On June 11, Manitou Springs City Council gave preliminary approval to a 50-year tax subsidy to the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, which is owned by Philip Anschutz, a Denver-based oil, gas, and entertainment billionaire. He also owns The Broadmoor hotel, the Gazette
newspaper and Seven Falls.
Two weeks later, the deal was done
That's too fast, says John Weiss, a Manitou resident who owns the Independent, Colorado Springs Business Journal
and the Pikes Peak Bulletin.
Weiss says he was away from the area on a family vacation during the run up to and the final action on the subsidy. But since he's returned, he says he's been contacted by numerous residents, including some past City Council members and mayors who expressed concern at the speed under which the matter was proposed and decided.
"This was passed in 15 days," he says. "It was changed up to the morning of the [June] 26th. This is not a way to make public policy for 50 years."
So Weiss and the Bulletin
will host a public meeting from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 18, at the Briarhurst Manor Estate, 404 Manitou Ave.
Mayor Ken Jaray has agreed to attend and answer questions, Weiss says.
At issue is a deal in which the city agreed to cap its excise taxes on the Cog Railway, which could mean the city would lose out on many millions of dollars from ticket sales over the years. The Cog closed abruptly in late October 2017 and didn't reopen in March as usual. Cog officials said the railroad needs a major overhaul, which could cost up to $95 million. It will be closed for at least another year, and the Cog has agreed to pay the city $500,000 this year and $500,000 next year to replace the estimated excise tax customers pay.
Weiss notes that residents' concerns don't focus on the question of whether or not the Cog Railway should be rebuilt and remain part of Manitou Springs. "We are in favor of the Cog," Weiss says. "We are not against having the Cog. But we think a 50-year subsidy to a corporation without doing due diligence could have negative unintended consequences that have not been thought through."
Weiss also says citizens would like to see the study of economic impact upon which the Council and mayor relied in supporting the measure.
Weiss says citizens could mount a ballot measure to reverse Council's action by gathering roughly 300 signatures, but that effort won't begin until Jaray has a chance to address questions raised by residents.
To learn more about the Cog issues, go to here to see the Bulletin's coverage