|City Council Members,
What part of “No” does the Convention Center Expansion advocate group fail to understand?” I wish to remind the Council this ballot issue was defeated by the people just last year. How many bites of the “same apple” does this convention group get at taking the taxpayers money for questionable purposes?
I believe it was President John Kennedy who said if you want to know what a person can do, find out what they have done? The Urban Renewal Authority is the group overseeing the Convention Center activities and the advocate for this ballot expansion, along with the other business interests of the city, and the city developers. As a group, they never saw a development they couldn’t support. Such is the case here as well.
So, for a closer look at this proposed ballot initiative, one has to see what the track record URA has regarding the governance of the Convention Center. It is for this reason, that I have prepared the eight (8) points below to oppose any expansion of the Convention Center Ballot initiative.
1) The Convention Center operates at a large deficit, $400,000 per year over the last three years. In 2007, the deficit was over $500,000, according to the City Attorney. This deficit is moving in the wrong direction. Would you operate your business in the same fashion? I doubt it.
2) To my knowledge, the contract for the operation has never gone out for bids. In fact, the contractor is a firm in Philadelphia; There is no opportunity for a local firm to compete for the contract. I attended a meeting where the URA Board gave six Convention Center employees a 10% bonus; while in Pueblo, employees are lucky to get half that amount, if they have employment at all. Pueblo has a higher unemployment rate that most of the rest of the state. In fact, what other industry, public or private, gave their employees a 10% bonus or raise in this awful economic climate with high energy costs and high deficits?
3) That firm, the Global Spectrum, has been paid over $120,000 for each of the last two years. This is the money being taken out of Pueblo without competitive local bids. Most municipalities manage their own Convention Centers, thus saving the $120,000 per year.
4) Interest only will be paid on the bonds for the expansion until 2019. This means that the debt to Pueblo citizens will continue to rise, masking the true cost to taxpayers. What will the real cost of the CC expansion and parking garage be at pay off time in 2029?
5) A verifiable list of lost business was requested, a list of 110 entries was supplied, all with the same reason to not hold an event at the Convention Center—no space available on the requested day and time. Here, the issue is either bad bookkeeping or questionable integrity of the entire process to justify false claims.
6) Along these lines, I attended a meeting where the URA auditor told the URA budget committee that the vender fees’ accounting system was flawed, and the vender fees should have been separated out in years past to comply with the city ordinance. It never was done.
7) Even under the best circumstances, I cannot justify Pueblo citizens supporting this ballot initiative. This city has many other pressing priorities that merit the attention of tax-payers’ dollars.
8) In addition, there is an abundance of information available that the expansion has not been justified. Unbiased national reports indicated conventions and trade shows are in decline all over the country. Further, the URA paid for a report that shows convention and trade shows are in decline. Thus, we are being asked to “money roll” a project that the national financial community interest states are without merit.
In conclusion, for these reasons, and more, I call on the Pueblo voters to reject this Convention Center Expansion for one reason: “It is not in your best interest.”
Peace, Alvin Rivera