What does Mark Ferrandino most desire as he finishes up his final session as speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives? There are lots of potential answers, but one comes to mind:

Ferrandino, a Denver Democrat, would like to figure out how to snatch back the $120 million in tax increment funding that the state Economic Development Commission awarded to the City for Champions project last December.

Ferrandino, who opposed the RTA when it was first passed by lawmakers, is convinced it takes tax money that should be used for critical state needs and diverts it to politically connected, private-sector entities.

We in Colorado Springs may see things differently. For decades, Springs officials have complained that the city has been consistently shortchanged by the state in funding education, transportation and other needs. The RTA award is just a way of evening the scales.

In a classic case of locking the barn door after the horse is gone, Ferrandino introduced a bill, HB 1350, that limits the power of the Colorado Economic Development Commission and makes it unlikely that any other city will succeed in getting substantial project funding under the Regional Tourism Act.

Ferrandino’s bill, as recently amended, forbids the commission from allocating more than 50 percent over the amount recommended by the third-party analyst and bars it from funding more than two projects during 2014. The act is set to expire this year in any case, and the House Speaker’s action makes it clear that it won’t be renewed.

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Language was added in committee that may shield Colorado Springs from ex post facto actions by commission staff. Nevertheless, it may be that the staff, which was blindsided by the commissioners’ decision to override their C4C funding recommendations, would feel empowered to obstruct the funding process.

Denver is expected to apply for RTA funding this summer, to help finance renovation of the National Western Stock Show complex. It’ll be a crowded field, with as many as six other cities jostling each other for funding. Had we waited, we’d be standing in line with the rest.

Denver officials went ballistic over Ferrandino’s maneuver, lobbying successfully to soften the impact of the bill, which had originally restricted the EDC to a 25 percent increase over the third-party recommendation.

“Ferrandino wanted to get rid of the RTA last year,” said a seasoned observer of state politics, “but he got sidetracked by marijuana and guns. We knew that he would go after it this year, so that’s why the City for Champions application was fast-tracked and kept secret.”

Suddenly, everything about City for Champions makes sense.

Ferrandino’s hostility toward the Regional Tourism Act meant that Colorado Springs officials couldn’t proceed cautiously, involving all of the players in the community, carefully vetting every facet of the proposal and deferring the application until 2014.

We in the media criticized the structure of the plan, which seemed to have been hastily thrown together. We couldn’t believe that usually sensible community leaders (you know who you are) had gone all political on us, refusing to return phone calls and responding evasively to simple questions.

The secrecy contributed to the proposal’s botched rollout, as well as to the skepticism expressed by many community leaders who had been excluded from the planning process. That in turn fueled grassroots opposition from residents who wondered whether the proposal was a deal cooked up by rascally developers and unscrupulous politicians.

We didn’t know what Mayor Steve Bach, Dick Celeste, Bob Cope and Bill Hybl knew. We didn’t know that it was then or never.

Having snatched $120 million in state tax dollars away from the grasping hands of Ferrandino and like-minded state legislators, we should be proud of our canny team. Instead, we’re quarreling over the money, second-guessing the projects, and wringing our hands over the bad things that might happen if we build them.

Wake up, folks! We won’t get a do-over. Remember “Oceans 11,” that delightful heist movie in which George Clooney and an all-star cast snatched $140 million from Andy Garcia’s casino? We got away clean with our $120 million and now we’re fighting over the loot.

As we learned in the movie’s sequel, Andy Garcia neither forgave nor forgot. Mark Ferrandino is C4C’s Andy Garcia — wily, influential and ready to snuff out our hopes if he can.

If he succeeds, we might just as well fire up Netflix and watch another Andy Garcia film.

“Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead.”


  1. Mayor Bach does more for this city than people realize. From new gas masks for firefighters to new vehicles for police officers. All withour rising taxes. We should at least give C4C a chance.

  2. What I suspected is confirmed. City leaders are jealous that COS didn’t get “its fair share”. Because we were (maybe) shortchanged on education, transportation, and other needs does not justify trying to get even with the State by building a stadium/event center. Ferrandino is right in saying C4C takes tax money that should be used for critical state needs and diverts it to politically connected, private-sector entities. And the city/county sales tax revenue that will be diverted to pay the bondholders is money that should be spent on critical local essential needs. A far better use of our sales tax revenue would be to spend it on fire and flood mitigation. Doing this will be expensive, but itwill do more to promote tourism than building a stadium.

    Hazlehurst writes: “Having snatched $120 million in state tax dollars … we should be proud of our canny team.” Proud? Many citizens are disgusted. I’m with Ferrandino on this one and hope he succeeds reigning in the penchant of the RTA and EDC for squandering taxpayer dollars on goofball ideas like building a stadium.

    BTW, COS was awarded a percentage – not a fixed dollar amount – of future sales tax generated by C4C. If sales tax revenue is less than the highly inflated numbers C4C proponents gave the EDC, COS will receive less than $120M.

  3. Lest anyone forget…even though the Economic Development Commission more than doubled what an independent third party and the State’s Executive Director of the Office of Economic Development and International Trade recommended as an upper limit for potential rebates, the rebates (though in no way guaranteed) will account for less than 20% of the project costs. That’s a whole lot of coverage for a “20% off coupon” that’s not even guaranteed.

  4. So Since C4C is such a bad thing, what can the city council give us as a replacement? We need more from our city officials than being the only one that voted against pot hole repair. Building is a lot harder than tearing down.

  5. well said david,

    it is always easier being against something or say no or i have a problem..
    I used to manage people and when i had staff come to me with such i would tell them to find an alternative or try to find solutions…such attitude was not acceptable

    but then we have voted the wrong guys into city council.. they are definitively not people who want to bring our city forward or people who have ideas.. their only interest is their ego..

    i say get rid of them and replace them with people with vision and ideas.. our city becomes the laughing stock of the nation…

    a conservative city which tries to make government bigger ouch!!

  6. As long as the stadium proposal is alive and kicking, no other ideas – and there are many alternative ideas waiting in the wings – will be allowed time at the podium.

    My idea is to build a library/media center/theatre complex on the very spot proposed for the stadium. It too will be iconic and visionary and will complement the equally iconic and visionary Olympic museum next door. I envision a gigantic sculpture gracing the promenade leading to ATB park which is striking enough to lure travelers off I-25 to take a closer look. I envision housing and retail springing up in the URA between the park and the Public Farmers Market presently in the works. I envision this area being transformed into an urban neighborhood by COS young entrepreneurs. And I’m OK with my tax dollars going toward funding the library complex.

  7. Breaking News: John “SPIN DOCTOR” Hazlehurst scores another hit “Legislative action brings out rest of C4C story” in April 18-24 edition of CSBJ.
    Yes, this changes everything. Mr. Hazlehurst has now explained that the C4C had a poor upbringing. The secrecy, the proposal’s botched roll out and even the exclusion of many community leaders and public are blamed on Denver politics. It seems a Denver politician did not like the RTA, who was convinced “it takes tax money that should be used for critical state needs and diverts it to politically connected, private-sector entities.” Mr Hazlehurst does not argue the premise, but instead says “The RTA award is just a way of evening the scales.” “We should be proud of our canny team, snatching $120 million in state tax dollars from the grasping hands of state legislators.” Then he takes us to the movie set of Ocean’s Eleven, that “delightful heist movie” and reminds us that the sequel did not do as well. So there you have it folks. This delightful heist movie is now coming to Colorado Springs. We are now learning to take tax money that should be used for critical city needs and divert it to politically connected, private-sector entities. We have come so far in so short a time.
    Note: No attempt was made to apply common sense, truth or morality to this article. The author (Mr Murray) does not condone theft by deception from anyone for any reason.

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