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Secretive, tax-funded group to get oversight

mPACT includes many power players


Jill Gaebler gets closer view of mPACT. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Jill Gaebler gets closer view of mPACT.

A low-profile agency partially funded with tax money will get a new layer of oversight after Colorado Springs City Councilor Jill Gaebler raised questions.

At issue is mPACT, a 13-member group under the auspices of the Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC. Its members: the city, El Paso County, Colorado Springs Utilities, Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments, Pikes Peak Regional Building Department, Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau, Ent Credit Union, Penrose-St. Francis Health Services, Pikes Peak Association of Realtors, Pikes Peak United Way, UCH Memorial Hospital and Bryan Construction.

The city and county have paid a combined total of at least $50,000 since 2015 to mPACT, but Gaebler notes Council hadn't been briefed on the group's mission and spending until Dec. 13, when mPACT officials gave a presentation at Gaebler's behest.

mPACT spokesperson Stephannie Finley Fortune says some on Council were briefed in settings outside Council meetings.

City economic development official Bob Cope told Council the chief aim of mPACT is to "focus on action at the federal level." To do that, it's hired lobbying firm Mehlman, Castagnetti, Rosen, Bingel and Thomas in Washington, D.C.

"If any of us has an issue that has a federal implication," Cope said, "we can immediately access our lobbying firm and hit the ground running with a solution. We're told over and over, if we have regional collaboration as one voice, it has much more impact."

Cope credits mPACT with securing $19 million in federal funding for emergency watershed protection following the Waldo Canyon Fire in 2012, for helping set up the National Cybersecurity Center here, and for attracting Fort Carson's Combat Aviation Brigade.

Regional priorities, he said, include protecting military bases from closure, highway funding, flood and fire mitigation, economic development and health care.

After the Nov. 13 briefing, Gaebler told the Independent, "I now understand what their mission is, but I don't have any measurable outcomes. Typically, when we have a dues organization, we ask them to report out to us. It should be transparent about what they're doing with the funds we give them."

Council agreed without taking a vote to appoint Gaebler as a liaison to mPACT's board. (City staff serve on the board.)

Another issue that caught Gaebler's eye was mPACT's hiring of a grant writer. The position is funded with donations of $12,500 each for three years from United Way, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, an unnamed "third-party investor," mPACT itself, and Conspire! owned by Lynette Crow-Iverson, whose daughter, Whitley Crow was hired. Her office is at United Way.

United Way CEO Jason Wood says via email he participates in mPACT to stay on top of legislation affecting "anything benefiting children and low income families" and that he wants to work with others "for the betterment of all."

Still skeptical, Gaebler tells the Indy, "The City and County already have lots of grant writers who can assist with these economic development efforts."

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