Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content Draft opinion says Mayor Steve Bach, not Colorado Springs City Council, should appoint board

By Rich Laden Updated: February 19, 2014 at 7:10 am

Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach, not the City Council, has the authority to appoint members of an advisory board that will help shepherd development of the City for Champions tourism projects, according to a draft version of a legal opinion prepared by City Attorney Wynetta Massey.

Her opinion, which Massey said she expects to finalize by week's end, likely will serve as one more bone of contention in the ongoing power struggle between the mayor and the council, who have clashed over budget matters, the Airport Advisory Commission and solutions to the region's stormwater woes, among other issues.

The advisory board appointments are key because the board will assist the city of Colorado Springs and the Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority in making sure the City for Champions tourism projects are developed in compliance with conditions set forth by state officials, who agreed late last year to allocate funding for the proposal.

Massey made her comments Tuesday during a meeting of city and county officials and representatives of the proposed City for Champions tourism projects - a downtown Olympic museum, a downtown sports and events center, a new Air Force Academy visitors center and a sports medicine and performance center at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. The meeting was meant to update officials about various aspects of City for Champions, and took place an hour before a town hall on the initiative attended by members of the public.

Last summer, Bach submitted an application to Colorado's Office of Economic Development and International Trade seeking funding under the state's Regional Tourism Act for the City for Champions projects. The law makes state sales tax revenue available for communities that show their projects would attract new, out-of-state visitors who'd pump money into Colorado's economy.

In December, the Colorado Economic Development Commission awarded a percentage of future state sales tax revenue to help build the projects, which translates to an estimated $120.5 million over 30 years. The rest of the money must be raised from private and public sources. As part of the state's decision to allocate funds, the Urban Renewal Authority will act as the local financing entity - using its borrowing authority to help get the projects built.

Bach, who chaired Tuesday's meeting, indicated he had been briefed by Massey about the direction she was headed in her opinion; he also had mentioned Massey's opinion during his regular media briefing earlier in the day.

That miffed City Council President Keith King, also in attendance at Tuesday's meeting, because he said it was the City Council that had asked Massey's office for the opinion. That request came last month during a City Council briefing on City for Champions.

"This is kind of interesting that the mayor would have that information before we, as council, got that information from the City Attorney's Office," King said afterward. "The legal opinion that was supposed to be vetted for City Council, and we hear today, before it's been done, that the decision's already been made. That's disappointing."

Bach said later that he hasn't seen or been given an advance copy of Massey's opinion; she only told him that was the direction she was heading when the two had a conversation late last week, he said.

In any case, other council members have said it should be their job to appoint the advisory board; the Colorado Springs City Charter spells out that the authority of appointing boards and commissions rests with the council, they've said.

Even though Massey indicated that Bach should have the responsibility of appointing the advisory board, he said during Tuesday's meeting that he wants to build a consensus with the council and El Paso County Commissioners on naming community members to the advisory board.

Bach has suggested the board be composed of himself, City Council President Keith King, Commission Chairman Dennis Hisey, representatives of the four City for Champions venues and several community members who might have expertise in finance and other areas.

Councilman Merv Bennett and El Paso County Commission Vice Chairwoman Amy Lathen, who are part of an ad-hoc committee meeting on various City for Champions issues, said it's important that the board be composed of knowledgeable community members who will ask hard questions.

"Rubber stamping is not a solution," Bennett said of the advisory board's role.

Of other key legal questions involving City for Champions, Massey and County Attorney Amy Folsom told officials at Tuesday's meeting that each of the four projects would stand on their own - one can be developed even if a funding plan for another falls through.

Also, they are working with Denver attorney Jason Dunn, who worked with the city on its application for state funding and who authored Colorado's Regional Tourism Act, on assembling a contract with the state Office of Economic Development that spells out details of the state's role that were approved by the Colorado Economic Development Commission in December. The deadline for the contract to be completed is April 16.

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Contact Rich Laden: 636-0228

Twitter @richladen

Facebook Rich Laden

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