LovelandPolitics
Loveland's Independent News Source
Commentary
Councilman Olson's Folly
Responding to McWhinney's angry puppet
Loveland - May 13, 2018

Loveland City Councilman Steve Oslon has taken to Facebook to publish what was scripted for him by
Loveland City Manager Steve Adams and his staff
in response to a LovelandPolitics.com article
published April 2, titled
"True Costs of Faking Blight."

Generally, we prefer to engage the source of the misleading information or the beneficiary of the city
subsidies instead of the messenger but this time we are taking the bait and responding to their
surrogate.

Olson's reply to our story is chalked full of deliberately false information about our story since a rebuttal
of the facts presented may have been too challenging.  Therefore, at the risk of boring our readers, we
will first correct the false quotes of our story intended to create a strawmen arguments he could knock-
over then clarify our information with links to other stories and external sources.

1. Thompson Valley EMS (Ambulance Service) fees being raised as a direct result of
Loveland's City Council abusing urban renewal laws.

Our April 2, story stated, "Established in 1983, the service district was intended to replace the high costs
of private ambulance services.  Instead, its service fees now rival the cost of private ambulance service
despite the fact Betty and her husband have been paying the ambulance tax for the past 30 years."

Olson's post claims, "The author asserts that the Thompson Valley EMS was established to provide free
ambulance services to residents of Loveland and that “Betty” received a charge..."

Notice the deception.  Our story was not addressing WHETHER there was a fee but instead HOW MUCH
the fee is today as a result of the "service district" losing its primary source of funding, mill levy, in the
3,000 acres falsely declared "urban blight" by Loveland's City Council as the area daytime population
increases every year.

We also referred to the "service district" because an important source of revenue for the ambulance
service has been the Johnstown development 25/34 where the new Scheels sporting goods store is
located outside McWhinney's fake urban renewal area thus providing much needed property tax
revenue not just to Thompson Valley EMS but also Loveland's Fire Authority and Larimer County.

Olson also pretends the total amount of taxes lost to Thompson Valley EMS is insignificant.  In fact,
approximately $2 million in local property taxes paid for the Thompson Valley EMS has been diverted to
McWhinney's Centerra Metro Districts since 2004.  If you want additional information,
please read our
prior story.           

Olson's claim Thompson Valley EMS must charge the maximum allowed by Medicare is equally
deceptive.  
"The charge for an ambulance run is independent of the funding for the EMS and is
determined by the allowable charges established by Medicare/Medicaid."
Thompson Valley EMS Service
District board determines their fee schedule not the federal or state governments which regulate how
much not
how little they can charge anyone residing within their service district.  

To put a fine point on it, the
Loveland Reporter-Herald published a story in December 2016 regarding a
privately funded ambulance service looking to provide services in Loveland to compete against the
taxpayer supported Thompson Valley EMS.

What Councilman Olson is hoping to confuse for people is the subject of our story, Betty.  She may have
been charged only $50 in the late 1980's for the same ambulance service (which a private company
could not compete with back then) and $1,000 today for the same emergency service since the growth
in Centerra's Urban Renewal Authority requires the same level of services but isn't funding the
Thompson Valley EMS Mill Levy due to the fake blight designation by Loveland's City Council.


2. Loveland Utility Fees Going Higher as a Result of Centerra tax base give away

In his Facebook post Councilman Steve Olson states,
"Second, the author suggests that city utility rates
and solid waste fees increases are caused by the tax increment agreement with the City, the URA and
Centerra.....
This is not correct. Utilities are operated as “Enterprises” - similar to a private business - and
do NOT receive any property tax or sales tax revenue from the city."

As we reported previously,  "Loveland Councilman Steve Olson revealed during a January 2018 council
meeting that he believed the City of Loveland is collecting the full city sales tax of 3% in Centerra instead
of the 1.75% the city actually collects.  In fact, so sure of himself the councilman interrupted Loveland
Mayor Jacki Marsh in an embarrassing attempt to correct her."

While the INTENT is for local governments to operate utilities as separate "businesses" thus isolating
utility fees from the ups and downs of the General Fund, it is certainly not the PRACTICE in Loveland.

The City of Loveland charges the utility enterprise funds a PILT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) to transfer
directly money paid by Loveland utility rate payers into the city's general fund.  Ten years ago, a
growing deficit identified by city finance staff in the city's general fund, $3.5 million, was not coincidently
the same approximate number as what the city's reduced sales tax fails to collect in Centerra.  In other
words, had the city been collecting the regular 3% sales tax in Centerra it receives from the rest of the
retail areas of the city, the deficit would not have existed.  

The CFAC (Citizen's Finance Advisory Commission) where Olson got his start in Loveland City politics,
recommended increasing the PILT (transfer of utility fund payments to the general fund) to mitigate the
Centerra caused shortfall in the general fund.  Because the increase was approved by Loveland's City
Council as a higher percent, it means each fiscal year a greater percentage of the total utility fund is
being used to subsidized Loveland's general fund in the name of PILT.

Like a magician, the city tells the public to watch his mouth instead of its hands.  At the time, many cities
like Denver charged no "PILT" to their utility customers (
see Denver Post Article) while Loveland was
taking $4.5 million annually from utility payers to boost its general fund.  
Here is a link to a 2012
LovelandPolitics article showing the connection for the rising water rates.   Another interesting way utility
rate payers are hit with council subsidies to their special interests is described in this June 2012 story
titled
"Water Sham."


3.  Loveland City Council Abused Its Authority Declaring Urban Blight In Centerra         

"..the author makes the accusation several times that the City Council of Loveland “abused” their
authority by designating then Hahn farm as “blighted” and that legislation in 2010 was “passed to outlaw
the designation of blight on McWhinney controlled land.”

Both of these assertions are incorrect. First, BEFORE the creation of the URA for Centerra in 2004, the
City of Loveland commissioned a study by UrbanPlan, Inc to determine if the land area encompassed by
the URA met the criteria in Colorado State Law. UrbanPlan, Inc completed its study in November 2003
and presented its findings to City Council. Public hearings were held on January 13, 2004 and again on
January 20, 2004 after which city council approved the Centerra Master Financing and
Intergovernmental Agreement by unanimous vote."
 

The public record here is quite clear so Olson's deliberate attempt to create another strawman to knock
over is hardly worth addressing.  Of course, our article was not asserting the Colorado Legislature was
acting "ex post facto" to outlaw an act that had already taken place six years prior; that is beyond their
authority and the U.S. Constitution.  What the Colorado Legislature did do was remove the authority of
all Colorado cities, including Loveland, from ever declaring productive agricultural land 'urban blight' like
Loveland did already in Centerra - ever again.

In fact, our article states,
"HB 1107 was passed to outlaw the designation of "blight" on more
McWhinney controlled agricultural land.  For example, the Loveland City Council abused its discretion
by pretending hundreds of acres of the former Hahn Farm, inherited by the McWhinney's was "a
menace to the community."

Loveland's Hahn farm blight declaration of 2004 was among the most persuasive evidence presented in
the legislative committee hearings that reform was necessary.
 You can read about it from our May 2010
story on the bill and Larimer County Assessor Steve Miller's comments at the time in an email to a
member of Loveland's City Council.

HB 1107 was signed into law April of 2010, six years after the City of Loveland abused its power to
pretend the land owned by McWhinney was worthy of special tax incentives preserved exclusively to
remedy "urban blight."  Clearly, the point was to stop the practice and that is exactly what our article
states.

We suspect Mr. Olson failed to read the reports he is referring to and instead is again relying on
McWhinney's account to 'educate' himself regarding the designation.  If he takes the time to read the
consultant reports, commissioned by McWhinney and not the city, he will find examples of "urban blight"
and "menace to the community" being an aging pump house on one parcel and a broken wooden fence
post on another.  Nobody believes one broken fence post constitutes 25 years of property tax rebates to
"repair" the "urban blight."
Loveland City Councilman Steve Olson
      IGNORANT OR DECEPTIVE?

Olson:

"The combined Sales TAX and Sales
FEE on retail sales at Centerra is 4%.
Some of this sales tax and sales fee
flows to regional transportation projects
that otherwise would have been a sole
responsibility of the city."

FACT:

In 2008 Loveland's City Council
diverted the Centerra 1% Retail Sales
Fee (RSF) going to a private
corporation created and controlled by
McWhinney instead of the public
purposes promoted by Olson above.
(see page 2 of that agreement below)

Loveland Councilman John Fogle
negotiated a deal removing the car
dealership he partly owns (along with
the other dealers in Centerra) from
making customers pay the fee.  The
City of Loveland enforces collection of
the fee on other Centerra retailers.

Today, Loveland City staff routinely
deny any freedom of information
requests to see where the money goes
claiming it is now "private company
revenue" not available for public
disclosure.

LovelandPolitics discovered
McWhinney used the obligatory 1%
Retail Sales Fee (RSF) for legal fees to
sue their former business partner on
Promenade Shops after it was sold in a
foreclosure auction to a New York
entity.

While McWhinney
prevailed in the
lawsuit, none of the $40 million award
has been pledged to repay the
Centerra Metro District public debt or
reimburse the public forced to pay the
McWhinney tax on their retail
purchases in Centerra.

see our story about the lawsuit
Read Loveland City Manager Steve Adams reply and Olson's request to have city
staff prepare Olson's social media attack on LovelandPolitics's article