Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

GUEST OPINION: Council ignored responsibilities, focused on power grab

Tim Leigh Published: January 12, 2014

The City Council has performed below expectations. Instead of working harmoniously with other city fathers, members have cut deeply into the soft tissue of formerly, good working relationships, leaving gaping, festering wounds that will require the (unlikely) deep surgery of renewed cooperation and time to heal.

Instead of tending its primary business - monitoring CSU and land planning - the council has chosen to micromanage the relatively small general fund budget, to the city's detriment. The members have been obstructionist in philosophy and modus, and from their words, their primary objective is the reclamation of power lost in the strong mayor's election.

The council was told CSU lost $240 million in a failed gas price hedging scheme, yet nobody was held to account; it rubber-stamped the current CSU budget, producing an average home utility bill that is 30 percent higher than for similar Denver consumers; it ensured our parks will be green but at a cost: the high-priced parkland water program along the Front Range. The council continues funding ill-advised, speculative environmental scrubber projects when alternative technology has been (and is) available at a discount; and it allowed the sale of utilities to Wal-Mart interests at a $3 million annual loss in revenue, which is needed for critical infrastructure projects.

CSU has $4 billion in assets but $2.4 billion in debt. That's a 2-to-1 asset-to-debt ratio. Xcel Energy has $32 billion in assets but $4 billion in debt. That's an 8-to-1 asset-to-debt ratio. Which company would you rather own?

The council has suggested no policy that would increase in-fill development nor has it offered a vision for the Banning-Lewis Ranch. It has suggested no policy to eliminate 14-hour meetings. (Which of you is coherent at the end of any 14-hour day, let alone one where you're called to make decisions on behalf of 475,000 of your neighbors?)

We're told at least one member will change his anti-recreational-pot vote now that Denver has demonstrated recreational pot is profitable. Unfortunately, unprincipled decision-making is the way of life on the Council these days; decisions made by the emotion of the moment, not principled measured thought. This council is a rudderless powerboat racing upriver with no port in sight.

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Former Councilman Tim Leigh is a salesman, negotiator, author, mentor and community leader involved in many local initiatives.

Durham's response:

The idea that the previous council had a "good working relationship" with Mayor Steve Bach is absurd. That relationship was notoriously bad. The pattern of bad relationships between one mayor and multiple councils indicates the problem clearly lies with the mayor.

The council cannot tolerate the mayor's approach to the budget. If the mayor's position is adopted, the executive branch could transfer any and all funds to whatever "pet" purpose he may dream up. Such lack of accountability does not serve the people of Colorado Springs. The council must continue to insist that there is a balance of power to safeguard the taxpayers' money.

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