council meetings

Springstaxpayers.com notes in a news release that on April 20, City Council used barriers between them  in the Blue River Conference Room to achieve social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the next week, they were gone.

Laura Carno has a question or two for City Council. 

Why are certain presenters at Council meetings allowed to attend in person while the public is denied access to the meeting room and must watch online?

Why has Council removed the Plexiglass separation barriers in the Blue River Conference Room at Colorado Springs Utilities, which serves as Council's meeting room until mid-August when the remodeling of Council Chambers at City Hall is finished?

In a news release issued by springstaxpayers.com, which Carno operates, she demands that the city open its Council and other meetings to the public. Carno has been active in politics for years and ran Steve Bach's successful mayoral campaign in 2011.

"During the government-mandated shutdowns over the past year, members of the public have had to phone in or email their feedback, while well-heeled developers have had the luxury of presenting their projects in person before boards, commissions, and the City Council,” Carno said in the release.

“Those who fund City services with their tax dollars, and whose neighborhoods are impacted by these decisions have as much right to attend these meetings in person,” she said.

She also wonders why barriers have been removed between Council members this month.

Newly elected Council President Tom Strand says since the COVID-19 pandemic caused government buildings to largely close down in March 2020, Council has allowed applicants in land-use matters to appear in person, and also to allow two or three representatives of citizens who oppose the applications to also appear in person.

"We've tried to open to the public different avenues, to call in, to use MicrosoftTeams [remote technology], Zoom," Strand says. "I'm sorry if people felt they've been excluded from things."

Strand says Council expects a huge number of people to comment on the redevelopment plan for property at 30th Street and Garden of the Gods, which comes to Council in late May. (It's worth noting that the March meeting of the Planning Commission regarding this Mountain Shadows proposal drew hundreds of people wishing to speak online, which caused the technology tool the city was using to crash, delaying the meeting's start.)

"We've received hundreds of inputs from the community," Strand says, "and we are going to make sure they're well represented, as well as the people who want to build this place up there."

We wrote about that proposal here and also when the Planning Commission voted to recommend Council approve it in March.

"All of these developments are big deals," Strand says. "People worry if they're going to have more parking, more traffic, more crime issues, and there is nothing we're trying to do to eliminate their voice from being heard."

As for removal of the barriers, Strand says most Council members have been vaccinated for the virus and said they felt comfortable having them taken down, as long as people wore masks except when they're speaking.

But barriers are available for support staff, he says, such as the city attorney or mayor's chief of staff.

Carno's news release didn't say what course of action she might take if meetings are not reopened for the public to appear in person if they wish. 

Senior Reporter

Pam Zubeck is a graduate from Emporia State University. She worked at the Tulsa Tribune before coming to Colorado Springs, where she spent 16 years at the Gazette and in 2009 joined Colorado Publishing House.