Drake task force member tries to sway Bach

Filed under: Print,Utilities | Tags:,

Curious as to whether there was any politicking going on between Mayor Steve Bach’s office and members of the Martin Drake Power Plant task force, CSBJ made an open-records request for any relevant emails.

The only result was a revealing exchange between task force member Steve Durham and Bach.

Durham has been an active player in Colorado politics since serving as a Republican state legislator in the 1970s. He’s earned a well-deserved reputation as a shrewd political insider.

His appointment to the Drake task force was controversial because of his links to the coal industry. Some environmentalists argued that, if Durham were to be appointed, a Sierra Club representative ought to be chosen as well. Councilors Lisa Czelatdko and Brandy Williams, who co-chair the task force, noted that all members had pledged to remain objective during the process.

In the emails, excerpted below in chronological order, Durham insistently lobbies Mayor Bach concerning the NeuStream coal-scrubbing system at Drake. He suggests Bach should meet with NeuStream developer Dave Neumann, and lobs a couple of shots across the mayor’s bow.

Durham writes: “I do know that the citizens of Colorado Springs have a significant investment in the technology and that investment could be wasted simply by the delays caused by the conflict, perceived or real, between your office and the Colorado Springs Utilities and the City Council … For my part, I will immediately reassess campaign activities to try and forge an appropriate alliance that would elect individuals who are committed to moving our city forward.”

What, precisely, does he mean by that? Durham could not be reached, and Mayor Bach wasn’t available for comment.

However interpreted, it’s a window into hardball politics, a poker table where players bluff, snarl and sometimes lay their cards on the table.

Jan. 29, from Durham to Bach: Thank you for taking the time to meet with me and Andy McElhany yesterday. I appreciate you initiating a discussion of the issues facing the city of Colorado Springs and the focus that we all should have in solving our major problems. I will, for my part, do a better job communicating in the future. You should know that when I left the meeting I had a voicemail from Pam Zubeck [of the Colorado Springs Independent] about an email of which she had possession concerning the dispute over my appointment to the Drake Task Force. I made no comment to her. I presume this will be the end of this unfortunate chapter. I apologize that she had received the e-mail (I suspect from a member of City Council who received a copy).

On a more positive front, I do believe that the most important thing to be resolved regarding the future of utility rates is the Neumann System. As I noted during our conversation, I do not know whether the Neumann technology works, but I do know that the citizens of Colorado Springs have a significant investment in the technology and that investment could be wasted simply by the delays caused by the conflict, perceived or real, between your office and the Colorado Springs Utilities and the City Council.

I would very much appreciate it if you would take time to meet with the appropriate officials at Neumann and city leaders, including technical people who you trust. I believe such a meeting is essential to move things forward.

For my part, I will immediately reassess campaign activities to try and forge an appropriate alliance that would elect individuals who are committed to moving our city forward…

Jan. 30, from Durham to Bach: I look forward to speaking with you about the storm water issue at your convenience. Additionally, I would very much like to arrange, if possible, a meeting between you and David Neumann. I do believe that the Sierra Club is pressing hard on this issue and that time is of the essence. The meeting may not resolve the issues. However, I believe it is an important investment in time that could pay significant dividends. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to assist in this matter. Once again, thank you for your response and I look forward to discussing the storm water issue with you at your convenience.

Jan. 30, from Bach to Durham: Thank you for your follow up email. Given that you are now on the CSU Drake Task Force, it would be inappropriate for me to have any further communication with you as to any CSU matter in order to avoid any appearance of interference by me with your deliberations. Also, it would be inappropriate for me to have any contact with Dave Neumann/Neumann Systems or any other CSU vendor until the Task Force presents its findings and recommendations to the Utility Board/City Council. Thank you for your service to our City on the CSU Drake Task Force. I hope your group can expedite its work in the best interests of the rate payers, CSU staff and vendors. Thanks.