Published: October 31, 2013
Without benefit of thorough community input, City Councilman Joel Miller crusades to block $82 million in tax rebates that could help small businesses and families while creating good jobs.
Miller, whom The Gazette endorsed, works for a large, out-of-town corporation that doesn't count on the local economy. On Facebook, he boasts of owning no business and enjoying the option to move from Colorado Springs on a whim. We get it. The councilman doesn't need economic vitality for Colorado Springs because his lifestyle isn't affected by the community's failure or success. He can always just leave.
From his unique and stable perch, the councilman takes extraordinary measures to defeat four goals, in their infancy, that could benefit everyone else. All should defend his right to passionately oppose the projects, known as City For Champions. They include a U.S. Olympic museum, an Air Force Academy visitors center, a sports medicine center at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and a downtown multiuse stadium. None should or will be undertaken without substantial community dialogue and voter approval of debt or new taxes.
Alas, we may never seriously discuss the ideas because of Miller's extreme tactics. Opposition is one thing; sabotage is quite another.
The councilman's first act of obstruction involved organizing a letter-writing campaign, promoted with scare tactics, to defeat our community's application for state tax rebates. Somehow, it's a good thing if Colorado Springs can't enjoy so much as the option of new money for potential progress. If we don't have the option, we can't even examine and discuss the merits of the proposals - all intended to attract tourists and retain them longer.
To properly grasp Miller's forceful campaign, imagine a young adult applying for a college grant to potentially brighten her future. The prospective student's uncle considers the college dream a bad idea, preferring the woman continue waiting tables. Forget caring dissuasion. Instead, Uncle Pessimist sends letters to the scholarship committee that besmirch the applicant's dream and encourage rejection of it. Don't even let her try. That is, in essence, how Miller began his attack on a good-faith request for rebates that are needed for our community to begin serious, detailed consideration of four projects.
In case that assault on opportunity wasn't enough, Miller escalated interference to higher level. He used his position at City Hall to threaten the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance for supporting the ideas.
The alliance is charged with attracting good employers, so it supports the rebate request. It also represents the local business community, which is solidly behind the proposals. The organization has for more than a decade received $200,000 or more a year from Colorado Springs Utilities, which also needs the Springs to attract employers.
As a member of City Council, Miller serves on the board of directors of Colorado Springs Utilities. He's so determined to prevail in this battle that he suggests depriving the alliance its annual funding - in retaliation for the organization's statement supporting City For Champions.
"If I'm a ratepayer and I don't agree with a certain charity, why can't I withhold the money - it is a tiny amount on an individual bill, but I don't want to minimize it," Miller said recently.
The councilman is more than a ratepayer. He's a public servant who's supposed to facilitate economic stability for the greater community. If he destroys our application for rebates, depriving others a chance to even consider proposals the money would help fund, he undermines opportunity. If he cuts off the Regional Business Alliance, he limit's the organization's ability to attract good jobs.
While Miller's actions may harm others in Colorado Springs, they won't hurt him. After all, he doesn't own a small business - for which he seems proud. He doesn't need tourists to support his employer. He can move wherever and whenever he wants. No wonder he's so cavalier in attacking a few ideas that didn't start with him.