Hazlehurst: Council finds new low for embarrassment

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John Hazlehurst

John Hazlehurst

It should have been a routine matter on City Council’s agenda this week.

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 project’s incremental tax revenues.

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 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 a 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 résumé 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 he 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 anyone who might think of volunteering for a city board.”

The Feckless Five didn’t care. Keith King and Andy Pico said 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.

2 Responses to Hazlehurst: Council finds new low for embarrassment

  1. John, thank you for calling it for what it is. Your experience and time spent on Council gives you a lot of insight on what the “real issues” are.

    Karen Elliott
    April 1, 2014 at 11:57 am

  2. The assumption that the best qualified people in the city for a volunteer position to do urban planning are corporate clones is insulting to any home or property owner who lives and works in the city of Colorado Springs. This appointment was clearly made to rich affluent members of the community that the mayor thought might do him some political good at a later date. Try again to show us how obvious you can be.

    Steven Shepard
    April 1, 2014 at 2:02 pm