Random Thoughts on Recent Happenings

May 13, 2013 | Regional Focus

Here are a few observations on the passing Fort Collins scene.

Even the horror of an 8-hour city council meeting can produce good results. Incredible. On its surface, the idea of sitting in a meeting for 8 hours is absurd. Yet, that is exactly what the Fort Collins City Council did last Tuesday night (and into Wednesday morning). The big topic of the night was the proposal to redevelop Foothills Mall. The potential for inaction was high. The Council appeared to be divided 3 to 3 because Mayor Karen Weitkunat recused herself from deliberations since she owns property near the mall.

Credit Darin Atteberry and his staff and particularly Council Member Gino Campana and Mayor Pro Tem Gerry Horak for not letting the patient die on the operating table. Atteberry’s team had done their homework and had brought forward a solid proposal. But as the objections mounted, Campana and Horak took on each in turn and worked through every one of them to resolve them all. The final result was a 6-0 vote in support.

There was a story in the Wall Street Journal the next morning about the project. Written before the issue had been resolved, reporter Kris Hudson wrote, “Two investors are taking a gamble on a rare feat in the modern retail-property market: an ambitious redevelopment of a struggling mall in a small city. Developer Alberta Development Partners LLC and private-equity firm Walton Street Capital LLC were scheduled to go before the City Council of Fort Collins, Colo., late Tuesday seeking approval for $53 million in tax abatements and other subsidies for the project…Such a large project is rare in anything other than a large or midsize market…”

A strong developer willing to make a big investment to build a great project to replace a failing property in a medium sized market and some people tried to spike the deal, but in the end, it moves forward.

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Last Thursday evening the 2012-13 Class of Leadership Fort Collins gathered at the Rio for fun and to officially graduate. Their keynote speaker was Tom Gendron, Chairman of the Board of Woodward. It was my pleasure to introduce Tom to share some insights about leadership. After sharing his background and a little bit about Woodward I said “As you know, the Woodward board announced that it will expand its corporate headquarters in Fort Collins on a site just east of downtown.” At that the room exploded in spontaneous applause. It was a nice display of support, one that reflects the feelings of the entire community.

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Mercifully, the state legislature adjourned its 2013 session last Wednesday. We’ll report more fully on the results in the near future but suffice it to say that with controversial issues like marijuana, school reform, civil unions, elections and gun control dominating  the calendar, combined with many new (read “idealistic and inexperienced”) legislators meant that tempers were high and civility low. The Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance held its wrap-up luncheon on Friday, and here’s the state chamber’s take on things.

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The Chamber’s 2nd Annual Health Care in Your Future event on May 1, in the middle of a blizzard. Even so, 397 people registered and most showed up. The blizzard somehow seemed apropos while talking about health care reform! Over 3 years after the Affordable Care Act (aka ‘Obamacare’) was passed, the storm of controversy and confusion continues. The speakers that day did a great job of helping attendees understand the changes taking place and what is driving them. Keynote speaker David Rubenstein, Major General, US Army, Retired, who held the positions of Commanding General of the Army Medical Department Center & School and, concurrently, Chief of the Army Medical Service Corps repeatedly made the point that it is now the law of the land. In true military fashion, he made stressed that you have to deal with the reality on the ground, like it or not. You can find the event website here. A couple of book recommendations for you are “Beating Obamacare: Your Handbook for Surviving the New Health Care Law” by Betsy McCaughey, Ph.D. and “Obamacare Survival Guide: The Affordable Care Act and What it Means for You and Your Healthcare” by Nick Tate. Consider the ‘Obamacare’ a marketing device not a pejorative. Both books give a pretty good overview of the law and offer tips on what to do.