Let’s see: A scant majority of city councilors appears to be dead set against the Mayor’s “City for Champions” proposal. Never mind that every other regional elected body has endorsed the application; never mind that we might get $55 million in state tax increment financing for the four Regional Tourism Act projects; never mind that the local economy is somewhere between stagnant and going south; never mind that 25,000 folks in our city are unemployed.
The not-so-fabulous four plus one (Helen Collins, Don Knight, Joel Miller, Andy Pico and — for the moment — Council President Keith King) are opposed to any proposal that might lead to a new bond issue or even (gasp! shudder!) new taxes. And if that means passing up a de facto state grant, so be it — never mind that voters would have to approve any new taxes or borrowing.
At Wednesday’s City Council/County Commission meeting, Councilor Miller warned gloomily that C4C, if approved by the state Economic Development Commission, couldn’t be amended — we’d be stuck with it! Miller might even trek up to Denver on Dec. 4 when the city formally presents its amended proposal to the EDC. He’ll ask the commissioners to reject the city administration’s application, most likely on the grounds that the Mayor failed to consult Council or involve city residents and just threw together an ill-conceived grab bag of unrelated projects.
So what will the Commissioners do? A few months ago, we profiled each of the nine members of the EDC. They’re tough, successful men and women who won’t pay much attention to a rump faction on City Council. This isn’t their first rodeo — they’re well aware of the quarrelsome, personal, and polarizing politics that characterize our fair city. We’re the gun-loving, gay-bashing, God-fearing, Democrat-despising land of Lamborn and bastion of Bruce, ground zero for the politics of “No!”
But just as the Broncos put their best players on the field at crunch time, the C4C team is going with an all-pro lineup: Scott Blackmun, Dick Celeste, Bill Hybl and Pam Shockley-Zalabak are slated to speak. It’s hard to imagine four more credible advocates, and you can bet that the nine members of the EDC will take what they have to say very seriously.
They won’t just whoop the application through, though — they’ll have some tough questions. For example:
How will you fund the operating deficit of the downtown sports and event center? Triple-A baseball stadiums can be cash cows, but a 10,000-seat soccer/rugby/whatever field without a lead tenant? Expect red ink!
You want to use state tax money to fund a major military facility? The defense budget approaches a trillion dollars annually! Sorry, but didn’t we give at the office?
How will you fund the operating deficit of the downtown sports and event center?
With all due respect, we know Pam Shockley-Zalabak. She can smell money the way a coyote can smell a rabbit. She can figure out how to finance the sports medicine center without any RTA funding. Remember, state TIF funds are reserved for projects that can’t be built without them.
Show us the money! Firm commitments from private sources, not to mention a clear path forward for local public funding would overcome many of our reservations.
If project proponents can fend off such objections, the EDC may cough up the dough.
If so, the city will come to an interesting inflection point. Will the King/Miller team work to sabotage the deal by throwing up obstacle after obstacle? Will Council agree to put a funding package on the ballot at some future date, or force project proponents to go the petition route?
The Mayor seemed unusually sunny at Tuesday’s media briefing.
“I’m very optimistic that the state will approve the project,” Bach said, noting he had met with King and County Commission Chair Dennis Hisey on Friday. It was, he implied, a productive discussion. That may mean King has seen the error of his ways, and now realizes that the EDC may actually sign off on the deal. (For the record, King denies that they came to any meeting of the minds.)
King represents southwest Colorado Springs — and, as he may have noticed, the Broadmoor is in his district. It’s one thing to butt heads with Bach, but another to get in a fight with Chris Jenkins, Hybl, Blackmun, Celeste, and Shockley-Zalabak — not to mention Phil Anschutz, the Gazette, and Steve Bartolin. That’s a sure-fire recipe for personal irrelevance and political seppuku.
We’ll know on Dec. 16. No one knows what the EDC will decide, but I’ve got a bet down … and yeah, I’m taking C4C and the points.