Abusing Discrection…….Again

Tonight Loveland’s City Council votes to finally approve (second reading) a scheme to use Federal Relief Dollars for victims of the 2013 flood to instead promote McWhinney’s failed Chapungu Park with an annual “Winter Wonderlights” festival.

Please read our story (especially the last paragraph) 

We say failed because not only did McWhinney foreclose on Promenade Shops next to the park located inside a drain basin but the inspiration for the park, Chapungu Art Gallery in Harare, Zimbabwe was liquidated by the African government in 2012 when artists and employees were owed over $150,000 in back pay while its locally celebrated “curator” was living comfortably in a half-a-million dollar house in Berthoud – apparently enjoying the spoils of Centerra Metro District dollars paid by McWhinney for their stone carvings.  

Now before you indulge in the fantasy that closures of Highway 34 are responsible for dropping sales in Centerra, please go back and read our story from December 2015 titled, “The Competition For Retailers -Why Loveland’s Centerra is losing ground and may fall short of revenue projections again in 2016 costing the city”

We take the “controversial” position that flood relief dollars probably are best spent on helping businesses actually damaged by the 2013 floods and subsequent closures along Highway 34.   We all know it wasn’t Centerra.

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25 Responses to Abusing Discrection…….Again

  1. Silence Dogood says:

    Thank you for your coverage of this story. It will be interesting to see how our city councilors will respond.

  2. I watched this meeting on my channel 16. It was really funny when some guy named Larry quoted statistics about backpackers and hikers being the main source of tourism dollars going to Estes Park so creating a Christmas light show in Centerra isn’t really going to bring them back to Loveland when 34 is closed again this winter!
    After he spoke an obese woman named Nicole Yost who only moved here in 2009 bragged she has a PR business in downtown and supports subsidizing the Chapungu light show! She also gets money from this city marketing commission and who knows what other government enterprise. I think she made Larry’s point exactly. Someone who is new to Colorado and couldn’t make it up ten steps let alone climb a trail in RMNP has no clue what brings tourism dollars to a Colorado.
    Boy this town is starting to remind me of Chicago because every elected official ignored the comments and voted yes.

    • Admin says:

      Welcome to the forum but please refrain from making ad hominem arguments like questioning someone’s credibility based on their weight.

      You are correct that we seem to have a proliferation of the “I moved to Colorado because I love it now why can’t we do things the way they did where I escaped; because it had such a low quality of life.”

      However, the person you are calling out we believe has lived in Colorado for many years so it doesn’t really apply.

      Nicole Yost did say she worked on some projects promoting Loveland and I believe used to work for the Chamber of Commerce. Government is likely her most important client so it isn’t surprising she would be available to clap like a trained seal for the city and McWhinney.

    • AdamSteve says:


      You just showed your complete and total ignorance for understanding ANYTHING that happens in the city by only addressing the weight of someone. Are you kidding? And especially to discredit someone about their knowledge of Loveland based on weight. Disgusting!!!! Why don’t you look up what Nicole has done for this city and how much she is involved and loves Loveland versus making a judgement. She promotes more GOOD about the things happening in Loveland than just about any other person in town. What have you done Jon? Besides voice an opinion on a forum.

      And to say she claps her hands like a trained seal based on a “likely.” Do you people even understand how business works? If someone pays you, you work for them. I am so sure that all of you would turn down a contract for work based on if you were getting paid by the city or government right? You will just turn down jobs from places where money is guaranteed to come to you so that you can keep thinking small? I doubt it.

      Finally to say that the money was spread through “false information?” Again, WOW! Why don’t ANY of you research how grant processes work? There were many committees and people involved at the State level to make this decision. Again look at all of the events that the Visitor Services for the City has put on and find one event that has McWhinney associated with it. You won’t be able to. So to suggest that is again ignorance and just shows this forum is not about actual Loveland Politics. It is just a hate blog for the City Council and McWhinney.

      Don’t ever attack someone’s knowledge based on weight. Than only shows how smart you are.

      • Admin says:

        Adam, here is a business term you may need to go and look-up; OCI. Nicole’s comments were not coming from an independent local business as she pretended.

        Secondly, the entire grant is predicated on assisting businesses that suffered a loss due to the 2013 flood and its after effects. Embassy Suites, last we checked, was not part of Centerra nor the hotels along Highway 34 including the La Quinta Inn which likely does lose business when 34 is closed.

        As for Jon’s comment, it was his first here so his association with this blog is less than yours. Integrity matters. Read Jacki’s reply and see if you can come up with a cogent argument as to why her argument is flawed.

        • AdamSteve says:

          At no point did Nicole ever present in a manner that would have an operational conflict of interest (assuming that is what you mean with OCI and not operating companies income or other compensation income or Overseas Citizen of India). She only said her business was downtown. If you follow anything that Nicole does in this town, you know she promotes many business in Loveland and Fort Collins. And everything she does promotes the good things happening in the town. Not all that the negative that shows up here.

          And for an argument from Jacki’s reply: What FACTS does she have to support “It should be noted that IF people opt to stay overnight during the Winter Wonderlights event at Centerra, that some or even many of those people will choose to stay in the two new hotels in Johnstown..” Did she call another unnamed person that knows the future outcome of event that hasn’t happened? What does “noted” mean? In every example she stated “opinion” when she talked to any of the people she claims to have spoken to. So opinion is much better than the facts that the State had to make this decision on. The ONLY facts Jacki had were what Johnstown’s new lodging tax revenue is.

          If Jacki is correct about how Johnstown will reap the benefits of people coming here, than WHY would she not want to have an event that would help keep the lodging dollars in Loveland? With all the growth happening in Johnstown, Loveland will lose it’s lodging tax dollars that allow for the city o have a budget to support the events that already happen throughout downtown. This is not “taxpayer” dollars, This is money from people staying at the hotels. The majority of which happen to be on the East side of Loveland. Than what? Less lodging tax dollars = less events = less downtown Loveland success. Unless you are thinking that the La Quinta and Kings Court can make up that amount of revenue the loss of the hotels out east provide?

          The state wrote the grant language and approved it. You have a letter directly from Jeff Kraft on your website stating this. I can only imagine that the response is that the McWhinney’s bought the state off too. Right?

          Growth is happening everywhere in Colorado at a tremendous pace. and we have to accept that. Would we have MCR, Mountain View High School, High Plains School, Environmental Learning Center, Loveland Sports Park, The Ranch without new vision and events?

          The only reason I decided to post here is because of the direct insult that I was mad aware of about an individual that has contributed tremendously to this town and deserves much more than the way she was treated. I could argue this point for days like I am sure that many people will do here with their anti-McWhinney, anti-City Council, anti- City Staff, anti-Centerra, anti-State viewpoint. I choose to focus on what is good with the City of Loveland.

          • Jacki says:

            AdamSteve – the point of my comments were to discuss a re-occurring problem that I see at City Council Meetings. Some topics appear to have been decided before the First Reading. Before the public has an opportunity to express their views. Before City Council questions, discusses and votes. In my opinion that is a problem and a problem that is made worse, when the presentation(s) are one-sided and when City Council (who clearly already knows the answer) delibertly asks questions to bring out more one-sided opinions / information.

            The proof that I am correct and that we do indeed have a problem, arrived at my shop yesterday.

            Yesterday, I received the newly published Loveland Visitor Guide, which is created by Visit Loveland. Having advertised in this publication in the past, I know that it takes months to put the Guide together. Camera ready artwork and text are due months before the Guide is printed.

            The Loveland Visitor’s Guide is available in every Loveland Visitor Center in Colorado as well as neighboring States. It is also available in hotels, museums, etc. I keep a supply in my shop as well.

            The newly published Loveland Visitors Guide arrived at my shop yesterday, August 3rg. The Second Reading and final approval of the Winter Wonderlights was Tuesday, August 1st. How is it possible that Winter Wonderlights is listed as the Signature Event for November?

            How is that possible? How did people know and receive approval to print the Loveland Visitors Guide BEFORE public comment, BEFORE City Council approval? Or did Visit Loveland have City Council approval before and therefore outside of the public hearing?

            You might want to let someone at Visit Loveland know that Downtown Loveland’s Night On The Town is on the second Friday of each month, Vs the second Thursday as stated in the New Loveland Visitor Guide that will be distributed for the next year.

            In regards to your comments casting doubt on my information, please call the entities yourself. Feel free to confirm that they did indeed speak with me. I do not have the opportunity to leave Loveland often, so prior to my calls I did not know that Longmont had a new Candlewood Suite Hotel or that they had an Event Plaza, much less that it was under new ownership. I did now know that Johnstown’s two new hotels were their first hotels. I did not know that they had to go to the electorate to get approval to charge a lodging tax.

            But I guess I just made all that up, as I chose not to draw the people I spoke with into this discussion. It was the information that was important, at least I though it was. I hadn’t gotten the memo that the Winter Wonderlights was a done deal.

          • Carol says:

            Since Nicole has a pecuniary interest in the outcome she cannot speak as another downtown business with raising conflict of interest issues. I think that is what Admin was refering to anyway.

            In law, when a person has an overwhelming personal interest in something it is considered to outweigh any other interests like being a member of the community at large.

            Nicole was there to kiss her client’s ass not really speak for downtown businesses. It was so transparent I am surpirised you are even arguing the point.

  3. Carol says:

    I got a kick out of Councilor Joan Shaffer telling everyone she only stays in downtown to get what she needs. I guess she never heard the saying you can’t help the poor by being one of them. Centerra doesn’t want broke people like Shaffer they want people with cash to spend. They only proved again we have nine McWhinney lemmings representing us.

  4. Admin says:

    The letter we published from Jeff Kraft (to the right of our story) defending his organization’s approval of the grant makes two really important points,

    1. It was the only application they received from Loveland
    2. They are still accepting additional requests (presumably from more legitimate projects)

    We understand Loveland’s City Council was mislead by staff during the meeting by being told the businesses or area receiving the grant didn’t need to be impacted by the flood to qualify. This is blatantly false.

    The application claimed a nexus between Centerra’s declining sales and the 2013 floods.

    Even worse, we understand local business owner Clay Caldwell said the money was just “on the shelf” not being used and that is why he wasn’t opposed to the council voting to accept the grant and appropriate occupancy taxes to fund the Chapungu light show.

    Anyone familiar with McWhinney immediately recognizes the false choice presented to council along with false information spread to less informed people in the community who come out to speak in favor. The decision to make one application for the grant and only for McWhinney was when the decision was really made by city staff.

  5. EatYou says:

    You are missing the point. If Loveland doesn’t take the money someone else will in another town or Boulder to Weld counties. It is the job of the city counsel to represent Loveland and do everything possible to bring federal and state grant money to Loveland for our benefit no matter what it was originally intended to do.
    This blog is a joke and nobody reads it anyway. I happen to like bronze as a medium for sculptures but introducing stone only advances Loveland to a new level in contemporary art.

    • Admin says:

      Forgive me if my history is backwards but didn’t the Bronze Age come AFTER the Stone Age? Maybe the word you meant to use was regress to the Stone Age instead of progress. Chad McWhinney’s experiment to introduce contemporary stone art into Loveland failed. It was a taxpayer funded flop. Pouring even more dollars into Chapungu isn’t going to make it a success regardless of how many lies are told to obtain the funds.

      The question isn’t whether or not Loveland will receive these dollars. The question is whether anyone working in the city or its taxpayer funded affiliates have enough courage to do the right thing here.

      Apply on behalf of businesses really suffering loss due to the flood and subsequent closure of Highway 34.

      • CO Science Fan says:

        Is being 8th on the TripAdvisor list of the best things to do in Loveland really a failure? I go to the Chapungu Sculpture Park for walks regularly and always see people exploring the park and have spoken to many out of town folks who specifically came just to see the park. For a city that already has America’s largest outdoor juried sculpture show, getting the park was a brilliant fit to the city’s character.

        And are you seriously deriding stone sculpture as inferior to bronze? David? The Pietà? Oh if only Michelangelo had done those in bronze hah.

        FYI the Chapungu show at the Denver Botanic Gardens was one of their most successful summer draws in recent years, and it also drew many visitors to Loveland who wanted to see more.

        On another subject, if this event turns into a big enough regional draw that it fills hotel rooms in cities around the Front Range that’s bad for Loveland again how? Does the City of Denver worry events council supports might fill rooms in neighboring cities? A rising tide lifts all boats, right?

        • Admin says:

          You apparently didn’t read our story. The original gallery in Zimbabwe it was meant to bolster along with the local gallery both went out of business. If you are familiar with the bronze sculptures in Loveland than you know it’s more than just sculptures but also the local industry it supports of artists and galleries.

          If Chad McWhinney decided to sell his personal business jet or 100 foot yacht to create an art display in his development, that would be an admirable effort. Even if it were 100th on Trip Advisor’s top city attractions in Loveland it would be value add since it is contributed for the benefit of our city.

          In this case, McWhinney used other people’s money to try and kick-start a new sculptured art industry in Loveland but failed. Again, an admirable effort if it was done with his own money but since taxpayers now owe $186,000,000 and the city cannot show a credible path towards repaying that debt it hardly can be counted as successful.

          In the case of Promenade Shops, Several local and national banks lent over 110,000,000 to McWhinney and their partner to develop the shopping center and the metro district borrowed close to another $100,000,000 of which a significant portion went to the signs and infrastructure of a Promenade.

          Promenade sold at foreclosure sale for around $80,000,000. Chapungu was the accompanying park to draw visitors and increase the appeal of the shopping center.

          The banks shareholders who lost millions, the unpaid artists in Zimbabwe and property owners in Centerra now facing a mill levy increase to 72 mills might all disagree with your definition of success.

  6. Jacki says:

    A continuing problem in our “public hearings” is that the people presenting the plan / idea have an objective and they use the “hearing” to publicly “sell” City Council on their idea. In many cases it is obvious that information has been shared and perhaps dialog has taken place amongst Council Members and City Staff prior to the “public hearing”. The decision to support the plan / idea has been made before the “public hearing”. Such is the case with Winter Wonderlights. The Winter Wonderlights event was on the Consent Agenda on the first reading because in the words and opinion of Don Overcash, it was a “no-brainer”.

    I pulled the item so that it could be discussed and hopefully debated. However, it is hard to have a meaningful discussion / debate when Council’s mind is made up and the information provided by Staff is one-sided. It falls to the public to offer opposing views and information. But the public’s ability to offer information and an opposing view is hampered by the three minute rule. Staff is given unlimited time and City Council Members appear to ask questions designed to further the Staff’s objectives. The Public fights the battle and tries to bring forth opposing information with the clock ticking.

    In regards to Winter Wonderlights, I called the City of Longmont to confirm Loveland’s City Staff’s claim that Longmont’s increase of 38% in lodging tax was due to the road closures on Highway 34. Longmont City staff told me that they had seen no spike in lodging room sales during the Highway 34 road closure.
    When I inquired about the increase in lodging tax, she informed me that Longmont had opened a new hotel and that they had new management in their Event Plaza. She told me that both those entities had been very active. She also stated that Longmont was seeing over-flow lodging room sales from people attending events in Boulder.

    I called the Embassy Suites in Loveland at Centerra and spoke with the woman who wrote the letter of endorsement of Winter Wonderlights at Centerra. She told me that in her opinion, the road closures to the Canyon had not created a loss in room sales. Her letter of endorsement of Winter Wonderlights makes no claim that there was a decline in room sales. She stated that she was seeing a loss in room sales due to the opening of two new hotels in Johnstown.

    I called the City of Johnstown. Johnstown City Staff told me that their two new hotels, at the intersection of I25 and Highway 34, were Johnstown’s first ever hotels so she could offer no opinion on any effect, or lack of effect, from the Canyon road closure. Johnstown asked the voters last November to approve charging a lodging tax at their first ever hotels. In the few short months that Johnstown had collected lodging tax, it had collected approximately $20,000. Which likely, at least in part, explains the 3.4% decline in Lodging Tax claimed by Loveland City Staff in their justification to use Disaster Recovery Tourism funds for Winter Wonderlights at Centerra.

    It should be noted that IF people opt to stay overnight during the Winter Wonderlights event at Centerra, that some or even many of those people will choose to stay in the two new hotels in Johnstown. The new shops in Johnstown will also benefit from Winter Wonderlights.

    I shared the information I gathered via emails with City Council. Not one City Council Member or City Staff referred to this “new” information during the second “Public Hearing”. No information was shared in regards to malls reopening in Longmont and Fort Collins. No data was provided regarding the sharp increase in internet sales. No mention was made that retail sales of clothing and gifts are especially hard hit in the current economy. None of these facts were shared in the “Public Hearings”, despite the fact that they directly effect a 3.5% decline in retail sales at Centerra.

    It appears that information and presentations are geared to “sell” the Council and to “sell” the Public on a pre-determined outcome. It is left to the public to offer an alternative point of view; in three short minutes. Our opinions are dismissed and in some cases we are ridiculed and even chastised.

    Winter Wonderlights is a City and Federally funded event to benefit Centerra. Any last ditch efforts to include other areas of Loveland in “selling” their event is due to public pressure.

    • LindaRosa says:

      Not only ridicule and chastisement. I think there were even outright threats directed to those, such as Jacki Marsh, who opposed the Winter Wonderlights project. John Fogle wrote on Facebook:

      “…I certainly hope that the negativity being generated over this issue isn’t damaging downtown efforts for years to come. The CMC spends a large part of the money it generates in downtown — which generates $0 for the lodging tax fund. I can not imagine a scenario where it is wise to ‘bite the hand that feeds you’.”

  7. Jon Alfano says:

    I have conducted great big advertising campaigns most of my career for IT and understand better than yu people how to identify all known demographics because it’s what I do for a living.
    My profesional analysis is people who don’t understand fitness believe recreactionalists who visit RMNP will come to Loveland anyway when the highway is closed to stroll around a park to see a bunch of xmas lights. Not gonna happen guys ever……….not fit people’s idea of an adventure……..
    Nobody speaking for this including the plump girl in the undersized house dress know how to tie a quick hip belay. Just saying big Clay can swim in swamps from his home state but probably never climbed the side of a mountain unless his big butt was planted in a car seat.

  8. Gary says:

    I think the promoters of Winter Wonderlights have unrealistic expectations of the possibility of increasing sales in Loveland and Centerra by this display. Staying overnight at a nearby hotel because of a light display? Not likely.
    Most people have a list in mind as they go Christmas shopping. If you’re seeking clothing or cookware you might go to Macy’s or go to Best Buy if you want an electronic item. If the retailers have the merchandise on hand at a reasonable price, people will come and buy. The presence of a light display has little to no influence on purchasing decisions.

  9. Greg Snyder says:

    If the “leaders” of this community were really interested in the opinion of the populace they would put funding questions like these on a ballot, but since they (like the RNC and the DNC as well as the Federal Bureaucracy) know they are acting against the will of the people we will never be asked……. The Chapungu sculpture park would not even make the top 100 in my opinion. Even spellcheck doesn’t like it!

    • Admin says:

      Greg, the city already approved printing of the annual events directory with the “Winter Wonderlights” in Centerra included long before council voted. Apparently, City Manager Steve Adams has little regard for the open meetings law so already had approval before the public even knew about it. The public vote was just a rehearsed chorus not really a “meeting in public” as the law clearly requires.
      Nothing says Christmas better than primitively chiseled African stones and corrupt local government.

      • Jacki says:

        In my opinion, there is an effort to “marry” Christmas to Centerra for as long as they both shall live, as they intend Winter Wonderlights at Centerra to be an annual event.
        Sitting through last Tuesday’s Study Session; it struck me as hypocrisy that City Staff and City Council could understand that Scheels opening would lower sales at Loveland’s sporting goods stores. And they could understand that new golf courses opening in Berthoud and Windsor would diminish rounds of golf at Loveland’s golf courses. But a mere week earlier those same people could not understand that sending people to Centerra for the six weeks of the Christmas shopping season would lessen sales in other shops around Loveland; many of which are locally owned small business.
        I doubt that City Staff authorized the printing of over 100,000 full-color Visitor Guides, without polling City Council Members to determine their support of Winter Wonderlight.
        It was no accident that Winter Wonderlights was fist presented to the public on the Consent Agenda.
        It seems that our current government would rather prop up sales in a shopping district that only contributes 1.75% in city sales tax to the gain of a Metro District that receives 2.25% in fees on every purchase. The winners and losers are obvious.
        It is time for the voting public to clean house.

        • Gary says:

          Jacki is right on with regard to the public hearings having a predetermined outcome.
          Richard Ball’s editorial in Reporter Herald on 8/9 certainly helps to confirm Jacki’s claims. When the majority of public comments on an issue are requests not to pass the question before council, they either totally blow off the critics or scold them for speaking up. I take it to mean that the public doesn’t have the right to dissent and they should keep paying the bills and let city hall spend it anyway they please.

          • Jacki Marsh says:

            Gary – Not only public comment at the meeting but there were numerous emails sent by citizens to City Council. I believe that the only two emails sent in favor of Winter Wonderlights at Centerra were from people whose employment is dependent on the City. All other citizen emails were written in opposition.
            Clearly city staff believed it was a forgone conclusion or they would not have ordered the Visitor Guides prior to public comment and the final vote by City Council.

  10. LindaRosa says:

    Apparently there was no due diligence in the purchase of the Chapungu statuary if the dealer can afford a luxury home while the artisans go unpaid. Anyone buying from abroad these days knows to investigate for exploitation.

    The ethics of this situation suggest that the McWhinneys need to sell these pieces to reimburse the sculptors. If not, it might be a good idea for Lovelanders to consider these pieces stolen goods.

  11. Greg Snyder says:

    But, we will probably make up the difference in sales tax income from the new Sprouts store and the south suction project…….. Homeless people have a lot of discretionary income to spend.

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