Editorial: City can’t lose focus with Memorial

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Let’s start with some points on which we all agree: In so many ways, Colorado Springs is an enjoyable place to live. We want the city — its people, its business community and its government — to thrive, not suffer. We want to work together in cultivating and sustaining an environment that’s conducive to success, and building toward the future.

Not surprisingly, some Business Journal readers will cringe at the sight of editorials returning to this space. Surely, the cynics will insist, there has to be some kind of shrewd, subtle, well-disguised agenda involved.

Well, there’s not. You won’t find stances here related to political parties or social issues. Instead, you’ll hopefully find discussions and positions that will start — or contribute to — community conversations on all kinds of subjects that matter to all of us.

For example, Memorial Health System.

The process leading to Colorado Springs no longer operating our city-owned hospital has consumed two years now. It has taken many turns, from a push for a separate nonprofit to an RFP that brought ambitious proposals from various suitors.

The decision to negotiate a long-term lease with University of Colorado Health, which would include a medical-school campus here, is leading toward a special mail-ballot city election in August. That vote, confirming the lease, shapes up as a huge moment for the city’s future.

Yet now a different controversy has tarnished both Memorial and the City Council. Memorial’s board of trustees decided to give outgoing CEO Dr. Larry McEvoy a $1.15 million severance package, three times what had been prescribed in his contract. Council tried to find a way to unravel that deal, without the potentially huge expense of going to court. But in the end we learned that Council didn’t grasp the full weight of that deal when MHS board chair Jim Moore outlined it (minus actual numbers) during an executive session in late April. Memorial’s board was ousted, and appropriately so, but the severance package couldn’t be changed.

Now we’re hearing that many incensed residents plan to “take it out” on the city by voting against the Memorial lease to UCH in August. That would be a disastrous mistake. We can’t allow our frustrations over McEvoy’s departure to derail a lease that would mean so much to Colorado Springs for generations to come.

Obviously the details are important, and we’re hopeful that the finalized lease agreement — scheduled for public release on June 11 — will survive close scrutiny and be cause for relief, not renewed consternation. Look at what we would get: a hospital system tied to the University of Colorado School of Medicine, linked directly to our growing, vital, state-supported University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. This lease, and the potential it brings, should emerge as one of the biggest building blocks for what many see as our city’s next renaissance.

It’s obvious that the business community understands, not only from talk on the street but also from the fact that any developments in the ongoing Memorial story attract major spikes in the Business Journal’s web traffic. But when the time comes, it won’t be enough just to be quietly supportive of that lease. We need to make sure the city as a whole can understand what’s at stake.

Put simply, we can’t let this opportunity slip away.