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We 'won't let you down'

Mayor's State of the City address includes promise to keep the U.S. Olympic Committee


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Lionel Rivera has given his word.

Standing before a lunch crowd of about 350 in the Antlers Hilton for his annual State of the City address, the mayor said Tuesday that Colorado Springs City Council was working hard to negotiate a new deal to retain the U.S. Olympic Committee. And the mayor, using a tactic from the sports world, guaranteed a victory.

"I promise you," he said, "that the Colorado Springs City Council will not let you down."

It's a bold commitment, given the unstable history haunting efforts for a downtown USOC headquarters building, Olympic Training Center renovations and national offices for member sports. But Councilor Jan Martin said after the speech that she didn't think the mayor had overstepped. He was just speaking to all of their hopes, she said.

Vice Mayor Larry Small sounded less confident. He was concerned that LandCo Equity Partners' suit against the city and the USOC — the three partners in the now-defunct original retention deal — will not be settled out of court. Given that it's a federal suit, a court battle would likely be lengthy, and Small said it's unlikely that the USOC and the city would have the legal leeway to negotiate a new deal until LandCo's suit is decided. With the USOC already impatient to move beyond the question of what city to call home, a huge delay could crush the Springs' chances for retention.

However rosy Rivera may have been in regard to the USOC, his speech wasn't all optimistic. His seventh State of the City was much more sobering than those of past years. He expressed concern about relentless budget shortfalls, the effects of the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights "ratchet-down effect," and two November ballot initiatives being pushed by Douglas Bruce that could cost the city $45 to $50 million annually in revenue.

Rivera said he was looking forward to hearing ideas from the city's Sustainable Funding Committee in late July, and that residents should rethink how the city is funded. He pointed out that if the city had the same tax structure as Thornton, Pueblo, Aurora or Denver, there would have been no budget shortfall, and actually $43 million to $140.4 million more each year to fund city services.

"It just shows how different cities across the state decide to invest differently in their communities," he said.

Other highlights:

• Utilities. Rivera applauded green energy efforts. He noted that Utilities is conducting test burns of sawdust, which burns cleaner than coal and is normally thrown away. Utilities is starting a program to turn other wood and forest products into energy, testing new technology that could reduce emissions from coal burning, and installing a new hydroelectric plant in Cascade. It's also closer than ever to final approval on the Southern Delivery System. The Air Force Academy, meanwhile, is using federal stimulus money to work with the city on a solar-powered plant providing electricity to 1,400 homes.

• Memorial Hospital. The mayor congratulated the city enterprise for averting financial disaster and generating $17.4 million in net income through the first four months of 2009.

• Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority. Rivera is concerned that low sales-tax revenues have led to a $9 million reduction in the PPRTA budget. It means we'll have only 54 out of 7,000 lane miles on city roads repaved this year — the goal is 700, or 10 percent — and that filling potholes will take twice as long.


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