CONO Sponsored Mayor/Councilmember Listening Series to Drive Future Public Policy
Councilmember Dave Donelson's Letter to the Gazette which they have not published.
Link to submission with a time-stamp receipt of 10:51am on August 26th, 2023.
"August 26th, 2023
The headline in Saturday's Gazette "Groups raise concerns over listening tour: Residents worry format limits public participation of the mayor-, City Council-sponsored sessions" is misleading to readers. I am a member of City Council and the "listening tour" is not sponsored by City Council. It is sponsored, planned and organized by the mayor. Council was informed when and where the sessions would be, what the format would be, and invited to attend and "participate" within the already determined format.
I share some citizens concerns that the format is designed to control citizen comments and questions. It is a "safe space" for the mayor to interact with citizens. Tables of 10 or fewer participants are guided in their discussion of four predetermined topics by a "table facilitator". Each table then has a representative stand up and explain to the mayor, and the one or two Council men or women in attendance, what that table's concerns are. After all the tables have spoken, the mayor repeats back what he has heard. I watched a recording of the first listening session and was disappointed there was no question and answer; no direct exchange between the mayor, or councilman present and the citizens.
Next Tuesday, August 29th, I will be holding a traditional town hall at Fire Station 18 in District 1 - which I represent. Citizens can speak directly to me and ask me questions. I will answer them honestly and look into those I don't know the answer to. There won't be filters between me and the citizens. I will certainly be "listening" to the citizens I have the privilege of representing."
Dave Donelson, Councilmember District 1
Citizen Neil Talbott's Letter to the Editor of the Gazette also not published (reprinted below with permission)
The following is a letter I sent to the Gazette yesterday: Aug. 26, 2023
Regarding your Gazette article, “Resident groups raise concerns over public participation in Colorado Springs summer listening-tour” by Breeanna Jent, her term “concerns” might be a bit of an understatement.
Approximately 150 District Two people were signed-in, herded to tables in the center of the Liberty high school cafeteria and then told to discusses numerous city issues provided by the city on papers at each table. A scribe/facilitator then dutifully attempted to document all the discussion. I felt like a sheep corralled by city and volunteer workers who were there to keep us under close control, not really listen to the bleating of the herd. We did discuss hot-button city issues at each table, like out-of-control development, fire evacuation, lack of police, Pine Creek low-income housing, traffic, noise and infrastructure issues in District 2 like those that will be potentially caused by the recently approved Amphitheater.
After over an hour of this, then a member of the group got to stand up and summarize in one and a half minutes the entire discussion. Wow, one and a half minutes of free speech! Need-less to say, that was not adequate. After each table got their turn to speak. The Mayor who had arrived at the end of the listening session stood up and essentially told us he heard what we were saying and would take our concerns under consideration. The District #2 Councilman also got to comment and it was so shallow and short as to be worthless opportunism. I might also note that several attendees had signs not favorable to the Councilman. “Recall” was one word used. In summary, it was so controlled and limited that I wondered why I bothered to attend at all. But I do suppose one could say that the city leadership did listen to our concerns.
That said, this city has numerous problems, appears to be run by wealthy developers who generally get what they want and continues down the path of uncontrolled growth, for so-called economic vitality of course, and will probably get worse faster than it will get better. Solutions do not exist in an environment where citizen free speech is so constrained. The solutions thrown out are simply twisted to suit those in power.
Neil L. Talbott
CONO & The Developers Win
in this "Listening Tour"
We saw what this was as soon as it was announced, but we didn't take action until we saw just how incredibly egregious these meetings are. This is a CONO sponsored series. CONO, or as we fondly refer to them as CON-O, is a city-funded, self-described "agent of the City", but it gets even worse. They are the only "neighborhood organization" allowed to have tables to recruit unsuspecting citizens to take their "University" program to be included in a pool of "graduates" from which they choose to appoint to the city-funded Council of Neighborhood Organizations Board which is 2 people per area that is the only input into the strategic direction of the City. Do you think a 4.0 average in how to write emails and who to contact gives you an edge in being selected; or, is it the biggest cheerleader for the City-agenda that puts on over-the-top for nabbing one of those exclusive board seats to have input into the future of our city?
The fun doesn't stop there, though, they also are actively engaged in appointing their graduates to the real neighborhood boards to thwart opposition to developments and other agenda items of the City. We heard that the revival of the OWN board which went against an organized and independent westside neighborhood group regarding the Westside Community center and, most recently, against westside neighbors objecting to their already shifting homes splitting into two due to the Launchpad Development. In the case of the Creekwalk Development, our friends at Cheyenne Central reached out to the Ivywild Improvement Society asking to discuss the concerns Cheyenne area residents have about that development worsening already non-survivable evacuation routes proven by the 2010 Evacuation Study. They refused to meet after many offers to Zoom, conference call etc. Guess what? As it turns out, the IIS board member refusing to discuss was also part of the CONO team. Are you connecting the dots. It's about as insidious as it gets. Duping citizens into thinking they are part of an organization that is actually going to represent neighborhoods when what they really do is promote the City-agenda and discourage opposition to it.
Regarding this "Listening Tour", while we understood that this was really a very controlled attempt to drive "table discussions" managed by CONO representatives and to use these meetings as a recruitment tool to complete their board throughout the city, we didn't really start objecting until we saw they were limiting public participation. 3 of the 4 meetings so far have shown that the sessions are full at about 200 people which isn't anywhere close to representation of these districts most of which are approaching 100,000 people each. We have CORAd the registration and table coaches for all the meetings. This is designed to drive topics and, at the end, say at a presser, "We listened, and, as it turns out our goals are the same!" So, the City can claim they engaged the public when, for example, in D2, ,the 185 people at the tables represent about 0.002% of the 86,000 people in D2. This is NOT a listening tour that actually hears the concerns of the citizens.
We want to give Mayor Mobolade the benefit of the doubt and hope this is not his doing, but it's horrible handlers who are making awful decisions to dupe the public; that said, he's a grown man and should be able to see how clearly wrong these behaviors are. We hope he comes out and denounces this approach, and uses an open mic forum for the rest of the meetings, and, most importantly, disbands CONO which is an affront to our constitutional rights. You can read the correspondence with the City below from both us and Preserve Pine Creek neighbors. A lot of dishonesty documented in these exchanges. Shout out to Pine Creek Village Neighbors for standing up to this as well. None of us should stand for this. We fund these meetings. We fund this City.