City budget will include several items nixed by mayor
City Council overcame four of the mayor's six vetoed items in the 2012 city budget Thursday afternoon.
In order to overcome a veto by Mayor Steve Bach, the City Council had to muster six votes, which would have seemed challenging given that many of Council's changes to the budget were made on 5-4 decisions. That said, Council made the task look easy.
With seven votes or more, Council was able to keep its membership to the Colorado Municipal League and the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments in its Council budget, rather than in the main budget as the mayor wished. (Mayor Bach wanted the memberships in the main budget so that they would be easier to eliminate if he later wished to do so.)
All Councilors except Angela Dougan and Tim Leigh agreed to that override of Bach. Notably, even Councilor Merv Bennett, who previously stated he would not support any changes to the mayor's budget, went along with the override.
All other reversals were made on 6-3 votes, with Leigh, Dougan and Bennett voting no. Councilors voted to keep funding for tennis court repairs, an additional Code Enforcement officer and a half-time legislative and communications staff member to serve Council.
Councilor Lisa Czelatdko had an embarrassing moment when she made a motion to keep $10,000 for the Old Colorado City Historical Society and failed to get a second.
Only Councilor Bernie Herpin, Council President Scott Hente, and Council President Pro Tem Jan Martin voted in favor of requiring the city to grow its own flowers for the Springs in Bloom program. The mayor has already said he plans to have staff do that anyway, and City Attorney Chris Melcher noted that the Council cannot compel parks staff to do anything, since that power belongs to the mayor. — JAS
County spending to rise
El Paso County will spend about $22 million more next year than in 2011 under a budget approved Tuesday by commissioners, with $262.6 million in spending compared to this year's $240.3 million.
Among the increases: $5 million in federal and state money for human services; about $7.8 million for "community investment," which includes remodeling, energy system improvements and lease payments for the county's Garden of the Gods Road building, plus shuffling of agencies among facilities; and about $500,000 for the county's retirement plan. The budget also funds 3 percent performance-pay increases for county employees.
"I think we're just sustaining," finance director Nicola Sapp says. The county expects to bring in $239 million, and to draw the balance from a savings account beefed up amid the recession. When more than 300 jobs were cut, the county squirreled away reserves now totaling nearly $60 million, Sapp says. The savings were created to sustain the county through 2014, she adds, at which time county officials expect the economy and property values to recover. — PZ
Races on for Legislature
With the redrawing of state legislative district lines now done, El Paso County Republicans are picking their spots.
Term-limited Rep. Larry Liston hopes to jump from the House to the newly drawn Senate District 10. Since 2005, Liston has represented House District 16. Standing in his way is Owen Hill, who had been eyeing a run in HD 16 before switching to SD 10. That leaves Rep. Janak Joshi (relocated from HD 14) facing Mike Garner, widely seen as Liston's chosen heir, in HD 16.
Meanwhile, in a reconfigured SD 12, Keith King announced Tuesday that he would step aside for fellow sitting Republican Sen. Bill Cadman.
Dan Nordberg, local director for U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, will run in HD 14. He's unopposed for now, and sounding a lot like his boss in the early going: "I've seen firsthand the damage liberals in BOTH parties are inflicting upon our country and state," he says in a statement. — CH
Cycling returns in 2012
Officials for the USA Pro Cycling Challenge formally announced this week that Colorado Springs will be among 12 host cities for 2012's race.
The Springs scored the Stage 5 finish on Friday, Aug. 24. So instead of viewing individual time trials between Garden of the Gods and downtown, as during the 2011 prologue, fans will see the whole peloton speed into town after racing more than 100 miles from Breckenridge.
"Last year was a Monday; we were able to bring 100,000 people to Colorado Springs," says Vladimir Jones marketing agency CEO Meredith Vaughan. "Imagine what a Friday night finish in downtown Colorado Springs is going to look like."
Race officials claimed an economic impact of $83.5 million from out-of-state travelers in August, with more than 1 million viewers internationally. Criteria for 2012's host cities included what race COO Brian Farris calls "continuity" in terms of "stitching together a series of cities that makes sense and is easy for the fans to experience the race and convenient for the athletes."
The race launches from Durango on Aug. 20 and ends in Denver on Aug. 26. — MS
Lamborn pushes TRICARE
U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, who has blasted last year's health care reform as "a big government power grab," apparently embraces the big-government approach to military health care.
On Monday, Lamborn urged Colorado Springs City Council to ensure that whatever group leases Memorial Health System will continue to provide robust services to retired and active-duty military members through the government-run insurance program, TRICARE. Noting that the local area includes 120,000 recipients, he asked Council to include an "iron-clad" contract provision mandating the current level of service continue. He went so far as to say the region's five military bases could be in jeopardy of cuts or closings under base realignment if services aren't sufficient.
Council President Pro Tem Jan Martin, who chairs the task force on Memorial, assured Lamborn the city knows the importance of TRICARE. She then turned the tables and asked Lamborn to work to maintain TRICARE funding, because "we don't make money providing these services." Lamborn said there is support in Congress to maintain TRICARE "or even plus it up a little bit." — PZ
Show 'em your logo
Last Friday, Colorado Springs' Branding Task Force shared the outcome of talks with the local designer community over proposed branding for the city: We'll keep the tagline, but you can bring us logos.
Young and old professionals, plus many others, were unpleasantly surprised by the result of the original process, largely shepherded by the convention and visitors bureau, to produce a brand meant to capture qualities that define the Springs. An outpouring of disappointment led the task force to meet with young professionals who had rallied around the Facebook page Rebrand the Springs.
The task force decided "Live it up!" is suitable, but did agree to open up the logo-design process to all regional talent. Find a copy of the RFP at visitcos.com/liveitup and submit your proposal by Jan. 6.
You can participate in the Indy's WeBrand competition by sending entries for tag line and logo to firstname.lastname@example.org by 5:55 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 15. — CH
City keeps 2012 raises
Under the strong-mayor system, the right to create a policy-and-procedures manual goes to City Council. That fact came to light when Mayor Steve Bach brought up a "last-minute" budget proposal Monday, looking to assume power over salaries and other items. Council rejected Bach's manual changes but did consider the mayor's request to suspend automatic pay raises for civilian employees for one year.
The raises are meant to reward employees for becoming more competent. Bach, who said he only recently found out the raises existed, wanted to end the increases because of a salary study he plans to do later this year to determine appropriate wages. He requested a hold on raises in 2012, adding that if Council did not agree, he might use his power to lay off employees, to cut expenses. Some Councilors found that confusing because the $750,000 needed for the raises was already in Bach's budget.
In the end, Council rejected the request 6-3, with Angela Dougan, Tim Leigh and Merv Bennett on the losing end. — JAS
Helen Hunt center coming
After five years of donating profits from a charitable brew, Bristol Brewing Co. has generated $75,000 to pay for a new visitor center at Helen Hunt Falls.
Profits from Bristol's Cheyenne Cañon Ale Piñon Nut Brown go to the Friends of Cheyenne Cañon, volunteers who have kept visitor services going in the canyon through tough times. The group has long wanted to replace the 100-year-old horse stable that serves as a visitor center for Helen Hunt Falls. Now a new rustic log cabin will replace the old one this spring.
Lee Wolf, past Friends president, says in addition to Bristol, Doug Fullen of Way Architects has donated time and talent to putting necessary plans and approvals in place. The Indy's Give! campaign is raising money for finishing the interior. — JAS
Mo' money, mo' problems
On Dec. 9, Denver District Judge Sheila Rappaport ruled on Lobato v. State of Colorado, finding the state's K-12 education funding situation to be unconstitutional.
As Rappaport wrote in her decision: "The Court concludes that the Colorado public school finance system is not rationally related to the mandate to establish and maintain a thorough and uniform system of free public schools."
It's a notable victory for those who say it will benefit Colorado's children, but critics complain it could also have a negative impact. After the verdict, state House Speaker Frank McNulty stated: "Paying for quality education for our children has always been a priority. The challenge in front of us now is providing a quality education in the face of ever-increasing entitlement spending." — CH
Springsgov.com input wanted
The city's information technology and communications departments are performing a comprehensive review of the city website, springsgov.com, in hopes of making a more user-friendly redesign. To expedite this process, the city plans to put together a SpringsGov.com Redevelopment Project team consisting of staff, Council members and citizens.
But for now, the city is looking for feedback. What do you like about the site, and what do you despise? The citizen survey is already up on springsgov.com under the "Citizen Survey" link. Have at it. — JAS
Bennet stems the tide
Entrepreneurs want funding to anchor a boat 12 miles off the California shore near Silicon Valley, inside international waters, to act as a floating community of apartments and the like for those high-tech business people and employees who can't secure working visas.
In a press conference Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet used the situation as an example of how broken the country's immigration system actually is. "Most people don't realize that our country is out of green cards for the next 10 to 70 years, depending on the applicant," he noted.
Bennet said his STEM Visa Act, introduced Tuesday, would create a new category of visas available to "qualifying, undocumented" full-time college students who focus their studies in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. "This provision offers hope to smart, ambitious students who can help fill the highest skill needs of our economy." — CH
Compiled by Chet Hardin, Matthew Schniper, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.