Council ready to put its stamp on Regional Drainage Authority

Filed under: environment,Government,Hazlehurst,Hazlehurst |

As City Council prepares to consider the absolutely, positively, for sure no kidding this time final version of the proposed intergovernmental agreement that will establish the Pikes Peak Regional Drainage Authority, it’s interesting to consider the proposed entity from both a practical and political perspective.

  • In most respects, Colorado Springs is the boss. The city will name six members to the 11-member board of directors. While a supermajority of the board is required for certain actions, such a supermajority must include at least two Colorado springs representatives. That would seem to protect the city from any end run around the city’s wishes at meetings when some of the city’s representatives are absent.
  • The City may be the boss, but City Council is the boss of the City. The Mayor is one of the six city representatives, but he cannot designate a city employee, such as his Chief of Staff, to attend in his stead and have a vote. Voting representatives must all be “elected officials” in the parties’ jurisdictions. The remaining five are to be elected officials “jointly appointed by the Colorado Springs Mayor and City Council.” The demands on the Mayor’s time, as the CEO of the city, are intense. It seems unreasonable to require him to personally attend PPRDA meetings – by doing so, the authors of the IGA have effectively diluted his power. Limiting the board to elected officials further narrows the Mayor’s options, but it’s interesting to note that the IGA nowhere defines “elected official.” If you were elected president of of the Jack Quinn’s Running Club, wouldn’t you be an elected official?
  • It might be useful to expand eligibility to former elected officials as well. What about Lionel Rivera, Scott Hente, Bill Guman or Richard Skorman? That would at least expand the universe of eligible board members slightly, and give the Mayor a little flexibility.
  • Like the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (after which it was modeled), the PPRDA ballot proposal will include a master project list. It’s not clear how much flexibility will be built into that list – as we’ve seen, it’s difficult to decree funding priorities 10 years in advance.
  • No fee increases. Apparently certain that future inflation will be negligible, city councilors and county commissioners alike supported a provision that “eliminate altogether a provision that would have allowed fees to increase in line with annual increases in the area’s Consumer Price Index and cap the maximum revenue that can be generated by the PPRDA at $39,275,650.” If the PPRDA has a statutory life of 20 years, it’s possible that inflation could drastically affect its operations.
  • Is Council trying to elbow the Mayor aside, and become a de facto administrative body? It certainly seems that way. As George Orwell noted in Animal Farm, “all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” Council and the County Commissioners will effectively control the PPRDA, while the city’s elected leader will have comparatively little say.
  • Remember, the County Commissioners will make the ultimate decision on whether to put PPRDA on the November ballot. At Monday’s joint council/commission meeting, the four commissioners in attendance (Peggy Littleton, Dennis Hisey, Sallie Clark and Amy Lathen) seemed to be generally satisfied with the draft IGA as presented.

“I don’t see any fatal flaws in what we have before us,” said Board of County Commissioners Chair Dennis Hisey toward the end of the meeting. “I don’t think well have any problems in voting for what you approve tomorrow.”

It’ll be interesting to see how Mayor and Council go about selecting their five joint appointees. Will Council name three of its members, and will the Mayor settle for two additional Councilors who are more inclined to support his agenda? Or might he find a school board member and a state legislator willing to put yet another meeting on their calendars? At a previous joint Council/Commission meeting Commissioner (and former City Councilor) Darryl Glenn scolded the two branches of city government for their incessant quarreling and advised them to get their act together if they wanted to see the PPRDA proposal on the ballot.

Now, it appears, they’ll have to do so – if the measure passes muster with county voters in November.

Absent unforeseen difficulties, City Council will approve the IGA at this afternoon’s meeting. If there are any problems, the decision might conceivably be delayed until a specially called meeting prior to next Wednesday’s Utility Board meeting.

At this point, though, that seems unlikely. After two years, even our dilatory, decision-averse City Council seems poised to act.