Live blog: At the Memorial Commission hearing

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Memorial Commission discusses parameters

Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2:51 p.m. The commissioners are discussing parameters to place around the five remaining options.

Those parameters: charity care, essential services, quality of care, community responsiveness, financial stability, approval of the sale and assets, and a reversionary interest. The group wants to make sure that whatever happens to Memorial, that its assets remain in the city.

“there’s some discussion about the nonprofit,” said Paul Daughtery. “Does that make it a private club? What happens if it gets into trouble?”

A return-on-investment is also being discussed. At least one commissioner believes the city is owed money for its “guidance and protection” during the past 50 years.

The group is discussing having a steady stream of money to the city that is unrestricted. Currently, the hospital pays no taxes or lease payments to the city.

Carm Moceri, chief operating officer at Memorial, weighed in on the issue.

“You don’t want to put the system at a disadvantage,” he said. “You want to look at the market, and if you put them in the additional parameters. The other system doesn’t pay taxes, and this one does. The other one doesn’t pay into a foundation,this one does. Make sure you aren’t putting the system at a disadvantage in the future.”


Commission divided on process

Wednesday, Oct. 20. 2:31. ”Which corner are we painting ourselves into?” that was Martha Barton’s comment after the commission voted to remove three options from the table.

“We’re not painting ourselves into a corner,” Dave Munger said. “With all due respect, I’m comfortable with this. We’ve talked about this, we’ve had these discussions.”

Other commissioners felt removing some off the table, meant that the group was approaching it “piecemeal.”

“This is very disturbing to me,” Barton said.

The group is now addressing the parameters around the rest of the models.


Memorial’s future addressed – finally

Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2:21 p.m. Memorial won’t keep its current governance and ownership — regardless of what else happens.

Bob Lally made a motion to remove three options: keep it as it is with no changes, change governance or remove the mill levy. The motion passed 6-3.

“I’m comfortable with the fact that we’ve addressed parameters around these three,” Lally said. “On Nov. 3, we can look at the remaining options.”

But it took a while. Myrna Candria said it was too early to vote to remove any of the options, that would be done Nov. 3.

“We should set parameters today,” she said.

Singer cautioned that the group was boxing itself in — by removing the “stay as is” model, the group was indicating that it was worse than the other models.

“The frustration is ‘let’s move,’” he said. “We are moving, don’t worry.”

Munger also said that the group should be ready to remove the for-profit off the list as well.


Commission mired in process details

Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2:06 p.m. It doesn’t appear that the commission will be discussing options at this meeting.

The group is now planning to discuss all the options during closed session Nov. 3, and then hold an open meeting Nov. 10.

Martha Barton moved that the commission ask the council if they want to hear the recommendation first, before it is open to the public. That motion was seconded.

Barton doesn’t want to have a public meeting with a decision on Nov. 10 until the group hears from city council.

Dave Munger said the council cannot make that decision as a body without a public meeting, and doubts that they would meet on the single issue.

“We do know what the mayor wants,” said chairman Bob Lally. “He was clear — he wants to hear this first, and have it before council first.”

This motion would appear to negate Munger’s earlier motion that passed. Barton’s motion passed unanimously.


No executive session?

Wednesday, Oct. 20, 1:45 p.m.  Dave Munger has made a motion to keep the meeting at which they make the final recommendation to city council open to the public.

The group is discussing whether to go into closed session to narrow options, as well as to make their final recommendation and draft proposal.

The law allows them to go into closed session to work on language of the recommendation.

“Why are we worried about making these decision in the light of the public view,” Munger asked.

Larry Singer, consultant hired by the group, said he was “uncomfortable” with 5-4 votes.

“We’re better than that,” he said. “if there’s no problem with going into session for the language, then by Nov. 3 we could be at the point of having some language to review. We could begin to narrow the options. What if we tentatively held Nov. 10 as potential town hall.”

Singer also said the group should ask for more direction from council, since they are acting based on Mayor Lionel Rivera’s declaration that the council should hear the proposal before the public.

The motion to keep final recommendation open to the public passed five to two, with two commissioners abstaining.


No town hall Nov. 3

Wednesday, Oct. 20, 1:37 p.m. The commission is now discussing whether it is ready to remove any item from the list of eight options.

Jay Patel, commission member, believes the group can cut down to two final options before the town hall meeting — if they have one. But other members are concerned that moving any from the list might engender bad feelings for the commission, and between its members.

The motion on the table has nothing to do with any of these options, however. The commission is supposed to be discussing whether to hold a town hall meeting Nov. 3.

Dave Munger believes its better for the commission to have the conversation with the public — instead of solely with the city council.

The vote: 5 to 4 to cancel the town hall meeting.


Commission discusses executive session, keeping recommendation private

Wednesday, Oct. 20, 1:14 p.m. The commission is discussing whether to vet the recommendation to the public before the city council.

Mayor Lionel Rivera suggested last week that the council be the first to hear the recommendation — before the public or the media.

The commission is considering canceling its townhall meeting, in order to go into an executive session to craft its final recommendation, which would only be made public Nov. 22.

The commission is sharply divided — Dave Munger believes the decision should be made in the public eye, and the town hall meeting should be held to vet the recommendation before the public.

But Martha Barton believes that the mayor is only concerned about the “ramifications” if the recommendation was released early.

“He said the charge to us was to bring it to city council,” she said. “There’s nothing subversive about it.”

Munger believes that the commission should be as open and transparent as possible.

“This is an opportunity to say what we’re going to do, let people ask questions, and address those questions directly at that time,” he said.


Council decision on Memorial could wait until 2011

Wednesday, Oct. 20, 12:19 p.m. - Anyone waiting for the Colorado Springs City Council to vote on any recommendations for Memorial Health System might have to wait even longer.

Mayor Lionel Rivera had signaled that the council would not vote on any recommendation at its Nov. 22 meeting. Instead, the council will be voting in January 2011.

The public message should be carefully crafted, the mayor told Chairman Bob Lally and Commissioner Martha Barton. Council should hear the recommendation first, before the public hearing

“What I heard was that we need to be careful,” Barton reported to the full commission. “Any recommendation should go first to council, or we will have to manage the discussion.”

However, some commissioners pointed out that the decision would be public — as their meetings are public. Council will receive a written report in advance of their Nov. 22 meeting.

Commissioners are concerned that if council waits until January to vote, there won’t be enough time to put the Memorial issue on the ballot in April. The deadline for the ballot is Jan. 25.

“Is this enough time?” Lally said. “That’s really up to them. We will continue that conversation with council. “

Consultant Larry Singer pointed out that the ballot language will be the easy part. But if the recommendation is for anything other than an independent nonprofit, that process will take an entire year.

“You have to go out and find these partners or a buyer,” he said. “That takes a very long time. It won’t be on the ballot next year.  Really, the ballot language will be pretty uncomplicated.”

As far as fears that the council won’t move on any recommendation, Singer put out a challenge to the media.

“The media has been covering this — and shame on them if they let the council just sit on this,” he said.


The Memorial Citizens’ Commission only has a handful of meetings left – and the one scheduled at noon today is one of the most important.

The commission’s nine members will finally start narrowing down choices, from a total of eight developed during the past year.

The options that could be recommended to city council on Nov. 22:

- Keeping it as it is. Doing nothing to the system will keep everything the same, but could leave taxpayers holding the bag if Memorial finds itself in financial trouble.

- Keeping it as it is, but changing governance. Will keep local control, but could still force tax increases if Memorial needs more funding.

- Keeping it as it is, but removing the mill levy. This option retains city governance but removes the risk taxpayers might have to bail out Memorial if finances should falter.

- Affiliating with a nonprofit or leasing with a nonprofit. Removes local control completely, which frees the city of legal and financial responsibility. The city could also receive property taxes from Memorial for the first time. Downfalls could include lack of local control and having to spread Memorial’s profits throughout a larger system.

- Creating a hospital authority. This could consolidate local health care groups such as the El Paso County Health Department and Memorial. The downside: hospital authorities require both state legislation and local tax dollars.

- Selling to a for-profit. This could generate money for a health care foundation, as well as provide needed revenue through property taxes for the city. The downfalls: lack of local control, lack of local leadership, turnover and Memorial employees would no longer be a part of the state employees’ retirement fund.

- Creating a stand-alone 501(c)3. This is the option favored by Memorial’s leadership. This option would allow Memorial to expand regionally, while keeping local control. However, a stand-alone nonprofit might have trouble competing in the Front Range environment, and purchasing power will be diluted if its not part of a larger organization.

The group is meeting at the United Methodist Church at 420 N. Nevada Ave. The meeting is scheduled from noon to 4 p.m. Reporter Amy Gillentine will be live-blogging the meeting as the commissioners make their decision.

If they can’t reach a consensus, an additional meeting is scheduled for Oct. 25.