(Post revised to include City Charter source)
Thanks to those who attended our first media conference of 2012. These conferences are created to provide access, deliver updates on key issues and answer questions from local media.
During my early months in office, I initiated one-on-one and one-on-two informal discussions with council members – still some felt that they were not in the overall conversation. Taking a page from Denver Mayor Hancock’s handbook, I have invited all members of council to join me for an informal collaboration, in a workshop setting, to build dialogue and generate ideas. This is working really well in Denver. All ten elected officials will be in the room at the same time. The first of these meetings will be Wednesday, January 18th, from 10-11:30am. This session is open to the public, but there will be no public comments heard.
There are a few key issues you should know, but first, I would like to thank City Council regarding their efforts on Memorial Hospital, the City’s second biggest asset. When I made the recommendation last August to explore all options for MHS, I knew it would require work and commitment. It’s been a tough road and they’ve accomplished a lot.
Did you know Colorado Springs Utilities has a $125 Million line of credit? I was recently asked to sign a document to renew that line of credit, on short notice without a briefing or discussion on the terms and conditions. But since it’s never wise to sign a document without knowing what you’re agreeing to, Steve Cox and Chris Melcher, our City Attorney, did some research for me and here’s what we’ve learned:
Colorado Springs Utilities has had a line of credit in place the past four years that’s never been used. It costs about $140,000/year in fees. So we’ve paid approximately $540,000 in fees to a bank for something that’s never been used.
Also, it obligates and encumbers the “full faith and credit” of the City of Colorado Springs. Why is this? I believe it’s prudent for the Mayor to delve into something like this to get answers. While it’s standard practice for financial institutions to ask for a guarantee on a line of credit, is it right for us to provide this kind of guarantee? It’s fiscally responsible to evaluate these types of commitments rather than do what we’ve always done.
We’re at a critical step right now regarding Memorial Hospital. It’s time for the rubber to meet the road and the details are critical. Memorial reports to City Council, but the Mayor is required to see that all contracts are faithfully performed. While I have no legal authority over Memorial, the public does expect me to weigh in. We need to look at the key terms and conditions and have a community conversation about how we spend the proceeds. It’s important for me to be involved in that conversation, so I’ll send a letter to Council to reiterate key points, but won’t get into the weeds.
It’s also time to look at the Big Picture. El Paso County has asked us to provide comments on their Strategic Plan. The City Charter, Article 3-10 (C) states that Council shall maintain a strategic plan which prioritizes goals for the City Council and establish measurable outcomes. Likewise, the City Charter also states, Article 4-40 (b) (1) the Mayor shall maintain and submit to the citizens a strategic plan that prioritizes goals for the City and establishes measurable outcomes. The strategic plan shall include the comprehensive and a five year capitol improvement plan for municipal needs. The plan process shall consider public input. The plan and goals shall be used in the development of the municipal administrative budget. The Mayor shall provide for an annual “State of the City” report to the citizens on progress in meeting the strategic plan.
Regarding questions on the status of a few pending cases, the Terri Velasquez case is a legal matter and our City Attorney’s office is trying to bring it to a close. As you may know, I brought in outside Counsel and there were 25 people interviewed which took 100 hours or more. I expect it to conclude in a matter of weeks. With the VNI case, Interim Police Chief Pete Carey, Sheriff Terry Maketa and I have asked the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to lead an independent investigation. The report is due in a few weeks, so we’re getting close.
And you should know how delighted I am with the performance of Interim Police Chief, Pete Carey. He’s been in this position for three months and has the support of the force and great respect in the community. I’ll be making a decision within the next few weeks whether we should begin a nationwide search or ask Chief Carey to fill the position.
Lastly, I made a commitment when I ran for the Mayor’s office to rebuild trust, harness the power of great ideas and create cutting-edge solutions. Working hard, using all communication vehicles we can, we will continue to work at connecting with the community and will launch the first of our town hall meetings on February 1st.
I want to be available. We’re making progress. We’ll continue to get better!