Tuesday afternoon, the Colorado Springs City Council pivoted mindlessly between farce and tragedy.

The meeting started on a lighthearted note, as Jan Martin sought to persuade Council to forward the Lodgers and Automobile Rental Tax Committee’s recommendations for the 2015 budget to Mayor Steve Bach without changes. It seemed like a no-brainer, since Council will have another whack at the list when the mayor submits his budget in October — so why waste time arguing about it now?

Among the council members, only Helen Collins and Andy Pico seem to believe that silence is a virtue — the rest of ’em love the sound of their own voices. After the obligatory hemming and hawing, Don Knight’s distinctive rumbling bass was heard … and he wanted something.

Pickleball! The committee had left Pickleball off the list and Don wanted $10,920 for his favorite sport. After some gracious back-and-forthing, Martin agreed to modify her motion to approve the recommendations and include Pickleball funding. The strange maneuver brought to mind former Councilor Lisa Czelatdko’s attempt to divert $10,000 to the Old Colorado City History Museum in 2011, which Mayor Bach unfeelingly vetoed.

Martin’s motion passed, 8-1, with Joel Miller in the minority. He was concerned about the Convention and Visitors Bureau’s automatic entitlement to two-thirds of the LART budget — a legitimate point, and one that’s sure to be debated again at budget time.

Next up: item 12H — A Resolution Authorizing the Donation of the Property Known as Jones Park for a Public Purpose to the United States Forest Service through the National Forest Foundation.

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Acting as the Utilities Board, Council already had signed off on the deal. But wily County Commissioner Sallie Clark had other ideas. She vigorously lobbied Council to transfer the property to El Paso County, promising that the county would care for it, protect the endangered greenback trout population and operate the thousand-acre property for the benefit of all users.

Local control! So much better for Colorado Springs than having to deal with the distant grandees of the Forest Service! The unspoken subtext: Motorized users would be in control.

And Clark, soon to become president of the National Association of Counties, would earn some significant national cred with her fellow county elected officials. Lady in Red fights the Feds — and wins!

The resolution failed, 5-4, leaving Utilities and the city holding the bag. Next step: an appraisal. In vain, CSU officials pointed out that a $4 million appraisal done several years earlier was now irrelevant. A majority of Council couldn’t believe that the land was essentially valueless, if a buyer had to comply with measures to protect the greenbacks and maintain public access to the property.

They wanted an appraisal. But why? If the land is to remain public, neither the county nor the National Forest Foundation would be willing to pay for it. The NFF is probably out of the picture, thanks to Council’s dithering, and the county had better hope that the voters approve the $3 million Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights refund on the November ballot, or they’ll be S.O.L.

The conclusion is inescapable: A majority of Council would happily sell the property to a private buyer, were one to emerge.

“This is shameful,” said Councilor Jill Gaebler in an angry, despairing speech from the dais.

She’s right. Jones Park has been de facto city parkland since first acquired the 1890s. Its trail and vistas are an amazing community resource. It’s hard to imagine any other city in the country willing to sell one of its crown jewels for a mess of pottage.

We are the heirs to an unparalleled park system, one that we should protect and treasure, not sell to the highest bidder. Martin made her own plea to the group, wondering why everything had to be “a business deal,” and begging for vision from the elected leaders. But those comments cut no ice with their colleagues, one of whom remarked that if CSU could get a couple of million for the property, that would pay for a substantial party of a projected utility rate increase — for one year.

So welcome to the party, Sallie, Joel, Keith, Don, Andy and Helen! There’s nothing more fun than squandering our collective inheritance for transient political gain. The arc of tragedy has but one end, as the Bard so often wrote.

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

 

  • Bob

    Council is just out to pad there own portfolio’s and do not give a rat’s tail about the community. They are out for screwing the community till they suck it dry! King’s favorite word is I didn’t vote for that. But council still pushes for there own agendas, if King is president of council why don’t he show some leadership for the community. They forget they work for us an should always leave it to the people for a vote no matter how small.

  • CeCe

    So frustrating!!! 2 years of public process, one of the largest gatherings of mountain bikers, hikers, and other user groups that this City has ever seen contributing to a writing/email effort for a plan that works for most, and 5 council members acting like complete idiots succeeded in trashing it all. As the article said, they weren’t even being consistent with the recommendations they already made as the Utilities board. Sallie is once again out to enlarge her own fiefdom, and the other 4 are clueless about not only what constitutes real value in this town, but the cost to the community of making decisions with no understanding about of the history/details, or the ramifications those decisions will have on the property and the people they just marginalized again.

    Thank you Jan and Jill, but throw these other 5 out, or better yet, ban them from voting on anything that impacts open space until they have actually been out in it. 2 steps forward, 6 steps back. Ugh.

  • peter miller

    how about a recall election for most of these so called leaders of society.

    I would have on my list
    1. Keith King
    2. Mr. Miller
    3. Mr Knight
    4. Mrs Collins
    5. Mr. Pico

    How can we make progress and create a vibrant community with these guys sitting there and love to hear themselves talk and create problembs.

    We need solution finders not problem creators.

  • Dale Heeven Jr.

    There is no padding of portfolios. No secret deals with Council members getting them rich. They get a $6,000 salary for constant abuse. This isn’t politics in a normal City where legislators have actual power and are respected. All these stupid people get is a title, some free lunches, and an ego boost making the papers once in awhile. You have to be crazy to run for City Council in Colorado Springs.

  • mick taylor

    This is public land! you have NO right selling it!!!!
    period!

  • Jackie

    Joel Miller should spend a day at the Convention & Visitors Bureau. Maybe then, he might have a better understanding of the mission of the organization and how hard the staff works to support our local businesses like hotels, attractions, restaurants. Of course, he would have to open his mind and shut his mouth but stranger things have happened.

  • Bob

    We in the community are being sold off at a alarming rate by some of these so called public servants. You have the wealthy making decisions for everyone. The people are not being heard and they are not part of the grand plan. Every time we vote NO they just keep hitting us until they get what they want. Sadly they can just pickup and leave, or move to another city they can screw.

  • Barbara

    Thank you Don Knight because I remember people poking fun at your pickleball suggestion. Can’t wait for the Pike Peak Perfect Pickle invitational. I bet our micro brewers & food trucks can’t wait either!

  • melody

    I am with Bob on all this ,and We are just the tax payers and home owners who are we ,nobodys ,We just are voters, we can just up and move away , wait not so easy…We cant just move away ,We are Community.I am reading a little book called Once upon a neighborhood I am going to quote Jan Doran ,its called meeting You: when people walk into your life and quickly touch your heart its like a song your humming just waiting for your part .what determines how you meet ?as you stroll this path each day , waiting for that special time, those minutes along the way .Why is it that you fit so well? you seem to feel the beat, the glow of recognition the connecting as you meet .A feeling deep inside your being ,one that’s beautiful and true ,Piques your sense of invitation revealing them to you. When people walk into your life and quickly touch your heart, its like a song your humming ,just waiting for your part.I want people to know How important these trails these parks are to some of us that use them,and ,a lot of good people have came out,alot of us care,and give of ourselves,and we don’t come out,unless its necessary to do so,i see a lot of those good people on this discussion board