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There's always this year

City Councilors rate their progress, decry divisiveness and set some new goals


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Last year, goats, funeral escorts, No Man's Land on the west side and North Nevada Avenue were among the Colorado Springs City Council members' priorities. Some advanced; others did not.

But there's still time, at least for a majority on Council: District representatives will reach the halfway mark in their four-year terms in April. Though three at-large councilors will see their terms end in April, only one, Jan Martin, is prevented by term limits from seeking re-election.

In the meantime, we asked them to measure progress on the goals they identified in 2014 and to look ahead as well.

Don Knight, District 1, northwest

Goals described a year ago: Knight's top priority was to advance development on North Nevada Avenue, for which a task force was formed. "I'm kind of the mindset that 50 percent of development should go to support growth of the UCCS campus: service industries for the students, off-campus housing," Knight said then. The other half, he added, should be dedicated to high-tech medical research companies and businesses that will work with UCCS in the medical field.

What's gotten done: The task force delivered a report to Mayor Steve Bach in early March with 12 recommendations to help revitalize the area. "While the report has sat in the Mayor's office, I am still hopeful he will soon hire a full-time person to assume program management in implementing our recommendations," Knight says via email.

Knight says time worked against him in achieving all of his goals, due to the heavy workload of analyzing various issues.

No. 1 goal in 2015: "My highest priority ... will be to get the City acting as one in preparing for the 2015 upcoming Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC)," he writes. "I spent 10 years doing business development in the Defense Industry and as one of my old bosses used to say — 'Wishful Thinking is not a Valid Strategy.' ... With the Defense Industry being over 40% of our economy, any loss of missions and personnel would have dire results to our economy."

Larry Bagley, District 2, north

Bagley took office Dec. 18, upon appointment following the late November resignation of Joel Miller, who is running for mayor. Bagley will serve until voters elect someone to fill Miller's unexpired term in April, which might be him. He says he'll be a candidate.

Meantime, he says he has "short-term goals" that include focusing on learning about all the items coming up for votes on Council. He also wants to spend time becoming familiar with District 2 residents' views on issues.

"I want to work hard to establish a working relationship with Council, the mayor and city staff," he says.

Keith King, District 3, southwest

Goals described a year ago: Make progress toward bringing some kind of order to No Man's Land, a mish-mash of commercial and residential development between Colorado Springs' city limit on West Colorado Avenue and Manitou Springs ("Where the sidewalk ends," cover story, Dec. 3, 2014). King had called for "form-based zoning," a tool to regulate form and scale, and, therefore, character of development, rather than following traditional zoning. King also said he wanted the city to explore "angel funding" for startup businesses.

What's gotten done: No firm initiatives have arisen involving No Man's Land or angel funding, but King points to a different accomplishment. "The greatest success I had last year in creating jobs was the Commercial Aeronautical Zone at the airport," he says in an email. "It is estimated it has created approximately 200 jobs and the potential is for thousands of jobs in 2015."

No. 1 goal in 2015: "Create a better balance of power between the Legislative and Executive Branches," King writes, and "determine a more collaborative path forward for the City Council and Mayor to work together."

Helen Collins, District 4, southeast

Goals described a year ago: To get more police protection in her district ("Gunned down," News, April 9, 2014). "I expect great police response in [the] southeast and throughout the city," she said a year ago. She also wanted to organize clean-up efforts, and said she'd oppose tax increment financing for the City for Champions tourism venture ("Getting the 411 on C4C," May 7, 2014).

What's gotten done: Collins says in an email that police patrols have increased in the district. "My public criticism worked," she says. "Patrol is up and crime is down." [Asked for supporting data, police spokeswoman Lt. Catherine Buckley says crime data "is not broken down by patrol divisions."]

She also proposed ending most business fees, a measure adopted by Council and vetoed by the mayor. Bach then proposed many of the same reductions and had them adopted by Council.

Collins also put forth the "City Theft Prevention" ordinance and charter amendment to halt "golden parachutes" such as severance pay, and other financial abuses ("Another expensive exit," News, Oct. 1, 2014). It went nowhere.

Collins says her other goals — to oppose pay hikes, Colorado Springs Utilities rate increases and a growing budget — were stymied by a majority of Council voting the other way.

No. 1 goal in 2015: Elect fiscal conservatives to Council — "It's lonely down here!" She also plans to propose a stormwater solution that doesn't raise taxes or incur debt, which includes closing loopholes for developers, to make development pay for itself, and shifting 30 percent of the Rural Transportation Authority's spending to flood control, a move that would require voter approval.

Jill Gaebler, District 5, central

Goals described a year ago: Adopt an ordinance to allow small goats within the city limits ("Staring at goats," News, March 26, 2014), and foster urban gardening by creating a Food Policy Council to encourage food production and create more sustainable, local food sources. She also suggested starting a greenhouse near Martin Drake Power Plant that would be heated with Drake's steam. Gaebler also wanted to see South Academy Boulevard revitalized ("Slow lane," cover story, Feb. 12, 2014).

What's gotten done: Council adopted a goat ordinance, and a group formed to explore setting up a food policy panel. The panel recently completed its goals, objectives and governance structure and will include El Paso County. "This is a huge step for our community, as over 30 other Colorado cities have already established food policy groups that have reduced local regulations for local food producers and have opened up vacant open spaces for community gardens," Gaebler says in an email.

Inhibiting other efforts this year, she says, was Council "divisiveness" that, in her view, stifled economic development and innovation.

No. 1 goal in 2015: Work on the food policy group and strive for increasing transit options and protected bike lanes, and starting a bike sharing program. "Transit and bike lanes, like roads and bridges, are basic city infrastructure, and we need to treat these alternate forms of transportation equally, as many of our community members can't afford vehicles and want to live healthier lives," she says.

Gaebler also chairs the new Infill & Redevelopment Steering Committee ("Hitting refresh," News, Nov. 5, 2014) and wants to reduce barriers to jazzing up older parts of town, increasing population densities and reducing sprawl. "As our city grows outward the City spends more to provide and maintain infrastructure and public safety," she says. "Infill adds population and revenue growth without adding any new infrastructure costs to the City." The committee's efforts also would impact the areas of South Academy and North Nevada, she notes.

Andy Pico, District 6, east

Goals described a year ago: Stormwater control and streetlights were priorities for his constituents, Pico said, so he wanted to work with city staff to provide for both. He also wanted to focus on what was to come for the 23,000-acre Banning Lewis Ranch on the city's largely undeveloped eastern flank. "I think we do need to refocus on what is more critical for the city in the long haul," he said.

What's gotten done: A member of the Stormwater Task Force, Pico supported a ballot measure that called for property owners to pay fees to solve the problem. It failed in the November election. But as vice-chair of the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments, he says, he helped bring federal and state money here for projects such as the Cimarron Street and Fillmore Street interchanges at Interstate 25.

Like Gaebler, Pico sits on the infill and redevelopment panel, which he called "vitally important" to controling the cost of city services. Pico helped King, he says, set up the commercial zone at the airport to bring jobs.The city hasn't done anything with Banning Lewis Ranch, which was recently purchased by Nor'wood Development Group ("Building an empire," cover story, Nov. 19, 2014).

As a member of the Utilities Board, Pico says he's helped reduce costs, including the planned reduction of 100 positions, while assuring the city finishes the Southern Delivery System water pipeline and makes its power plants compliant with air pollution regulations.

No. 1 goal in 2015: Maintaining Utilities service reliability while keeping rates low. He also wants to land more federal and state highway money for the region, and to find a long-term solution for "the entire range of shortfalls in flood control projects, roads, buildings and failing infrastructure across the city and in coordination with our regional partners."

In addition, Pico says he wants to abolish the business personal property tax, an initiative proposed by mayoral candidate Amy Lathen.

Merv Bennett, at-large

Goals described a year ago: Make sure City for Champions is "successful and financially viable." He also said he wanted to advance the Colorado Springs Health Foundation, created to oversee proceeds from the lease of city-owned Memorial Hospital to University of Colorado Health; find a sustainable flood-control solution; and help the Regional Business Alliance bring jobs to the region.

What's gotten done: Council settled the lawsuit in September with the Public Employees' Retirement Association over the Memorial lease by paying PERA $190 million, which will lead to the foundation having about $80 million by 2017 ("Stage set for city health foundation," News, Oct. 1, 2014). The foundation completed its by-laws, articles of incorporation and policies on gifts and investments, approved by Council in September.

Having taken over as Utilities Board chair in April, Bennett presided in the aftermath of the Drake fire, which led to a rate increase to purchase power to make up for the inoperable unit. Also, Utilities broke ground this year, he notes, on the new water treatment plant for the SDS pipeline, and agreed to revisit its governance structure.

As for C4C, Bennett serves on the Urban Renewal Authority Board, the venture's financing vehicle, but so far no financial plan has been drafted.

No. 1 goal in 2015: Bennett, who will leave office in April unless he seeks another term, names several. Among them: finding a way to fix the city's failing infrastructure (which includes those unmet flood-control needs), making progress on C4C, and resolving city charter issues that cause arguments between the mayor and Council. "Council will need to work closely with the Mayor to assure we perform and are perceived as a functional and successful team working to make this a GREAT City," he writes in an email.

Jan Martin, at-large

Goals described a year ago: Martin wanted to look at the big picture and help create jobs. She wanted to decide on a stormwater solution and Drake's future. She also pledged to refine the Lodgers and Automobile Rental Tax Advisory Committee's funding process and hold recipients accountable for the $4 million they receive each year. Other goals were to license private funeral escorts to relieve police of this task, and work with Gaebler on setting up "waste-free" events in Colorado Springs.

What's gotten done: Council adopted a funeral escort license ordinance. The LART committee adopted rules requiring recipients to document economic impacts — and in response to that (and pre-existing issues with the city), the Colorado Balloon Classic said it would cease its Labor Day event in Colorado Springs.

As for Drake, "The CSU Board basically kicked the Martin Drake can down the road," she says, by folding the issue into the Energy Integrated Resource Plan study that continues in 2015. She notes that a Utilities Board member declared that "climate change is a hoax" and others agreed, so no decisions were made about the future of Drake or electric power for customers.

Regarding jobs, she says, "I've been supportive of all the economic development projects brought forward this year including Kinder Morgan, Blue Dot building, the Airport Economic Zone and the PPRTA work with the Airport Economic Zone. I met with the owners of Bingo Burger to help clear any city/utility roadblocks they encountered and I'm very supportive of the new emphasis on entrepreneurship we are seeing with the Pitch Nights and Million Cups events. From Utilities I encouraged their involvement in economic development projects and helped to continue their support of the RBA [Regional Business Alliance]."

No. 1 goal in 2015: Martin leaves office in April under term limits but until then will fight for job-creation policies and continue refining LART's rules and procedures. She also will support the new Catalyst Campus, which is to open next summer at Pikes Peak and Colorado avenues, and advocate for candidates in the April election "who are reasonable and make moving our city forward a priority."

Val Snider, at-large

Goals described a year ago: Providing regional flood control, deciding Drake's future, and capitalizing on Utilities as an economic development tool.

What's gotten done: Snider's take on Drake differs from Martin's. He says the Utilities Board did decide Drake's future by identifying four decommissioning time-frames for further study as part of the EIRP: five years, nine years, 16 years and 25 years.

Using Utilities as a job creator, he says, was accomplished through providing support for 21 business expansions and retentions in response to 33 prospects' inquiries. "We have worked closely with the city, county and Regional Business Alliance to streamline our business and customer response services," he writes in an email.

He blamed the stormwater ballot measure's failure on "lack of public understanding about the giant scope" of the city's flooding problem and Bach's opposition to the measure.

No. 1 goal in 2015: Despite that loss, Snider wants to work on flood projects through the Fountain Creek Watershed, Flood Control and Greenway District, which is to receive $50 million from Springs Utilities starting in 2017, though it's unlikely projects would be built within the city.


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