'They're going to throw it away. One hundred and twenty million dollars from the state, and they're going to throw it away."
That's what one prominent backer of City for Champions said over drinks at The Famous recently. She's sure that Colorado Springs City Council will find a way to kill the project.
"So what are you guys going to do about it?" I asked.
"We know what to do," she snapped, "but don't think I'm going to tell you. You'll see."
If five members (a majority) of Council truly want to kill the project, it wouldn't be difficult. They can ask the voters. Given the negative publicity, voters likely would reject the deal. You can imagine the breakfast conversation: "Tax-increment financing? What the hell is that? Sounds like a big tax increase to me, Enid! I'm votin' no."
That's one way to do it. Naysaying Councilors remove themselves from blame, sit back, and snipe at the proposal. If it goes down, taking with it dreams of an Olympic museum, downtown stadium, UCCS sports medicine center and Air Force Academy visitors center, they've dealt Mayor Steve Bach a devastating blow.
Council's antics may cost the city thousands of jobs and a bright future, but so what? It's the will of the people!
Council can do it more simply by refusing to consolidate existing downtown Urban Renewal Districts, or by nixing any local tax-increment financing until private benefactors make irrevocable funding commitments.
Merv Bennett, Val Snider, Jill Gaebler and Jan Martin are likely C4C supporters. Joel Miller, Don Knight, Andy Pico, Helen Collins and Keith King are opponents.
Call the roll of private-sector C4C backers. It includes every A-list player in the Colorado Springs business community. Do you think they're going to sit back and let five small-town politicians — not one of whom has yet served a full year on Council — kick them in the teeth?
Many C4C supporters believe that killing the projects would send the city into a long downward spiral. The Olympic museum might find a site in Denver — and the U.S. Olympic Committee might join the exodus.
A one-vote shift would change the equation overnight. That's why we can expect an effort soon to recall Council President King. Of the C4C opponents, King appears most vulnerable. He won with the backing of the 80906 power structure, many of whom supported former County Commissioner Jim Bensberg before King's entry. Presumably, they saw King as a better advocate than Bensberg or at-large incumbent Brandy Williams. Not anymore.
As George W. Bush might have said: They misunderestimated him.
Ignoring Phil Anschutz, Bill Hybl, El Pomar, The Broadmoor, the USOC, the Housing and Building Association, the Pikes Peak Association of Realtors, the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Regional Business Alliance is bold, bizarre or crazy — and maybe all three.
Courtiers should not betray their masters. Recall the words of King Henry II when he learned that Thomas Becket had excommunicated many of his supporters. "What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household," Henry II exclaimed, "who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?"
Substitute "waterbed salesman" for cleric, and you know what the Big Dogs are thinking. Rather than suffer the death of a thousand cuts, C4C supporters might place their bets on District 3 voters. Raising money for a scorched-earth campaign to unseat King wouldn't be a problem — but voters might perceive it as a power move by moneyed interests. And the wily King, nobody's patsy, might enjoy a good brawl.
Still, if voters recall King, everything would move forward smoothly. A 5-4 majority would approve multiple tranches of local tax-increment funding, as well as issue revenue bonds to build a parking garage. Everything would be for the best in this best of possible worlds ... but wait a minute!
Here comes Councilor Miller with an initiated measure, asking voters to nix the entire deal ... and polls say it'll pass by a 70-30 margin.
No problem! Just pull some strings, and have Miller, Knight, Collins and Pico recalled — to active duty! Do we still have that base in Greenland?