Who Got The Bad Wrap?

A March 3 Mountain Mail article, “City council talks about decision to annex development” by Brian McCabe stated the following:

Mayor Jim LiVecchi, who did not vote on the matter, said he thought there was a misunderstanding about the [Sprout Tiny Homes] development being a workforce housing project.

“They never said it was affordable housing,” LiVecchi said. “About 60 percent of the people I’ve talked to were under that impression, and I think they (Sprout Tiny Homes) got a bad rap.

I was confused by the mayor’s statement. I had posted a widely read Opinion article on December 19, 2015,  “Tiny Homes, the Unaffordable Workforce Housing”. That article was based on the premise that the project claimed to be affordable workforce housing. I also wrote a similar letter to the Mail  that was published on December 22.

Now the mayor says that “They never said it was affordable housing.” I felt that my credibility was being called into question. But I let it slide.

Then the Salida Daily Post received a letter from James Cornel, “An Outsider’s Perspective on Tiny Homes Project” that referenced my previous article on “unaffordable” housing. Before posting Mr. Cornel’s letter on March 17, I retraced my research for the December 19 piece that he referenced.

Our introduction to the Sprout Tiny Homes project, presented by Sprout representative Joe DeLuca, was a joint Council/Planning Commission work session on December 1, 2015. The second slide of DeLuca’s presentation clearly states that the Project Goal was to “Provide Affordable Workforce Housing”.

Screen shot of City of Salida Youtube video recorded December 1, 2015 Tiny Sprout Home presentation by Joe DeLuca to Council and Planning Commission.

Screen shot of City of Salida Youtube video recorded December 1, 2015 Tiny Sprout Home presentation by Joe DeLuca to Council and Planning Commission.

Soon after that, Mr. DeLuca said the following while referencing the next slide in his presentation:

High rents and heating bills are impacting the ability of local businesses to attract and retain workers, which reduces the community’s economic potential. Economic Development Corporation has done a big study on this if you want to read all their stuff. There’s been a lot of work towards affordable housing. (next slide) Tiny homes have some advantages in that they are factory built…

From Mr. DeLuca’s December 1 presentation, I, and most other people who attended the presentation, had the impression that the tiny homes project was to be affordable workforce housing. We walked away from that meeting very pleased.

Then a December 17 online article in Outside magazine revealed that the intended rents for the Sprout Tiny Home project were anything but affordable. We were lectured that affordable housing and workforce housing are not one and the same, and from then on the term “affordable” was dropped from the tiny homes conversation. DeLuca still insisted that it will be “workforce” housing – even though it appears that it won’t be affordable to the majority of Salida’s workforce.

Before writing this, I contacted Mayor LiVecchi and asked him for a statement. He reviewed the video and said the following:

“Joe DeLuca did not say it was affordable housing.”

It’s true that DeLuca did not verbally use the word “affordable”, but DeLuca’s visual presentation clearly stated the project goal was “Affordable Workforce Housing”.  That visual was on the screen for 21 seconds and left an impression on us.

Regarding the juxtaposition of DeLuca’s comment about the EDC’s work on affordable housing, and the Sprout Tiny Homes project, a listener would be led to believe that there was a relationship between the two entities. In fact there is not. DeLuca made two statements about the tiny homes, and inserted a statement about the EDC and affordable housing in the middle of those two statements, but not at all related.

I believe that the EDC/Tiny Homes juxtaposition, and the wording “Project Goal: Provide Affordable Workforce Housing” on the 21-second slide were intentional and meant to mislead the people to believe that rentals in this project would be more affordable than current rentals, when the truth is that they will not. DeLuca meant to get initial buy-in by misleading the people.

Mayor LiVecchi’s response was, “You need to take that up with Joe DeLuca.”

The mayor continued, “When Town & County (Auto Center) decided to invest in our community, we did not dictate to them what they could and couldn’t sell and how much they could sell. When Pueblo Bank & Trust decided to move on the highway, and take over the Taco Bell, we didn’t say we want Taco Bell back. It’s a free market.”

I reminded the mayor that I had contacted him because he made the statement to media that “They never said it was affordable housing.” I wondered if he would retract that statement after reviewing the December 1 video. He did not, but he did argue semantics.

Mayor LiVecchi threw 60% of the people he had spoken to – including me – under the bus when he said that they misunderstood about the Sprout Tiny Homes development being a workforce housing project, and that DeLuca never said it was affordable housing.

Our mayor ran on the platform that he would a mayor of the people and for the people. If Joe DeLuca’s presentation had been transparent, there never would have been a misunderstanding. In this case, the mayor seems to be more intent on supporting DeLuca than in serving the people who were misled.

Who else was thrown under the bus?

Cynda Green

Cynda Green is an investigative reporter, writer, and photographer based out of Salida, Colorado. She may be contacted at cyndagreen@gmail.com.

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