UPDATE: Council defeats Utilities nonprofit funding

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In response to City Council's action on Tuesday to reduce city aid to the Convention and Tourism Bureau, a statement was issued Wednesday by Alicia McConnell, Chair of the Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau Board of Directors:

High unemployment of 8.2% continues to plague Colorado Springs. After 18 months of devastating fires and floods to our City and region, accompanied by sensational headlines seen around the world, it is unconscionable for City Council to cut funding to the one organization that businesses depend on to bring tourists to the area. Business owners and their employees that depend on tourists to support their livelihoods will feel the consequences of City Council’s vote yesterday to slash CVB funding for 2014 by $1.3M.

I and the members of the CVB Board of Directors urge City Council to do the right thing for the Colorado Springs economy and adopt the recommendation from their own citizen-led LART [Lodging and Rental Tax] advisory committee to fully fund the Convention & Visitors Bureau for 2014. Jobs depend on it.


——————————————ORIGINAL POST, TUESDAY, NOV. 26, 3:51 P.M.——————————————————-
A deeply divided City Council wiped out $664,000 in funding for non-profits from the Colorado Springs Utilities 2014 budget, including the Regional Business Alliance, today, with Councilors Keith King, Don Knight, Joel Miller, Helen Collins and Andy Pico voting to omit the funding.

The motion exempted $18,000 used to help the neediest customers pay their utility bills.
Miller: Led the way to dump nonprofit funding from Utilities budget.
  • Miller: Led the way to dump nonprofit funding from Utilities budget.

During the hour-long discussion, opponents termed the Community Focus Fund as a forced donation program by ratepayers to nonprofits ratepayers might not support.

Proponents of the fund said funding was evidence of Utilities being a good corporate and community partner.

In quick succession, though, Council voted 6-3 to revisit funding next month with action expected in January to reinstate money, most likely the $240,000 for the Business Alliance. Voting against the motion were Jill Gaebler, Jan Martin and Val Snider.

Positions as stated by Council members:

Miller: "I have issues with forcing ratepayers to be involved in paying for things that are not utility related. The Business Alliance is a political organization and for ratepayers to be endorsing somebody or something they don’t agree with is a fundamental problem." He also said the alliance should have to go through a competitive bid process. "I am not convinced they are the best one for the job."

Pico: "I’ve been very concerned about how this community investment fund has been handled. We’re spending other people’s money and being generous with it, and that’s inappropriate."

Collins: "If we give you a certain amount of money, what do we get for that? There needs to be more accountability."

Knight. He noted that the military members have long supported United Way and other organizations, but it was voluntary. "I’m a strong supporter of the RBA. But whether we fund [Business Alliance] or not, he [RBA director Joe Raso] still wants to improve communication and work with us."

King: He said he wanted to give the Business Alliance a chance to work out whether it would change its political activity policy.

Those who supported the Community Focus Fund:

Gaebler: "The Community Focus Fund is a very valuable asset to CSU. This is an important asset to any big company, and CSU is a big company.I really wish we wouldn’t be short sighted here."

Martin: "We’ve absolutely talked this to death. I’ve argued from the beginning the value of this fund. Utilities benefits from economic development. I’ll be sorely disappointed if we just decide not to do that anymore. I haven’t heard a good reason yet for why we don’t want utilities involved in economic development. I will always argue that jobs should be our number one priority."

Merv Bennett: "I've talked to companies coming to Colorado Springs, and one of the questions they asked me point blank, 'What are your expectations of us if and when we come to this community?' I tell them, 'I expect you to reinvest back into the community.' I believe the RBA as a partner for what we’re doing with business development. I believe we have a responsibility to invest back into this community. It’s good business sense."

Snider: He didn't articulate the reason for his vote.
 

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