Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Council member should stop sabotaging city's application

The Gazette editorial Published: September 12, 2013

Council member Joel Miller has carried a temper tantrum so far he stands to harm the community he was elected to serve.

We don't begrudge Miller for opposing City for Champions, a package of four possible tourism projects that would be funded in part by state sale tax rebates. Rather, we resent his outrageous effort to sabotage an application that seeks nothing more than to give residents an option to use $82 million in state sales tax rebates.

The proposals include a U.S. Olympic museum, which would leverage our city's status as host city for the United States Olympic Committee and various Olympic teams and governing boards.

Another project would involve construction of an Air Force Academy visitors center, with easy access from I-25. This investment would leverage our community's enviable status as home to a top-tier academic institution.

Another project would add a sports medicine center at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. It would leverage the university, the addition of a university medical school and our status as home of the Olympics.

A fourth project would add a multi-purpose stadium downtown to leverage our relationship with the Sky Sox and rejuvenate the city's core.

Governing boards of Monument and Manitou Springs have endorsed the proposals, knowing they will help the region's economy. Each project is a logical investment option designed to grow the economy and tax revenues. Each builds on assets we have. Each is designed to meet the criterion of the state's Regional Tourism Act tax rebate program. The program provides startup funds for projects that grow the economy by attracting tourists. The rebates are on new taxes generated by the attractions themselves. They are not designed to cost Colorado taxpayers. They are intended to broaden the tax base to taxpayers outside Colorado, thus benefiting Colorado residents with genuine economic growth.

No, state rebates won't pay for everything. This means taxpayers may need to say "yes" or "no" to bonds or any change to tax policies. At this juncture, Miller and other council members have been asked for nothing more than their blessing on an application for state rebates - but they have refused. The rebates could not possibly lock our community into approval of tax and/or bond proposals that may come afterword. Voters can always decide against any such proposals, therefore walking away from the rebates. City and state law require taxpayer approval of bonds and changes to tax policies.

Miller won't stand for the mere option of state rebates. He opposes the projects for a variety of reasons expressed on his Facebook page, several of which don't hold up. He says if the city approves any of the projects, it cannot change them. That is not true. While the state rightly guards against bait and switch proposals, the commission knows that projects change in size and scope as they mature toward fruition. It has worked with past recipients to allow reasonable alterations to the size and scope of original plans.

We suspect Miller is miffed because the application for rebates was devised by a small group of civic leaders, attorneys and developers - not the City Council. He and other council members insist they learned about the proposal in the press.

Supposing Miller has a legitimate gripe about the way he was treated way back when, it is time he put the community's interests first. And there can be no question that our interests would be served by the opportunity to use $82 million in rebates. Miller should heed the advice of a more senior member of the council with a more adultlike attitude.

"We could start from the beginning when we found out we had not been included in the conversation or we can be leaders now and have the opportunity to support this vision," council member Jan Martin said.

Miller, by contrast, wants opponents to write state officials and discourage approval of the rebate application. In essence, he has become a leading crusader to harpoon a project that will undeniably benefit the city he represents. What could prompt such a reaction?

If the application is denied, locals won't have the option of the funds.

Councilman, grow up. We have a city and state Taxpayer's Bill of Rights. The mere option of $82 million in rebates cannot harm our community, nor can it force a majority of locals to incur new expenses against their will.

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