EDITOR’S DESK: What was that? ‘No comment’

       The Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) commercial group is a private entity promoting business for 100-some members, but occasionally its activities bring it into the public eye.
       For example, there are the current Christmas activities, including Santa in the Bancroft cabin afternoons through Dec. 24. And Ice on the Avenue, popular in its first go last year, is scheduled for a sequel the weekend of Jan. 16-17.
       But other OCCA happenings - less jaunty, but still unavoidably public - also abound. That's where the Westside Pioneer and OCCA board members haven't seen eye to eye of late. They like the idea of Truth by Press Releases, in which everything always appears rosy. Unfortunately, the reality is, in the board's attempts over the past year to redefine and expand what was once a little historic district merchant group, puzzling and unpleasant circumstances have occurred, long-time contractors have been roughly treated (as reported in our Nov. 12 and 19 editions), animosities have grown to the point that previous OCCA leaders have started an alternate business organization, increasing numbers of people are wondering what the problem is, and (most recently) the OCCA board refuses even to talk about it.
       Three current OCCA news items of public interest are discussed below. Note that on these items, the Westside Pioneer contacted OCCA President Charles Irwin - who has previously declared himself the board spokeman - in pursuit of an explanation. But the first-year president would say only that “the board has directed me to give no comment.”
       St. Patrick's Day Parade. In a mid-October interview, Irwin said the OCCA hoped to bring back this popular event, which had been an Old Colorado City tradition until it was moved downtown in 2007. To make it happen, under city rules, an application for a special events permit needed to be filed 90 days in advance of the event.
       As of Dec. 16, no such application had been filed, making it too late to have a parade on the traditional date of the Saturday before the official St. Patrick's Day (March 17). It also appears there never really was any serious intent. “They did give me a call a couple of months ago,” Police Sgt. Lonnie Spanswick, the city's special events coordinator, told the Westside Pioneer Dec. 16. “But when I gave them the cost [about $15,000], they said they weren't interested because they had no idea the parade cost that kind of money.”
       Tonja Gross, the merchant who had suggested the idea to the OCCA, said the OCCA never got back with her about it. “I never heard nay or yay or we've contacted this person or that person,” she said. “People were willing to give up their time and help. I was disappointed.”
       Relocation of the OCCA office. For years, the Colorado Springs Parks Department, which oversees the upkeep of Old Colorado City, had given the OCCA free use of a small office in its maintenance building at 111 S. 25th St. But starting in January the city, strapped for resources by its budget woes, needs the office space for a remote, computerized workstation, according to a Nov. 24 letter to the OCCA board from Daniel Gieck, the City Parks administrator of the Old Colorado City Security & Maintenance District.
       A follow-up letter to the board from Bill Grimes, vice chair of the district advisory committee, offered to work with the OCCA on the move.
       However, Grimes said that, as of Dec. 16, no one from the OCCA has called him. He said he probably will try to reach the OCCA again after Christmas, and is hopeful that the move can occur smoothly.
       A specific question the Westside Pioneer asked Irwin this week was if the OCCA had any space-relocation plans. The group has used 25th Street over the years for miscellaneous supplies and, most recently, as an office for its marketing director, Seiko Tran. But Irwin also gave a “no comment” response to that question.
       The recently unlit “Christmas tree” at Old Town Plaza (25th and Colorado). Barely two weeks after the OCCA publicized a Nov. 24 “lighting ceremony” for the tall spruce - which the entity traditionally keeps lit nightly throughout the season - one or more sections of its lights began failing, and as of this week the display has been shut off altogether.
       The OCCA had never taken down the tree's 2008 Christmas lights, leading to concerns about wear and tear after a year of being left up. However, Irwin said earlier this fall that the lights had been checked out and, other than a small fix, seemed to be OK.
       Asked this week what went amiss and if new repairs are planned, Irwin responded, “No comment.”
       He did add, “Have a nice day,” at the end of our rather short conversation. So there is hope of future communication, I suppose.
       Here's my “comment” for this issue: Merry Christmas everyone!

- K.J.