EDITORIAL: Council continues obstructing our city's need for progress

By: The Gazette editorial
March 29, 2014 Updated: March 30, 2014 at 8:23 am
photo - How to pay for pothole repair has become the latest rift between City Council and the executive branch.
How to pay for pothole repair has become the latest rift between City Council and the executive branch. 

If Colorado Springs can't get much done — if our community continues lagging behind Fort Collins, Denver, Boulder and Greeley — we have mostly the City Council majority to blame.

The latest shenanigans began Tuesday when the council let the routine confirmation of three volunteers, willing to serve on the Urban Renewal Authority, become another grasp for power and control.

The council was asked to confirm Nolan Schriner, Valerie Hunter and Peter Scoville. Their credentials in business and public service are unimpeachable. It was a no-brainer. Vote and get busy with something more complex. Instead, they decided to delay the vote to further examine the nominees.

In a scene out of the "Twilight Zone," Councilman Joel Miller questioned nominees about his conspiracy theory. At a time when our community needs innovation and vision, Miller has chosen to obsess about eminent domain, the constitutional provision under which governments can commandeer private property through the courts. His narrative contends that city government is suddenly, for the first time in history, intent on taking our homes. He has no good evidence to support the assertion but has city lawyers conducting costly research for an ordinance to stop the imaginary threat.

"I have been around this city for a long time, and the only time I remember any condemnation it involved utilities, for a utility line or maybe a roadway," said Schriner, who has lived in Colorado Springs since 1968 and might be Colorado's most experience urban planner.

Another appointee, software CEO Valerie Hunter, said eminent domain is something she knows little about but is "definitely a last resort."

Colorado Springs politicians have never favored confiscation. They do not, will not and should not. It doesn't fit the political or judicial landscape. Even when laying the Southern Delivery System in another jurisdiction, city politicians of all stripes moved heaven and earth trying to avoid eminent domain. The councilman has City Hall wasting time and money on a false dilemma. He could just as well aggrandize himself with a law to stop confiscation of Bibles.

"The ultimate authority for condemnation is yours (council's)," Mayor Steve Bach politely explained after Miller's questions. "I don't think this community, including myself, has any interest in eminent domain — certainly not for commercial circumstances."

Councilman Merv Bennett told the freshman minority he cannot think of three stronger candidates. City human relations director Mike Sullivan said the council's delay would have "a chilling effect" on the community's ability to attract volunteers.

"They have been fully vetted, the due diligence part has been completed, they're known in the community and we're allowing process to get in the way of progress," Sullivan said.

Don't talk "progress" with this council, which clearly has something else in mind. The majority act like it's protecting a lead, blind to the fact we have real work to do.

The next progress-halting battle this week involved Bach's plan to fix potholes. He asked the council for $2 million from reserves, which he increased to a historical high of $53 million by reducing bureaucracy. No way. Bach should take the money from the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority, which Miller said contained $4.4 million in "unused maintenance funds."

One problem. The $4.4 million is no more legitimate than the plot to take homes. It's an old number, as most of the authority's reserves have been committed to capital projects in an ongoing effort to recapture the city's fair share of the regional transportation tax.

The council has accomplished almost nothing since six new members took office last April. It has mostly lusted for power and indulged grudges with the executive branch. The majority blatantly disregards the will of a strong majority who voted to separate the executive and legislative branches, vesting day-to-day management in a full-time mayor. As a result, we cannot appoint volunteers or fill potholes — much less expect legislation to help foster economic opportunity and jobs.

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