Thursday, February 7

Afternoon wonk: Loveland council contributions pay off

Last night, Loveland City Council held a special meeting to pre-annex 250 acres of land near Highway 402 and I-25 into the city. The decision is the latest shot in the flagpole annex battle between the city and Johnstown.

Another council decision gave $900,000 in incentives to Bill Beierwaltes and his company vNet to relocate in Loveland. vNet makes high-end digital audio, lighting and climate-control systems. Its offices are currently spread in Longmont and Loveland, and the incentives will supposedly allow Beierwaltes to consolidate in Loveland, which he says should lead to hundreds of new jobs.

According to the Loveland Reporter-Herald, the tradeoff won over a majority of council, which voted 7-2 to approve the huge payout. But the R-H forgot to mention that Beierwaltes contributed hundreds of dollars in the past council campaign to support vNet-friendly candidates. The digital-audio boss gave $200 each to then-incumbent council members Jan Brown and Steve Dozier, and another $200 to new mayor Gene Pielen. In fact, those three all received support from numerous developers and construction-industry leaders, as have many of their sitting colleagues in previous elections.

Pielen won, but the others didn't. So, maybe it isn't a surprise that the two dissenting council members to the vNet incentives package were Cecil Gutierrez and Kent Solt, who respectively defeated Brown and Dozier. The vote count could turn out to be a frequent tally on incentive-loaded business decisions by council that heavily favor local corporate enterprises.

But the monetary influence of Beierwaltes and others will decline in the next election, since city voters approved a ballot initiative that limits future campaign contributions to $100 per candidate. Will that matter? Former councilman and current state lawmaker Don Marostica offered the Chronicle his two cents last fall: “It doesn’t make a difference if [donors] give you one hundred dollars or one hundred thousand dollars. If they’re going to buy your vote, money doesn’t make a difference.”

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