Loveland's Independent News
Special Investigative Report
Creative Commission
Loveland May 23, 2013

On March 17, 2011 a small group of Loveland residents and officials gathered in the city manager’s conference
room in city hall to discuss their ambitious plans for the City of Loveland.  It was a cold and dry St. Patrick’s Day just
before sunset.  Among the twelve gathered around the table was local artist Sheila Carrasco, Paul Mueller, an
accountant from Houston with ambitions for public office, a former Town Councilor of Windsor, Meg Corwin and
Loveland Councilwoman Joan Shaffer.

The commission called itself “
Creative Sector Development Commission or (CSDC)" and was brought together by
Loveland’s Director of Economic Development, Betsey Hale, as part of a her larger scheme to emulsify Loveland’s
established and renowned arts community with her economic development activities under the umbrella title of
“Creative Sector Development”

The commission’s goals and objectives were already prepared before their meeting under the auspices of the Office
of Creative Sector Development (OCSD) organized by Hale, in early 2009 as a “business cluster” initiative.
According to the
OCSD Business Plan distributed at the March 2011 meeting, Paul Mueller, Marcie Erion, Meg
Corwin and Leah Johnson emerged as the “Leaders” of a January 2010 stake-holders creative sector meeting thus
formulated the city’s business plan for the “Creative Sector.”  This first plan emphasized the art community and thus
encouraged artists to become active in what they believed was the city's increasing efforts to support Loveland's
traditional art community.

Days before the St. Patrick’s Day meeting in 2011, Marcie Erion was officially hired by the City of Loveland to head
the “Office for Creative Sector Development.”  Working from offices provided by AIMS Community College, Erion was
charged with guiding the commission and given the title “Business Development Specialist” for the “creative sector.”  
Note: Marcie Erion [Marcia Jean Willard] is the daughter of Loveland Reporter-Herald Columnist Jim Willard who
writes “
Trivially Speaking” pictured with his little dog.  She married Justin Erion in 1991).

According to
notes recorded during the St. Patrick’s Day kick-off meeting for the newly created CSDC, a finance
committee was established within the CSDC with the following purpose,

“The committee will work on self-sustaining plan to be implemented in year four when the City of
Loveland is scheduled to end funding.  The City of Loveland has committed to $100,000 a year for three
years .  The finance committee members are Paul Mueller, Meg Corwin, Mike Lang and Joan Shaffer and
Kathleen McEwen will also attend the meetings, schedules

Meg Corwin was voted to chair of the CSDC while Leah Johnson was elected as their Vice-Chair.   The term creative
was also defined for the group in a way one attended later observed
evolved into an amorphous grouping of
disparate types of high-technology businesses and artist by defining them all together in the same 'creative'

Unlike Erion, Meg Corwin and Paul Mueller were relatively new to the Loveland community.  Corwin resigned in 2007
from the Timnath Town Council before moving to Loveland and Mueller and his wife relocated to Loveland from
Houston, Texas circa 2008.    Despite being relatively new to the community, both Corwin and Mueller immersed
themselves in the process to create a "branding" for Loveland while working with Erion, a city consultant Creative
Toolbox and the Community Marketing Committee.  The city's new tag line "
where art and science meet" was the
result of those efforts in collaboration with the city's new marketing commission.

The same group
collaborated on a mural for the AIMS Community College leased building in Loveland paid by the
city arts commission, AIMS Community College, Mueller's CPA firm and the Erion Foundation operated by Marcie
Erion's father-in-law who was personally featured in another mural downtown.  The theme of the AIMS mural is
"Where art and science meet."  Despite their success in influencing the city's marketing program and other quasi
related activities, the CSDC began felling apart even before completing two years.

Only 21 months following the inspiring St. Patrick’s Day first meeting of the CSDC, Meg Corwin abruptly resigned as
Chairwoman citing her reasons in a
December 20, email to fellow commissioners,  “I have been unable to see any
purpose for the board to exist.  This is no one’s fault, and I think you, Marcie, have done a wonderful job
trying to keep the board alive.  But, people have been dropping off for a long time now, and at least for me, I
can’t justify my time spent there as useful to the city.”

Shortly after Corwin’s resignation the few remaining members stopped showing to meetings and the commission was
all but abandoned by the following month.   A common complaint among commissioners and the arts community was
the CSDC's evolving mission away from arts and towards an economic development.  For example, Erion distributed
to the commissioners a second business plan (
page 1  - page 2) in September of 2011 that reflected four goals of
the economic development department and only the fourth goal, becoming self-sustaining, was identical to the
commissions original business plan.  Below are the four goals of CSDC presented by Erion,

1.  Develop a targeted economic development plan that will retain existing 2345 jobs (previous
documents cite 2,400)

2.  Create, strengthen and maintain partnerships and collaboration with P-20 educators, artists, creative
sector businesses and city to facilitate innovative education and training

3.  Increase the number of non-resident attendees to Loveland by 65,000 and non-resident spending to
$1.1 million by 2014

4.  Achieve financial sustainability by 2014 of the OCSD through a paid website, government grants,
investors and coordinate revenue creating events for the Office of Creative Sector Development

On May 14, 2013, Loveland’s Director of Economic Development, Betsey Hale, presented the Loveland City Council
with a presentation flattering both Erion and the CSDC claiming these goals were largely met while recommending
Marcie Erion, as a direct result of her management of the CSDC, be promoted into a permanent position.  Hale
characterized the commission's progress on the goal of financial sustainability as "incomplete" while asking the
council for perpetual funding of $100,000 for the office.  It wasn't until Councilman John Fogle questioned staff over
how much was raised through grant applications, events and other activities that they acknowledged the creative
sector office and commission didn't raise a single dollar after spending approximately $300,000. (see videos of
meeting to the right of this story).

Amorphous Title Leads To Unclear Goals and Mission

The internal political goals of establishing the “creative” sector designation, commission and office with city paid staff
were clear.  It was an attempt to leverage the community’s well established sculpture and popular arts in public
places into something larger that could also benefit Hale’s economic development activities by adding more paid
employees supporting her department.    The theory of getting the council "a little bit pregnant" by funding the
OCSD and Erion's salary to $100,000 per year for the first three years benefited Hale's department.

In parallel, the State of Colorado consolidated the former Council on the Arts, Office of Film, Television and Media,
and Art in Public Places into a single entity named Creative industries Division.  Like Loveland, the State of
Colorado began selecting companies for assistance beginning in January of 2010 around the same time Loveland’s
Office for Creative Sector Development was established.  Not coincidently, Loveland’s reports, definitions and even
goals and objectives appear eerily similar to the state’s creative industries initiative.  

Following Corwin's abupt resignation,  CSDC member and longtime sculpture artist
Sheila Carrasco confronted
Loveland’s Council last January over the apparent plagiarism following Corwin’s resignation asking, "who was
copying who"?
Carrasco received no response before Mayor Gutierrez stood up and walked out of the meeting.  
To this day it is unclear whether Hale’s OCSD in Loveland copied the marketing materials from the State of
Colorado’s Creative Industries initiative or whether the State of Colorado Creative Industries initiative copied
Loveland.    Carrasco, like other longtime artists in town, felt the commission was trying to exploit and not support
the art community for their own nefarious purposes.

In either case, the entire CSDC debacle has backfired with Loveland artists who find Hale’s cookie cutter approach
to economic development disturbing and demeaning to Loveland’s own unique arts history.  In 1985 the City of
Loveland passed the first Art in Public Places Ordinance in Colorado which dedicates 1% of the city’s capital
projectsfor the acquisition and maintenance of art in public places.  Arguably the sacred cow of Loveland politics,
the Visual Arts Commission has responsibility for the placement and maintenance of the city’s sculpture collection
now valued at nearly $10 million.

A pamphlet circulated during the first CSDC meeting spoke to the city’s success in hosting the annual “Sculpture in
the Park” event and the opportunity to build on what was described as a “cluster” of “creatives” residing in
Loveland.  Meg Corwin, Paul Mueller and Leah Johnson explained their roles in developing the newly formed CSDC
and their participation in the January 2010 “Creative Sector Stakeholders” workshop where the seeds of the creative
sector office and commission were first planted with the city; later resulting in direct funding for their ambitious
creative sector development plans.

While the internal purpose was clearly an attempt to gain broader support for economic development activities, the
external reasons for the odd grouping of high-technology companies with the art community was less clear and has
become an irritant within the arts community.  

As one city councilor later told LovelandPolitics, “
the whole creative sector thing was about as well defined as
the dimensions of a cloud, it was always changing.
”  Indeed, the official definition of creative sector appeared to
evolve depending on which company or industry Hale and the commission wanted to subsidize.  Below is the
definition provided in the first business plan distributed to the twelve original members of the CSDC during their first

“The Creative Sector is defined as those industries which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and
talent and have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of
intellectual property.  Creative Sector jobs in Loveland provide direct and indirect economic benefits to the
Cty as they create and retain jobs, attract wealth and investments, generate tax revenues and stimulate
local economies through payroll dollars, tourism activities and purchases.”

Hale testified to Loveland’s council earlier this month a “creative” sector employer could be a furniture manufacturer
building a more comfortable chair.  Recently, Hale explored subsidizing a local publishing company arguing they are
part of the “creative sector” as well.  Indeed, nearly any company seeking city assistance whether a high-technology
manufacturer to organic farmer or sculpture artist all appear to be defined by Hale as part of the amorphous
“creative” sector the city has targeted for assistance.  One question Councilman Hugh McKean has asked
repeatedly is for someone to provide him a list of companies or industries that are NOT part of the city's expanding
definitiion of "creative."

Lies, Damn Lies and Economic Development Statistics

Among the first tasks undertaken by the CSDC was to try and quantify the number of “creative” sector jobs that
existed already in the city.  In 2011 the amorphous “Creative Sector” cloud was still not windswept by time and
focused primarily on two categories of artisans and high-technology start-ups without regard to less alluring
industries like publishing and furniture manufacturing.

A 2009 circular for the “Arts in Public Places” claimed the economic impact of the Arts Community in Loveland was
over $8 million and cited a 2007 phone survey titled the
Americans for the Arts Economic Prosperity III Survey
identifying 240 full-time art related jobs in Loveland.  While not independently verified, one CSDC member, Sheila
Carrasco, told LovelandPolitics she participated in a meeting when Paul Mueller announced they could use the 240
number times 10 to define the number of Loveland’s “Creative Sector” jobs.  Subsequently, the city began quoting
the figure of 2,345 and 2,400 creative sector jobs in Loveland.

One stated objective for Loveland’s Office for Creative Sector Development was to increase the “sales” for people
attending “creative” events in Loveland by increasing participation to 65,000 per year.

According to a memorandum provided to Loveland’s City Council on May 14, 2013, Marcie Erion takes credit for
having achieved the attendance goals and therefore “revenue” goals by counting people attending various city
events she deemed "creative."  However, “revenue” is defined only as anticipated amount of spending by event
each person attending in Loveland might spend.

According to Erion, who provided the information in close collaboration with Betsey Hale and some key CSDC
volunteers, the “revenue” numbers are estimates of money spent in Loveland by participants of these events.  The
following statement accompanies the figures showing over $600,000 revenue for 2011 and 2012,
regional participants, the CSU survey showed an average spending of $36/per person /per event.
”   By
using an amalgamated number of how much the out-of-town and in-town visitors to Scultpure in the Park spend,
according to a CSU study, they calculated this as "revenue" generated.  The problem is the ratio of out-of-town
visitors to the annual sculpture show is many time higher than for locally advertised events.

It is certain very few people travel from out of state or stay in area hotels to attend local events like the  lagoon
concert series if any at all.   The data being used to estimate "revenue" generated by Erion's efforts in the Office of
Creative Sector was simply faulty especially since many of the local events referenced predate the Office for
Creative Sector Development.

In addition, the survey author, CSU Professor John Loomis, described his own January 2012 survey of participants
at Loveland's annual Sculpture in the Park event as “pretty simplistic analysis” he did over a two-day period using
six CSU students to gather the data.   Extrapolating any of that data to assign a "revenue" number for how much
money an unrelated local event generates for the economy was a stretch too far for Mayor Pro Tem Klassen who
questioned staff about their assumptions.

Purchases such as gasoline (which has only state and federal sales taxes but no city tax) were included in the CSU
survey and thus applied to participants in local events despite the fact they are buying any more gas than if they
had gone to the grocery store.  More importantly, Erion lists events like the downtown ice sculpture contest, lagoon
concert series and Pastels on 5th as if they attract the same percentage of outside visitors as the annual sculpture
in the park.  It appears Dr. Loomis' students found only 15% of attendees of the Sculpture Show came from out of
state but many more who came from Denver and from around Colorado.   We believe the $36 dollars is a blended
number calculated across all visitors (meaning the out of towners drive up the average) but haven't studied the CSU
study in detail.   

Even the most cursory review, however, of the data in the
11 page study raises serious questions over the
methodology and efficacy employed when generating those figures and why Loveland staff are pretending it to be
something more than what it was; a quick survey of only one event.

Bloody Study Session

During the May 14, 2013 council study session, nicknamed by city staff as the “bloody study session,” council
members questioned Hale, Mueller and CSDC member Mary Bahus-Meyer, regarding their lack of progress in
raising funds to become self-sustaining.   Especially troubling was Hale’s presentation which asserted city concerts
(established long before the creative sector activities) somehow suggesting the CSDC indeed met its goals and was
largely successful.

Hale reminded the council often the CSDC had only been in existence for 28 out of the 36 months it planned to
become self-sufficient.  This detail didn’t appear to alleviate the frustration by some on council who pointed out the
committee failed to raise any money from grants, its website, and fund raising efforts coordinated by Marcie Erion for
a cost to Loveland taxpayers of $100,000 per year.

While the meeting was a study session, Hale used the opportunity to propose the city bring Marcie Erion on as
permanent staff working in Hale’s economic development department as a business development specialist for the
“creative sector.”  In other words, turn the city’s onetime commitment to start the creative sector initiative for a period
of three years until it could be self-sustaining but instead make Marcie Erion’s position permanent and the city’s
“investment” a perpetual cost to the general fund.

Irritated councilors asked why the item didn’t surface more appropriately as a budget request by Hale while
Councilors Shaffer, Trenary and Farley defended the office and commission as largely reaching their goals with the
exception of becoming self-sustaining.   Councilmen Klassen, Fogle and McKean all referred to “moving” goal posts
or changing the rules of the game before it is finished.  

According to members of Loveland's art community, the migration away from arts and towards labeling any new job
as "creative" was demoralizing to commission volunteers.  

In the right column are links from the council’s May 14, 2013 study session when the matter was discussed last
week.  We have posted a video for each councilor’s comments and questions during the meeting, a summary of
Betsey Hale’s presentation and a 39 minute video compiling all of the above comments together in the order as they
occurred during the meeting
Former Members of
Loveland's Creative Sector
Development Commission

: Meg Corwin
Vice: Leah Johnson
Paul Mueller
Michael Lang
Sheila Carrasco
Jan 'Rosetta' Shockner
Kim Wheeler
Mary Bahus-Meyer

City Council Liaison:
Joan Shaffer

City Paid Staff:
Marcie Erion
Betsey Hale
Marcie Erion,
responsible for the
failing Creative
Sector Commission,
sat quietly while
councilors peppered
her colleagues with