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Talk of City for Champions town hall shows fracture in City Council

Published: February 12, 2014, 6:33 pm, by Monica Mendoza

A call this week for a City Council-sponsored town hall where residents can say whether they love or hate the City for Champions proposal revealed a fracture in City Council.

Some council members, including president Keith King, Joel Miller and Andy Pico, said residents are frustrated that they’ve had no input into the four proposed tourism projects dubbed the City for Champions. They want the council to host a town hall where people can speak up about the proposed $250 million project.

“It would be very beneficial if we had an open forum and let people come in and talk,” King said. “We owe it to our citizens to give them an opportunity to do that.”

But councilors Jill Gaebler and Jan Martin said it may be premature to take public comment on proposals that are not yet ironed out.

The difference in opinion caused a tense exchange — a first for this council — during a Tuesday City Council work planning meeting.

Gaebler said opponents of the City for Champions are giving out financial numbers that only are partially true and get people riled up.

“I don’t think there are lies being told,” she said to Miller. “But you can say one thing without saying another.”

Miller fired back: “Anything specific?”

Gaebler said there simply is not enough information about the four proposed tourism projects for the public to debate. The financial plans are being hammered out, she said. And an advisory board, headed by Mayor Steve Bach, King and El Paso County Commission chairman Dennis Hisey, still is being formed, she said.

“For me, I think the defined roles of the Regional Tourism Act advisory board are not clear yet,” Gaebler said.

City for Champions organizers are planning their own monthly town hall meetings, she said. The first meeting is from 4 to 6 p.m. Feb. 18 in the Pikes Peak Regional Building, 2880 International Circle.

“First, I would like to see how those town halls go and see if there is a gap. I have a concern that there will be a perception that we are not trying to work collaboratively and regionally with the county and the organizers,” she said.

Organizers for the City for Champions have said they’ve already held more than 40 meetings around the city to present the four projects – a university sports medicine complex, an Air Force Academy visitors center, a downtown sports and events center and a downtown Olympic museum.

Miller said those meetings have presented only one side of the issue and have left little time for people to ask questions.

“There is no counterpoint,” he said.

Gaebler asked Miller if he was saying he didn’t trust the advisory board process.

“That is exactly what I am saying,” Miller said.

Come back to Gazette.com for more on this topic.

–City Council will host a town hall meeting for residents to discuss the proposed City for Champions project from 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 27 in City Hall, 107 N. Nevada Ave.