Mayor Steve Bach says he's launched an initiative to rejuvenate downtown by enabling development and making the core area safer.
At his monthly news conference at the Police Operations Center, Bach said he's gathered representatives from the Downtown Partnership, Regional Business Alliance and Urban Renewal Authority, who will meet monthly with him to come up with ideas to stimulate the downtown area.
"We're going to work more closely together and create a true renaissance downtown," he said. "Successful cities have a strong downtown." That energy, he said, then radiates to other areas of the community.
The top priority is reconstruction of the Interstate 25 and Cimarron Street interchange, a project that's been on the drawing board for a long time and has already gotten priority treatment from the regional Pikes Peak Area Council of Goverments and the Colorado Department of Transportation.
He went on to say he has identified three "equal opportunity zones" that need city help in growing jobs and "creating economic vitality." Besides downtown, they include the North Nevada/UCCS corridor and South Academy Boulevard.
About the latter, he said, "It's urgent. We must turn that around. It's going to take a lot of heavy lifting." He didn't give any ideas or say who would participate in that effort, however.
He acknowledged that he's received feedback from west-siders who wonder why that part of the city isn't a priority. "It's not to say downtown is more important than the west side," he said. He did add, however, "We have a higher crime rate downtown than on the west side."
As Bach has done at all his appearances of late, he urged people to vote in the April 2 city election. He also urged defeat of a measure that would increase City Council pay from $6,250 to $48,000, which he said contains "very confusing" wording. (City Attorney Chris Melcher, hired by Bach, wrote the ballot measure.)
Bach also urged support of a measure that would take money earmarked for parks development from the Trails, Open Space and Parks tax and redirect it to parks maintenance. Asked to explain his contingency plan if the measure fails, Bach said, "We're still working on that. We may be closing some parks, some neighborhood parks. I hope not." He gave few details and mentioned one Council member's suggestion to take the needed $1 million from city reserves, a move he considers "a last resort."
This is interesting, considering that Parks Solution Team member Richard Skorman writes in this week's Independent that if the measure doesn't pass, we'll be faced with a "train wreck."
Bach didn't seem too worried about that today. "We hope to find some other efficiencies if we can" to cover the lack of funding should the measure fail, he said.
Meantime, the Trails and Open Space Coalition, which Bach asked to reconsider its stance opposing the ballot measure, has done so and still stands against it. Here's the latest from the TOSC website:
Ballot Issue 1 has forced all of us to think about our Trails Open Space and Parks (TOPS) funding program. What was it created for, what has it accomplished and how can it best continue to serve our community?
Issue 1 would allow the TOPS Parks category, about $1.1 million a year, to be used not just for building new parks but also for maintenance and renovation through 2025. That means a little more money to repair sports courts and playgrounds. A little more money to fix pavilion roofs, repair bathrooms and make irrigations systems more efficient — all much needed projects.
Mayor Bach recently sent a letter to the Trails and Open Space Coalition in which he expressed a desire to work with us to “preserve and protect our parks legacy.” Council made it clear it is not their intention to use TOPS money to replace general fund support except in case of an emergency. The Mayor made the same promise.
We want to thank Mayor Bach and City Council for expressing their strong commitment and support for our City parks as they explained to us why they support Issue 1.
The Trails and Open Space Coalition initially took a position to not support the proposed modification to TOPS and we are standing by our position.
Finally, we asked Bach why he was a no-show at the groundbreaking on Tuesday for the city's $125 million water treatment plant, one of the biggest components of the Southern Delivery System, the city's biggest public project in decades and, perhaps, ever.
From left: Utilities CEO Jerry Forte, County Commissioner Dennis Hisey, former Vice Mayor Larry Small, Council President Scott Hente, Councilor Val Snider, Commission Chair Amy Lathen, Commissioner Peggy Littleton, Councilor Merv Bennett, former Mayor Lionel Rivera, former Councilor Margaret Radford, Councilor Brandy Williams, Council President Pro Tem Jan Martin, Commissioner Sallie Clark, Councilor Bernie Herpin.
SDS is a mammoth pipeline project from Pueblo Reservoir, which has been 20 years in the planning and is to become operational in 2016. The treatment plant, one of the final major construction projects to bring the project home, is expected to create 300 local jobs.
Asked why he wasn't there yesterday, Bach said, "I'm sure it's because I had a conflict."
We asked, "Such as?"
He said, "I'm happy to give you my calendar ... I can't be in two places at once."
His assistant later provided this information:
At 10a — 11a Mayor Bach presented five Spirit of the Springs Awards to athletes who achieved National Championship status (and one person was a World Champion) in a variety of sports.
At 12p — 1:30p Mayor Bach spoke at Charis Bible College to 500 national and international students.