Approval of Issue 200 in best interest of taxpayers

Filed under: Opinion |

Proponents of a city-owned downtown convention center, unable to sell their cockamamie scheme on its merits, are now trying to persuade citizens they shouldn’t have the right to vote on such a project.

Tom James writes in the March 16 CSBJ that Issue 200 will hamstring Colorado Springs’ ability to plan for a convention center today or 10, 50, or 100 years in the future. So? Is making it more difficult for politicians to raise our taxes and risk our money a bad thing?

Issue 200 was designed to put the brakes on a convention center proposal that was gaining momentum-and City Council support-throughout 2004. Without the efforts of Citizens for Your Right to Vote, center boosters and their cheerleaders on City Council would be well on their way to investing a couple hundred million taxpayer dollars in the depressed and glutted meeting and convention business. It forced a much-needed reality check.

And yes, members of the lodging industry supported it. After all, the convention center and headquarters hotel proposal put forth would have raised their taxes by millions of dollars to fund a facility that would have been in direct competition. They should not be blamed or chastised for looking out for their interests and those of their employees and stockholders.

But let’s not get all weepy about the options available to the city and its citizens in 2015, 2055, or 2105. Fifty or 100 years from now those of us not in assisted living will be past caring. In 10, 20 or 30 years, should economic conditions cry out for a convention center, voters and their elected representatives (or perhaps even the private sector) will find a way to build one. And they will probably be thanking 2005 voters for having had the wisdom to keep them from being saddled with the recently proposed white elephant.

If future generations find themselves unduly restricted by the City Charter amendment proposed by Issue 200, they can vote to repeal it. Or perhaps they can amend the amendment to allow a reasonable amount of money to be spent on planning (hopefully something a bit less than the $500,000 to $1 million that unrestricted “planning” would cost). Finally, they can always vote on a convention center proposal as called for by Issue 200.

To give politicians, developers and downtown business interests unrestricted access to the public treasury in order to fund a convention center is irresponsible. A “yes” vote on Issue 200 is in the best interest of Colorado Springs and its taxpayers.

Steve Haggart has been a writer and advertising executive in Colorado Springs since 1973.