Some Colorado Springs City Council members want to see less of Mayor Steve Bach.
Soon after Bach took office last year, he started holding monthly meetings with the council to discuss myriad issues facing the city. Agenda items have included Colorado Springs’ half-billion-dollar stormwater backlog, redistricting and the governance of Colorado Springs Utilities.
But now, at least four council members – Lisa Czelatdko, Scott Hente, Bernie Herpin and Val Snider – want to scale back on the so-called Mayor’s Counsel meetings and meet with the mayor only on a quarterly basis, according to emails obtained by The Gazette.
At least one of the emails reflects the ongoing tension between the mayor and some council members, who have butted heads with Bach since voters approved a switch to a form of government that gives the mayor broad new powers.
“Recently, (the meetings) have mostly been a chance for the executive to try to get the legislative to do something in front of the media and civic leaders without having to come to council meeting,” Herpin said Sunday in an email to his colleagues.
When Bach doesn’t attend council meetings, Chief of Staff Laura Neumann sits in his place.
Bach said Tuesday he will continue to hold monthly meetings with council members who want to have informal conversations with him.
“For those who don’t feel the need, that is certainly their prerogative,” Bach said in an email to The Gazette.
“I look forward to seeing them when they can make it,” he added. “It is productive and worthwhile to have dialogue with council.”
Bach took the idea of holding regular and less formal meetings with council members from the city of Denver.
Last month, Snider suggested moving the meetings to a different day than when the Utilities Board meets. The council doubles as the Utilities Board. The Mayor’s Counsel meetings, which last about an hour and a half, start at 10 a.m., and Utilities Board meetings start at 1 p.m.
Bach said he was flexible and willing to try different formats.
“I’m totally open,” Bach said at the last Mayor’s Counsel meeting.
At the time, Snider made no mention of holding only quarterly meetings. But he was the first to bring it up in an email to his colleagues after the mayor’s special assistant sought council’s input for scheduling the 2013 meetings.
“If we choose quarterly meetings, I suggest starting in November and skipping” September and October, Snider wrote.
In an interview, Snider said he recommended moving to quarterly meetings to free up schedules.
“I think it would be more productive for council if we just meet on a quarterly (basis) instead of taking up everybody’s time each month,” he said.
Herpin said the meetings seem to have “degenerated” into informal meetings where all the mayor does is brief the council.
“I kind of envisioned this with the word ‘counsel,’ that it would be an exchange of ideas and input from each of us,” Herpin said.
“But lately it’s been more of either the mayor lecturing us about (Colorado Springs Utilities) or something or I get into trouble because I say something I shouldn’t be telling him, like we should hire more firefighters,” Herpin said, referring to a meeting where Bach abruptly reminded him that hiring city employees is an executive function.
Czelatdko and Hente did not return messages seeking comment.
Snider said the mayor could bring up his issues during formal council meetings, which include “Mayor’s Communications” in the agenda.
“It seems like a lot of the topics brought up at the mayor counsel could be brought up at that time during the twice monthly formal council meetings,” he said.