The two most frequent questions I get as chairman/CEO of the just-named “City Committee” are “what will it do?” and “how did it get started?” I’ll try to answer both questions today.
The City Committee has a twofold mission, which it took on in response to a request from the City Council. We’ll be working with the city and Utilities to bring private sector-like innovations and efficiencies to internal operations, where they apply.
Think of the committee as an unpaid consulting firm to the city, consisting of people with plenty of real-world experience in the business sector. We’re volunteering their time, expertise and acumen because we care very much about the city, and we want to help it learn new and affordable ways of serving the citizens' needs.
We will be self-supported and stubbornly independent and have no political axes to grind. We see this as a multi-year effort and have built this organization to last — meaning that we won’t just make recommendations and disband, never to be heard from again.
Our intent is to work collegially with the city, its enterprises or even other governments. We would like to be partners with other community organizations who share our interests and goals for efficient, accountable government.
Our second purpose is to review city operations, with an eye toward eliminating any and all barriers to business creation and expansion. The goal is to create the best business-development climate possible in Colorado Springs, to ensure that we’re attractive to transplants, as well as growing our own.
This can’t be a thriving city (and a sufficiently-funded city government) without a healthy economy. Our business market is the hub around which everything turns. Where local government is impeding our business progress, those barriers and hassles must be eliminated.
We took great care in selecting committee members, with an eye to this two-fold mission. We sorted through all 87 names of people who expressed an interest in participating, winnowing the list to the 10 members named last week. But many more people can and will be involved, since we’ll be calling on other area business pros for their advice and expertise.
Our committee members bring significant private sector, outcome-based executive management experience to the task. With those skills and know-how, we’ll help the city reform its operations to meet the citizen’s service expectations, and at a lower cost. Committee members are all customer-oriented individuals. They will be taxpayer-oriented, too.
From where did the City Committee concept come?
That’s a more personal story. It started taking shape back on New Years Eve day, over lunch with City Councilman Sean Paige. Sean speaks of Colorado Springs as “Freedom City,” and so we were talking about the qualities that make our community free — perhaps even freer than other cities. Things like low taxes; abundant parks, trails and open space; accomplished institutions of higher education, including the top military academy in the world; first-class cultural facilities; a world-class rodeo; keeping the USOC on our home turf as an ambassador of freedom and goodwill around the world; the military bases and the many contractors who support them and the hundreds of private businesses that create our jobs.
Our conversation eventually headed, unfortunately, to the evolving difficulties of running city government with fewer resources, and what that means to the vision of Freedom City.
So, over dessert, we thought of Steve Bartolin (Broadmoor Hotel CEO), who had written a private letter to the mayor and council that everyone in Colorado Springs somehow received by e-mail.
In his letter, Steve pointed out some spending items that seemed too high and made some other suggestions for improving operational efficiencies.
The letter created a significant buzz around office water coolers and in The Gazette — and a huge outreach to Steve from people wanting to help our city. So we ordered coffee, and then called Steve and he agreed to put that buzz to work — The City Committee was conceived!
Please look for our website to debut soon: www.thecitycommittee.org. — and let us know if you would like to participate in our organization — we’ll find a spot for all who do.