I’ve learned that it is devilishly difficult to make any prediction of what may happen at city hall daily. By way of example, consider the Memorial Hospital situation. By all accounts, the final proposers should be easily identified based on the community conversation and polling data but the scoring submitted by the Task Force indicates otherwise.

The smart money’s betting on a joint venture or partnership of some kind with the University of Colorado Hospital (Go Buffs! – free t-shirts with every admission!); others are banking on a “pay day with HCA” and other are still grasping the fettered straws of Memorial herself praying for a Herbie Brooks miracle on ice… Do you believe in Miracles?

The landscape changes hourly as the hospital proposers continue to fine tune their offering. For example, in a surprise move late last week, HCA said it would pay $3,000,000 per year for 20 years so the dream of a University of Colorado Medical School Branch campus could become a reality at UCCS. Prior to that, the branch would only have happened with the UCH proposal. Stand-by for more changes this week as the task force continues heavy lifting on its way to a recommendation to City Council by December 27th. At this point (early Monday morning), I’d say all bets are off and the field remains wide open.

Another interesting thing to watch this week is the 2nd reading of the 2012 Budget Approval Ordinance. Recall, we have 2 readings of an ordinance before it becomes law. If the budget ordinance is approved at its 2nd reading on Tuesday, it will be sent to the Mayor for signature or amendment. With regard to budget ordinances, the Mayor has line-item veto privileges; if he exercises his privilege the Council will get a last look and can override the Mayor’s veto with 6 Councilor votes. The question of the day is, “Who supports the Mayor?” This ordinance vote and the subsequent, potential veto override vote, will predict the formalization of political alignments for at least the next 16 months and these alignments could significantly impact policy.

Last fall, Council was told the city was going to run out of money based on the city’s revenue and expense forecast modeling. It seems the “Issue of The Day” has driven that from our collective consciousness. (I’ve attached Three Revenue Charts as a refresher course – Springs’ Budget Woes 101.) The charts predict a trip down a cold, dark, bumpy, lonely road to financial perdition. The charts predict we deficit spend by 2014 and that our Fund Balance (our city savings account) will go to ZERO under present assumptions in 2016 – 2019. In our best case, we run out of savings in 7 years.

The Mayor has been steadfast with his conservative approach to the budget and promises significant line-item vetoes. He’ll need support this week. (Full disclosure – I support the Mayor’s budget.) I’m sure there are those will want to conduct business as usual. But now is not that time. How can you help? Voice your opinion with sincere correspondence to your City Councilor. It really does make a difference.

I’d like to predict the outcome of the budget process, but I’ve learned that it is devilishly difficult to make any prediction of what may happen at city hall daily.

Pay attention. Be informed. Make a difference. Keep it real.