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The shadows know

Group emerges to tackle governance, but what does it want?

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A group has formed that wants to influence policy decisions related to capital improvements such as roads and flood-control measures. But little seems to be known about it.

Colorado Springs Forward, a nonprofit, was created May 7 by MD Mutch & Associates, a consulting firm, "to serve as a broad based alliance of committed persons and entities who demonstrate a profound interest in the economic health of the Pikes Peak Region," according to a filing with the Secretary of State's Office.

Key players include William Mutch, vice president of government affairs for the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs, and Bob Cutter, who oversaw the nonprofit Colorado Springs Together to help those affected by the Waldo Canyon Fire.

Names of others involved haven't been confirmed, but City Councilor Val Snider says membership is nearly a mirror image of the Regional Leadership Forum, composed of developers and businessmen who joined in the process of leasing city-owned Memorial Hospital. Or, as Snider puts it, "It's the same folks who seem to be bitching all the time. It's the same people who have been the enabler for [Mayor Steve] Bach for three years, even though he's destroying the regional partnership" on stormwater.

Among those, he says, are businessman Phil Lane, philantropist Kathy Loo and developers Doug Quimby, Doug Stimple and Chris Jenkins.

Asked if he's participating, Jenkins writes in an e-mail, "As I understand it CSF is studying interest and support for initiatives which can make a meaningful impact on the community. It is still in the researching phase."

Snider adds he's heard talk that the group is composed of 25 millionaires who donated $5,000 each to fund it.

In response to Snider's comments, Cutter writes, "A significant part of our work is about building a broad-based and diverse alliance which continues to evolve. There will be more information on who we are and the direction we are headed when we announce."

He also says the group is gauging "whether there is consensus to tackle our community's infrastructure needs," and will decide this fall whether to launch "an educational initiative."

"We are at the initial stages of discussing ideas with a wide range of people to explore information needs to help set a direction," he writes, adding that the group conducted a poll to assess infrastructure needs but isn't ready to share it publicly.

Snider can shed a little light, after being invited to lunch July 16 at the Garden of the Gods Club by Mutch and Cutter.

"They're tired of fighting between the Council and mayor, tired of fighting between Council members, tired of not getting something done," he says. "They did their own polling of the idea of a gigantic CIP [capital improvement projects] bond issue."

Snider says he believes the group will support the stormwater measure likely headed for the November ballot, and then a CIP measure for the April city election. A regional stormwater task force, of which Snider is a member, has worked for two years on the ballot measure that would impose fees on property owners to fund a massive backlog of flood-control projects.

Bach wants stormwater rolled into a CIP plan that might or might not rely on a tax hike, and wouldn't take into account needs outside the city.

Councilor Jill Gaebler says the group reportedly wants to find a compromise with Bach on drainage and CIP.

El Paso County Commission Chair Dennis Hisey describes Springs Forward as "business and community leaders that believe they can help chart the course of the community if they unite and bring their vision and resources to the table."

That's fine, but it's been tried, City Councilor Jan Martin says in an email, noting past efforts such as Dream City, the Regional Leadership Forum, 6035 Study, the Live It Up Branding Campaign, the Strong Mayor Campaign, the consolidation of the Chamber/EDC, and City for Champions.

"Each group thinks they will be different and if they approach some of our problems from a different angle then they can solve them," she writes. "As a community leader I always appreciate assistance and support from local groups, but I think it would be more effective if we worked together to solve our problems rather than forming another group (with many of the same players) who thinks this time it will be different."

Snider is more blunt. "I'd like to see some of them run for office if they want to help. Like most groups, I would venture that nobody on the list has any experience in local government," he says, before acknowledging Loo served on City Council.

zubeck@csindy.com

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