This year’s feed the children event is coming up this Saturday at Springs Church ? near the Chapel Hills Auto Mall. Truckloads of food will arrive late on Friday night. Volunteers from county staff, churches, non profits and businesses will be there to unload. More volunteers will arrive in the early morning darkness. Home Depot and Lowes will set up stations where kids will get the opportunity to build something. There will be free haircuts, dental exams and photos with Santa. All of us, Commissioners Clark, Hisey, Glenn, Littleton, and I will be there to work alongside all of these volunteers to help direct traffic and hand out toys, clothing and food to families in need.
I cannot begin to thank all of the businesses and organizations who volunteer their time, sponsor special parts of this event and donate money. It is an extraordinary outreach effort throughout El Paso County and we are honored to coordinate it each and every year.
In addition to this generosity, extraordinary contributions of equipment, manpower and money came in during and after the fire. Again, I especially want to recognize Wal?Mart and specifically Gary Peacock, for his contribution, through Wal?Mart, of $100 thousand dollars, to the fire recovery fund and for his ongoing support of El Paso County programs and events, especially Feed the Children.
And, I see others here today who are active supporters of our parks and nature centers, who bid and buy during annual 4?H auctions, who sponsor entertainment at the county fair, or sponsor events like our Citizens College, Volunteer Appreciation events and Feed the Children. Thank you so much for all you do for our entire region. We could not do what we do and serve all the citizens of this county without your partnerships!
Speaking of partnerships, you just saw the beginnings of the Cheyenne Mountain Shooting Complex. Let me remind you that you may be a part of this historic partnership by participating financially if you so desire or are able! There are forms on your tables which provide great information and you really do need to mark your calendars for January 23rd for our grand opening and ribbon shooting!!
Earlier in the video tape I made it a point to thank the leadership of the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance for your support of the PPRTA extension but I also want to say thank you for your support of the Sheriff’s ballot issue 1?A. The question itself came about with little time, without the benefit of a well organized committee to put out press releases and hammer in yard signs. There was no real budget for advertising, but it passed because of the leadership and support from the business community and citizens who recognize:
? That safety and security is a core function of county government – serving all citizens of this county including all of our municipalities
? That one deputy watching over 100 inmates in our jail isn’t enough
? That one deputy, on a dangerous call, with no back up isn’t acceptable
? And that Sheriff Terry Maketa wouldn’t be asking if it wasn’t necessary
(Thank you Sheriff Terry Maketa for what you do for all the citizens of El Paso County.)
I also appreciate the ongoing leadership and support of the Business Alliance in our efforts to streamline county land use regulations. Recommendations from the Barriers to Business Group have led to simplification of our commercial and industrial zone classifications and administrative approval of minor changes to land use plans which eliminates the need for a more costly and time consuming review by the planning commission. Their work has also led to removal of unnecessary and confusing restrictions on equipment installed telecommunications sites, simplification of home business starts, and the extension of previously approved deadlines for development on approved plats. This group continues to work with our Development Services staff to reduce unnecessary fees and streamline the development review process.
We are the only county in the state which has no countywide business personal property tax and El Paso County continues to have, by far, the lowest cost of service per citizen of any of Colorado’s ten largest counties.
The Pikes Peak Regional Building Department is a highly efficient partnership which serves El Paso County, the City of Colorado Springs and the smaller municipalities within the county. I want to recognize and thank Henry Yankowski and his team for their response after the fire. They moved quickly to establish a temporary modular office in northwest Colorado Springs where inspectors were accessible, without appointment, to assist homeowners in assessing the damage to their homes and provide needed information to get them on the road to recovery.
I appreciate the leadership and collaboration of the Regional Business Alliance and the University of Colorado in bringing together three prominent U.S. Senators to discuss the damage that would be done to both our national security and local economic viability if the current budget battle in Washington is not resolved. Following that UCCS town hall meeting with senators McCain, Graham and Ayotte, the El Paso County Commissioners passed unanimously and sent to Washington a resolution calling on congress and the President to develop and implement a responsible national budget and put an end to the threat of irresponsible automatic defense cuts that would leave our country weak and vulnerable in a dangerous world.
The commissioners and other county elected officials attended that sequestration town hall meeting at UCCS. We appreciate the university’s leadership in putting it together and beyond that we see the awesome potential for economic development that a growing and vibrant university campus brings to our region. We look forward to exploring new opportunities for partnership and collaboration with the university which will benefit the entire region.
We were encouraged to learn from the Quality of Life Indicators report that citizens are responding favorably to our ongoing efforts to improve transparency and increase engagement in county government. Trust has increased; our county website (elpasoco.com) was given a grade of “A minus” from the non?profit citizens group – sunshine review. (I’m working on the minus! Should have that up to a “plus” by the end of the year!) And our El Paso County YouTube channel now offers 64 informational videos on everything from how to become a county vendor to transportation management to where to look for election results.
We appreciate GE Johnson and Olson plumbing for their sponsorship of our Citizens College this year and in the year ahead we will be looking for more sponsors to assist in getting that program out to more students. Just last week we were talking with UCCS about exploring ways we might partner with the university and local school districts to share more about what we do, our constitutional responsibilities and how good, limited governance makes a difference in our daily lives.
Over the past five years more than 22 million dollars in private donations to economic development programs and projects like the Regional Business Alliance, Human Services programs like the Marian House, and arts and culture organizations like the Fine Arts Center have been received through the El Paso County Enterprise Zone. Did you know that in addition to allowable IRS deductions there is also a 25% state tax credit for eligible contributions made through the Enterprise Zone?
Also over the past five years, El Paso County has sponsored nearly 60 million dollars in private revenue bonds for non profits serving our region. These bonds have helped to finance facilities at Colorado College, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Pikes Peak Hospice and Rocky Mountain Healthcare Services. Additionally, the county has sponsored more than $100 million dollars in revenue bonds programs which have provided loans to approximately 800 first time homebuyers and financed 62 units of multifamily housing – all at no cost to taxpayers.
As we look ahead to a new year, we can comfortably predict that it will be filled with both challenges and opportunities. The fiscal cliff is still there. Unemployment is still too high and the numbers on the national debit clock just keep spinning upwards.
Still ?new car registrations at the Clerk and Recorder’s office are up, Regional Building is issuing more permits, and we are cautiously optimistic about the future of domestic energy production right here in our own backyard and modest gains in local sales and use tax collections give local economists reasons to be optimistic about our opportunities to grow and prosper as a region in the year ahead.
Toward that goal – El Paso County will continue to look for every opportunity to provide high quality service at the lowest possible cost. We will continue our efforts to make sure that state and national government representatives and agencies understand the needs and priorities of our region, and understand the importance of local control, so that they don’t do so many wrong things that wind up working against us. And we will expand our efforts and find new ways to collaborate with other government agencies, business leaders, non?profits, faith based organizations and volunteers.
You’ve heard me say this before – and I promise I’ll say it again – none of us in government can create jobs. CEOs, mom and pops, entrepreneurs – everyone in the private sector ? they are the job creators. Government can either support their efforts or get in the way. Here in El Paso County, we know our place and we choose to support the private sector and human liberty and then get out of the way!
I hope you leave here today knowing that El Paso County is a committed partner in supporting your efforts to create jobs and build community and I sincerely hope that everyone here is looking forward to a wonderful holiday season, a Merry Christmas and a very prosperous new year.
Thank you so much for your friendships and love of this whole region! Thank you for coming"