Council supports Memorial as nonprofit; Bruce vows a fight

December 14, 2010

An effort to turn city-owned Memorial Health System into an independent non-profit has spawned a new adversary: Colorado Springs anti-tax activist Douglas Bruce.

“I’m going to vigorously, publicly oppose the biggest giveaway in state history of public property, public resources,” Bruce said Tuesday. “It’s a swindle with a capital S.”

Bruce’s declared opposition came as the City Council voted 6-2 Tuesday night for a resolution in support of turning Memorial into an independent non-profit.

The resolution also indicated council’s willingness to refer a question to a future ballot, although not necessarily in April, to let voters decide the future of the hospital.

“If you want to vigorously oppose it, that’s what elections are for,” Mayor Lionel Rivera told Bruce before the council vote Tuesday.

Councilman Darryl Glenn amended the resolution so it didn’t state that council’s intent was to refer a measure to the April ballot.

“I don’t like our hands tied, committed to April,” he said.

Councilmen Tom Gallagher and Sean Paige voted against the resolution.

“I don’t support the recommendation” of the Citizens’ Commission on Ownership and Governance of Memorial Health System, Paige said.

“I certainly don’t support even expressing the intent to refer something to the ballot before a lot of the devilish details have been hashed out,” including compensation issues and commitments to the Public Employees’ Retirement Association, he said.

Bruce vowed to campaign against a ballot measure to make Memorial an independent non-profit “and alert people not to be bamboozled.”

Memorial, however, says it has a strong case for change.

“Making Memorial a community nonprofit would create new jobs, keep earnings local, and makes Memorial an even stronger economic engine than it is today. It would also preserve our charitable mission and its commitments to the military, children and the indigent,” Memorial spokesman Brian Newsome said in an e-mail.

“We consider the recommendation from the Citizens’ Commission to be a gift to Colorado Springs, not a giveaway, and we support City Council’s decision to move ahead,” he said.

Today, the newly created Mayor’s Task Force on the Future of Memorial Health System will meet “to discuss next steps for development of a ballot question and other matters,” according to the agenda of the meeting.

The meeting, which is open to the public, will be at 2:30 p.m. in Suite 601 of the City Administration Building.

The task force is comprised of council members and members of the Memorial Board of Trustees.

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