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GUEST COLUMN: Council has stepped up and become a legislative body

By: Keith King
January 30, 2017 Updated: February 2, 2017 at 2:31 pm
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The governance structure created by the City Council is working for the city and Colorado Springs Utilities.

The governance of the city of Colorado Springs was reorganized because of the passage of the strong mayor concept approximately six years ago.

The City Council districts were also changed from four to six districts, and I was elected from District 3. The council has nine members: six district seats and three members who serve at-large. With the change to having a strong mayor, I believed the City Council also needed to change and begin introducing legislation, because it is the legislative body of the city. The Carver Governance Model, which had been used by council to govern Utilities for years, was also due for a change because of its ineffectiveness.

During my 12 years of legislative service in the General Assembly at the Capitol in Denver, I learned that Committees of Reference were a very important part of the process. It was there legislators introduced their bills. The council agreed that it needed these type of committees and settled on a structure similar, but different in some ways, from the Legislature.

That main difference was that new legislation would be introduced in council meetings with all members present, as opposed to being introduced in a committee. That made sense due to the size of the council. The formation of the committees also gave council members an opportunity to study in-depth the functioning of each department of both the city and Utilities. There was just not time to do that during regular council meetings. The council adopted similar committees for the city and Utilities; Strategic Planning, Finance, and Personnel. Those committees have now been functioning for three years and the changes in governing both the city and Utilities have been impressive.

The Strategic Planning Committees of the city and Utilities have been chaired by Jill Gaebler. The finance committees are chaired by Don Knight. These committees have provided leadership that is extremely important.

For example, the Strategic Planning Committee, under Gaebler's leadership, has supported responsible land use and business development. These initiatives include the establishment of the Commercial Aeronautical Zone at the airport and a construction defect ordinance that supports multifamily housing construction. The Finance Committee, under the leadership of Knight, included new full transparency for both the city and Utilities budgets. Dozens of changes have been made to the city and Utilities budgets. One in particular is the development of a more conservative estimation model for sales revenue to ensure our planned expenditures better reflect reality.

I also suggested the leadership of council and Utilities be different council members. This has worked out much better than anticipated. The Carver Model of Governance is being diminished so that the council can run Utilities more effectively using the committee structure.

The agendas of both organizations have received much needed and extra input by the council. Having two council members serve as president of the city and president of Utilities engages a leadership process that gives the council more input.

I am proud of the way the council has stepped up and become a true legislative body for the city of Colorado Springs and Utilities. The members of this council have been dedicated to being the best council possible.

While I have chosen not to run again, and will focus on my job as administrator of Colorado Early Colleges, I am proud of the expertise that has developed by the formation of the committees and the two organizations having separate leadership. A well-informed and engaged City Council makes for a better city for all the citizens of Colorado Springs.

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Keith King is elected from Council District 3. No public funds were expended in the writing of this article.

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