Looking back at 2011, how did it differ from 2010, or 2009? And how will we distinguish it from 2012, or 2013?
2011 is a prime number, divisible only by itself and one. Everything else, to the eccentric mathematicians among us, is peripheral. So having gotten that out of the way, we can focus on politics.
1. Steve Bach becomes the city's first "strong mayor" ... or is he? Hate to rain on your parade, Mr. Mayor, but the city's first strong mayor was John Robinson, who served in that position from 1899 to 1902. During his term, Colorado Springs became a "city of the first class" under state rules. The city's annual report noted that Mayor Robinson, who received an annual stipend of $1,200, "has the right of veto of all bills that carry money appropriations, and has the power of appointment for policeman, fireman, etc." Alas for future elected officials, that form of government was replaced in 1924 with the city manager model.
1A. Ultra Resources buys Banning Lewis Ranch for $20 million, seeks de-annexation, wants to drill for oil and gas and forget development. City, county, and real estate industry react with a single voice: WTF??!! With a single check, Ultra may have rendered inoperative the city's conventional wisdom about future growth, about the Southern Delivery System, about tax policy, about infill development, about ... well, everything.
2. Douglas Bruce forms an ultra-right City Council candidate fivesome who run as the "reform" ticket. The group, which includes Bruce, aging gadfly Ed Bircham and three other folks with conservative convictions but little political experience, manages to split the conservative vote. Incumbent Councilor Sean Paige is ousted, tolerant firebrand Jan Martin is overwhelmingly re-elected, and the city is blessed with a moderate, thoughtful body that would be at home in Denver, Boulder or Fort Collins. Thanks for the hard work, Doug!
3. Speaking of Mr. Bruce, his conviction in a Denver court on four counts of tax evasion may finally end his long and colorful career in state/local politics. But don't count on it — cunning and resourceful, Bruce has come roaring back from political exile before. Think Richard Nixon, think Newt Gingrich, and remember the lyrics to "Hotel California": "They stabbed it with their steely knives / But they just can't kill the beast."
4. Swept into office by a business/conservative/moderate coalition, Bach quickly realizes that his 58-42 victory gives him a free hand to govern as he wishes. Some backers want him to dismantle the city's regulatory structures, while others expect him to shrink costs and shed employees. Instead, he moves cautiously, building a young, energetic crew to help lead the city. He creates and empowers Solutions Teams to "reinvent service delivery (in times of) limited budgets." Interestingly, three of the four teams are headed by liberal stalwarts, including former mayoral candidates Richard Skorman and Dave Munger.
5. Once again, county commissioners wind up divided. Attacked for supporting a 2010 term-extending measure disguised as a term-limitation vote, Commissioners Amy Lathen, Sallie Clark and Dennis Hisey close ranks and beat back Peggy Littleton and Darryl Glenn in their bid for a comprehensive revote. The result: Lathen runs the county. And if you don't believe me, ask departing County Attorney Bill Louis.
6. Reapportionment — ain't it grand? Republican vs., Republican: Amy Stephens vs. Marsha Looper, Owen Hill vs. Larry Liston. Get ready for a good, old-fashioned, intraparty donnybrook, culminating next spring at the county GOP assembly. In that first race, my money's on Stephens — never bet against Republicans named Amy (as in Lathen).
7. "Yesterday upon the stair / I met a man who wasn't there." That'd be former Mayor Lionel Rivera, who has vanished from public life.
8. Mitt Romney comes to town for a very private fundraiser hosted by El Pomar Chair Bill Hybl. One thing to consider: Hybl hasn't remained the most powerful man in southern Colorado for the past 30 years by picking losers.
So that's it until 2017 — the next prime number year.