At a hastily called press conference Monday afternoon, Council President Keith King and Board of County Commissioners Chair Dennis Hisey voiced their displeasure with Mayor Steve Bach and with the City for Champions proposal.
The two officials presented letters addressed to Bach, which he had yet to see, enumerating their concerns.
The first missive, signed by King and Councilors Helen Collins, Don Knight, Andy Pico, and Joel Miller, expressed the opposition of “a majority of City Council” to the use of any “local public funds which have been contemplated in the City’s RTA application for the City for Champions projects until such time as our citizens vote otherwise.”
The signatories also noted, “It is clear that the proposal does not contain adequate checks and balances that provide for accountability or transparency of public funds.”
In a letter signed by King and Hisey, the two elected officials characterized the “Resolution for the establishment of the City for Champions relationship to the Colorado Economic Development Commission” as “woefully unacceptable and disappointingly non-collaborative.”
Emphasizing that they were speaking only for themselves “and not necessarily on behalf of the rest of City Council or the El Paso County Commissioners,” they called for Bach to make major changes in the resolution prior to submitting it to the state EDC.
Their demands include:
“This letter,” King and Hisey concluded, “represents only a sample of the issues which need to be further addressed and expresses why we will not support this resolution without major changes.”
King also said that providing local public funding for C4C through a voter-approved general obligation bonds would be both less expensive and more transparent than the tax-increment funding that has been suggested.
“We could save $100 million (through lower interest rates),” King said.
Mayor Steve Bach reacted to the two missives with surprise and dismay.
“I had lunch yesterday [Monday] at my initiation with Keith, Dennis and Tom Neppl, Chair of the RBA, to discuss the economy and jobs,” Bach said in an email Tuesday morning. “I brought up C4C late into the conversation. Neither Keith, Dennis nor Tom had done so earlier. I offered that we could further define in the Resolution the parameters for standing up the SEC advisory entity, and suggested that perhaps the Council President Pro Tem (Merv Bennett) and the County Commission Vice Chair (Amy Lathen) should be in that leadership group and that the umbrella RTA Advisory Board members could (by consensus hopefully) determine the actual makeup of the membership.
“So, Keith and Dennis knew hours before their 4:30 p.m. media conference yesterday afternoon that I expressed flexibility in wanting to hear feedback on the Resolution and that I wanted to work through any concerns of RTA Advisory Board members, including them, today [Tuesday] at our regularly scheduled monthly core leadership meeting.
“It is very disappointing that Keith and Dennis chose a public platform yesterday to air their issues especially just after we met for lunch and they expressed no comments except Keith saying that Council has been shut out of C4C. When I then attempted to engage in discussion with him on that concern, he did not respond.”
At the press conference, Hisey and King remembered things differently.
“We had a discussion (at lunch) that was honest and frank,” said King. “We brought up the resolution, and (the Mayor) said that he’s comfortable with it as it stands.”
During the press conference, Councilors Collins and Knight sat beside King. The Council president pooh-poohed a suggestion that the gathering was a de jure public meeting that must be noticed at least 24 hours in advance.
“It’s a press conference,” King said.
Asked what action Council would take if Mayor Bach ignored their entreaties, King was noncommittal.
“I hope that we don’t get to that point,” he said.
Bach doesn’t sympathize with their stated concerns.
“They know that they can prevent any part of the deal from going forward if they want to,” he said. “They can just decline to approve any changes in the downtown urban renewal district, and that’s that. And if, after we’ve gone through the due diligence, they don’t support the stadium and events center, fine. But we can’t have the City Council and the County Commission voting on every little thing – that’s not our form of government.”
“I can’t figure out how to make them happy,” he concluded.