matter of statewide and local concern, so the Colorado State Urban Renewal Law would supersede the ordinance.

City Council already has the ultimate say in eminent domain matters: Adoption of an urban renewal plan requires the City Council to make a determination of blight using the definition of blight from the state's Urban Renewal Law.

Where is the problem???

Please attend, show your support for our City, and ask City Council to support the future of our city.

For an outline of the City for Champions project and answers to questions about it, check out our story in this week's edition.


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