NOREEN: Revamped USOC deal has to be transparent

May 5, 2009

It looks like the Colorado Springs City Council is about to bring us the new deal.

You know, the new deal to keep the U.S. Olympic Committee here for the next 25 years. If it can be done at a reasonable cost, that would be great.

A looming question now is whether the new deal will be consummated in a back room, as the first ill-fated USOC deal was, or whether City Hall will bring a doubting community in on the discussion.

About 13 months ago, city officials unveiled a done deal, a $53 million package already tied up with a pretty bow. They talked about it as if it were a tremendous accomplishment, a gift, even.

There was no way to talk about it without being guilty of being a Monday morning quarterback, because when the game is already over, all one can do is look back.

Now that the old deal has gone awry, some of us must be excused for wanting to see the new deal before it's final. People like John Daly, for instance.

Daly, a retired insurance man from Colorado Springs, expressed it this way in a letter to The Gazette: "Isn't it time for the City Council to call a public meeting to illuminate where we are going and where we are now?"

Many in town have suggested the original deal was hatched too quickly. There have been claims that the city didn't scrutinize details as well as it should have, and that the same hasty mistake could be made again.

"That was my feeling at the beginning of this whole thing," Daly said in an interview. "It happened over a weekend."

Councilman Darryl Glenn agreed. "We have an obligation to be as open as possible," he said.

Glenn said the process should be open "as long as it doesn't compromise our legal position."

The secrecy, the city's decision not to issue certificates of participation for the USOC complex and developer Ray Marshall's financial problems have undermined City Hall's credibility.

"There's no community buy-in," Glenn said.

Many are skeptical about the deal being renegotiated, yet it's quite conceivable the new deal can work. But if the new deal comes from a smoke-filled room and is presented as a fait accompli, it will be much harder to persuade the community to go along.

One local writer has opined that the USOC is "priceless."
That's absurd.

Go into a negotiation with that attitude and you'll lose your shirt; maybe your pants. This is a business deal and in any deal, cost is a critical part of the equation.

Colorado Springs has been forced to impose draconian budget cuts this year, so the money being talked about, $1.7 million a year, is hardly incidental.

Most people would like to know the USOC will be a permanent fixture here. It's been great piece of the local fabric. There's no doubt it's good for the city's image.

Got a new USOC deal, City Hall?

Just show it to us before committing us to pay for it.
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