Council finds new low for embarrassment

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It should have been a routine matter on City Council’s agenda at Tuesday’s meeting.

Mayor Steve Bach had nominated three Colorado Springs residents to serve on the Urban Renewal Authority. Under the charter, the mayor appoints qualified community members to the authority, subject to Council confirmation.

As volunteer city boards go, it’s a powerful body. Once Council creates an Urban Renewal District, such as Ivywild, University Village or the Vineyard, the URA can issue tax increment bonds to support development within the area. Such bonds are not city obligations, and bondholders only get paid from the incremental tax revenues created by the project.

The URA has become particularly visible of late, since the funding structure proposed for City for Champions may make use of such financing. As Bach has frequently noted, the URA’s ability to do so is contingent upon Council action. The URA would have no power to act upon the controversial downtown C4C projects without specific Council approval.

Bach went out of his way to appoint highly qualified individuals from the business community to fill three spots on the URA body. He chose Nolan Schriner, Valerie Hunter and Peter Scoville.

Schriner has lived in this community since 1968. He worked for the Planning Department as manager of land development from 1975-1978, and founded his own planning firm, NES Inc., in 1979. Between 1979 and 2009, Schriner was involved in virtually every significant real estate development in the city, including Briargate, Mountain Shadows, Flying Horse and University Park. He worked on the expansion of Colorado College and Memorial Hospital. He’s served on a half-dozen boards, bought and renovated an historic downtown building that houses his firm, and has been a go-to guy in this community for a third of a century.

Valerie Hunter heads the Hunter Group. Her resume is brief and to the point.

“Transformed a small, start-up software company into a multifaceted and multinational operation offering occupational health software solutions to a global client base.”

Hunter also is a commercial property owner and deeply involved in the business community.

The third nominee, Peter Scoville, is a 1994 graduate of Colorado College who began his real estate career here in 2000. To say that he’s been successful would be an understatement. He founded Colorado Springs Commercial in 2009, has served as president of the RCIS (Realtors Commercial Industrial Society) and was involved in the $134 million sale of COPT properties in Colorado Springs last fall. He co-chairs the organizing committee for cycling’s USA Pro Challenge, which will return to town in August.

Oh, and he’s also climbed Mount Everest.

These aren’t people who owe anything to Mayor Bach. They can’t be bought. Our community is strengthened by their presence. It’s to Bach’s credit that he chose three tough, independent folks to serve.

When the item came before Council on Tuesday, Don Knight demanded that it be postponed, saying that he needed more time to consider the qualifications of the appointees, and might wish to interview them personally. His motion to delay was seconded by his usual partner in crime, Joel Miller.

Jan Martin, Merv Bennett and Val Snider opposed Knight’s motion. (Jill Gaebler was absent from the meeting.)

“I can’t think of three stronger candidates,” said Bennett.

An appalled Mike Sullivan, who heads the city’s Human Resources Department, begged councilors to go forward with the confirmation process.

“These are volunteers,” he said, “not city employees. Your action will have a chilling effect upon any one who might think of volunteering for a city board.”

The Feckless Five didn’t care. Keith King and Andy Pico said that they’d support the nominees, but joined Knight, Miller and Helen Collins in voting to postpone.

Two of the three nominees came to the meeting to make themselves available for questioning (Scoville was out of town).

“Why,” asked a UCCS student in the audience, “do council members think their time is more important than (that of) the volunteers?”

Rather than move things along, Council President King seems to enjoy delay and indecision. He caters to the whims of his rookie colleagues, encouraging them to believe that they’re at the center of the political universe.

He should know better. Council shouldn’t be run as if it were the “kill committee” of the state Legislature, a place to humiliate the minority and fluff the pillows of the majority.

After City Council had voted to postpone, I spoke to Schriner and Hunter, not as a journalist but as a former City Council member.

I apologized.

16 Responses to Council finds new low for embarrassment

  1. How can the council say that it is looking out for the citizens of the Springs with decisions like this? Something very wrong is going on around here.

    David H. Moore
    March 26, 2014 at 11:05 am

  2. “A lack of a community vision, leadership and collaboration along with polarizing ideological differences in the political arena will inhibit local economic development” (Angelo Angelou: April 2009)

    “We are on a path where if we don’t change the way we do things, in 5 to 7 years, our city will be insolvent” (Steve Bach: August 2012)

    Finding the people who can come up with a solution to where one would not have to ‘apologize’ for local government: Can it be done and what process would be used to move from conflict to harmony?

    Might be worth another ‘Blue Ribbon Commission’ to study that. If you have experience with how other cities have resolved similar issues, and would be willing to share them, we would be most willing to accept them as suggestions of a helpful nature on future meetings to determine how this can happen. Thanks.

    Richard D. Wehner
    March 26, 2014 at 12:11 pm

  3. More power plays! Kudos to this group of business professionals who want to donate their time and serve on the Urban Renewal Authority board. There is no way I would currently serve on anything that has to answer to the “feckless five” (thanks John Hazelhurst!)while they are still involved with City Council!

    Callie
    March 26, 2014 at 1:58 pm

  4. Sorry I meant Hazlehurst! Typing too fast!

    Callie
    March 26, 2014 at 2:10 pm

  5. John starts by misrepresenting this event as a “routine matter”. But what we are really talking about is the next 30 years of TIF activity within our community. A concentration and focus on the downtown area to the exclusion of many other projects. Promises have become guidelines, taxes for specific purposes (PPRTA) have been waylayed and the strong mayor has turned to dictatorship in lieu of goverance. The C4C has become a joke of misrepresentation and backward planning. All C4C needed to do was watch how the STORMWATER commission was being operating to understand how it should have been done not how C4C was being run. Last minute resolutions that no one saw and everyone argued against (even C4C members), changes in content from the Dec 4th briefing and even more disturbing CSURA members resigning in the middle of their terms. No suspicions here. John has clearly derailed himself from a ‘fact-finding journalist’ to an advocate of what he desires to be true. This article belongs in the treasure trove of ‘letters to the editor’ vice true and independent journalism. I would have voted for a convention center but will not vote for a soccer stadium of dubious worth. The City Council is listening to the voters and holding ‘everyone’ accountable. You should have asked why the three were leaving…

    William Murray
    March 26, 2014 at 8:21 pm

  6. The Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority could be responsible for more than half a billion taxpayer dollars over the next 30 years–well beyond the terms of either the sitting Council and probably beyond the lifetime of the Mayor. The board also gives direction for blight findings for the purpose of government taking of private property, has in the past directed letters of potential condemnation to property owners and makes recommendations to Council on the use eminent domain in both the development of urban renewal plans and actual proceedings where Council may be asked to deprive citizens of their sacred property rights. Confirmation should not be considered a lightly taken endeavor.

    The names of the appointees were not presented to Council with enough time for members to have the opportunity to vett them. The Mayor was informed the confirmation may be possibly delayed, but opted to press ahead anyway and invite the candidates.

    “Feckless” from Merriam Webster: irresponsible.

    Vetting candidates for a board with huge financial accountability and the gate keeping of fundamental American rights demands responsible behavior and that’s exactly what’s happened. If there are citizens who relate responsibility with casual abandonment of duties, they elected the wrong candidate from District 2.

    Joel Miller
    March 27, 2014 at 5:34 am

  7. Time for a recall vote

    peter miller
    March 27, 2014 at 6:45 am

  8. Can anyone really believe that this is what we expected? Is a disfountional city government the will of the people? Find a way to work together, thats what we voted for.

    David H. Moore
    March 27, 2014 at 10:15 am

  9. I meant dysfunctional city government, sorry for the typo

    David H. Moore
    March 27, 2014 at 10:32 am

  10. It would certainly go a long way in the idealistic pursuit of our city government working together if editorials like this one included ALL of the facts in the first place, instead of creating more political polarization in our fair city. Thanks go to Joel Miller for going the extra mile and explaining the reasoning behind Council’s unwillingness to rubber stamp. I heartily agree.

    Diann Webb
    March 27, 2014 at 11:25 am

  11. Exactly….feckless! Joel, you and the other four newbies on City Council are so wrapped up in control and power, you’ve completely lost site of why you were voted to serve. Every step of the way, you five create these stalemates and as many council meetings that I’ve attended in the past 6-7 months, I have not heard one positive alternative come from any of you. The platform that Keith King ran on is a completely different agenda than his stance on issues today. Was he just feeding the BS to get voted and then once in the “chair” create his own agenda? If Keith King wants to Mayor, he should have thrown his hat in the ring during the last Mayor election. Figure out how to work together instead of working against each other. It’s frustrating and embarrassing.

    Callie
    March 27, 2014 at 11:35 am

  12. If C4C goes thru then the people on this board have great responsibility. Why do so many idiots in COS think it is unreasonable for Council to vett applicants rather than rubberstamping ok. For years Bach and his lackys kept applicants for boards and jobs a secret from Council then expects them to bend over and appoint. Council keep doing what you are doing!

    Dale Heeven Jr.
    April 1, 2014 at 4:11 pm

  13. Let me guess Callie, youre a rising professional with stars in your eyes of being connected to such “power players” not. Grow up and realize that Council looks out for the citizens, not Mayor BAching up the wrong tree with this Council. Colorado Springs has a great start to a City Council. Get rid of the idiot Jill Gaebler and butt kisser, flip flopper Merv Bennett and COS will have a good Council.

    Dale Heeven Jr.
    April 1, 2014 at 4:15 pm

  14. While personal attacks may be the norm for some citizens, we expect more from our elected officials. I am hoping that they can see beyond their differences and work together.

    David H. Moore
    April 2, 2014 at 12:30 pm

  15. Wow, actually Dale, I am probably closer to your age than you think, possibly older. My parents moved to Colorado Springs almost 60 years ago and we’ve been active within our community volunteering on many committees and boards while raising our own children. Our city is stagnant and finally we have something that could change the dynamics of our City and move it forward. These new projects could potentially start new progressive projects such as infrastructure needs, farmers markets, art and theater districts – the ideas for positive changes are limitless. The leaders of C4C have been tasked to research all funding options – nothing is set in stone except the misstatements continually made by Joel Miller and the negativity generated by the council members who have absolutely no foresight.

    Callie
    April 3, 2014 at 6:59 am

  16. I don’t want the council and mayor to “work together” if that means the council abdicates their responsibility to the citizens who elected them. The council is obligated to fully vett nominees chosen by the mayor and that means asking nominees questions. Why did Schriner respond so rudely and arrogantly to the councilors? It is this attitude that makes him unfit to serve on the URA board.

    Bach does not rule alone, although it appears that he thinks his election as COS first “strong mayor” gives him this right. But the mayor is mistaken. The electorate expects the mayor to recognize and accept the powers held by the council. If Bach will do this, cooperation in achieving mutual goals will be the result.

    A farmers market downtown is happening now. The “blighted” urban renewal area does not need a stadium to spark positive changes. And Joel Miller’s in-depth financial reporting on the cost of the stadium is a valuable antidote to the continuous rah-rah bilge the Gazette and Hazleworth put forth.

    j lee
    April 5, 2014 at 6:44 pm