Columns » Between The Lines

Knee-jerking on Pion Canyon

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Enough already. Aren't you tired of watching Colorado Springs throw hissy fits over problems delaying or eventually derailing the Army's proposed Pion Canyon Maneuver Site expansion plans?

Tired of all the shrill, paranoid overreactions, from politicians' statements to Gazette editorials? Tired of the same, narrow-minded argument that opposing Pion Canyon is anti-American, anti-military and anti-Colorado Springs?

We're tired of wasting our limited space on the subject, but if we back off, those obsessed vultures still could swoop in and prevail. So we continue to respond, even when events and comments aren't favorable to our deadlines.

The latest such instance took place last Wednesday, within hours of our Sept. 6 edition going to press. First, U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar announced his decision to ask for a Senate vote mirroring the House's earlier action halting any work or funding on Pion Canyon for 2008. Soon thereafter, our local Chamber of Commerce called a press conference and attacked Salazar, with state Rep. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, tossing the most offensive verbal grenades.

You'd have thought Congress had just voted to shut down the Air Force Academy. You also would've thought every Democrat on the planet had set out to damage Colorado Springs and our military. Gardner spewed venom for every camera and recorder, blurting, "It endangers our national security, as well as the safety and security of our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters in uniform."

No kidding, he really did say that.

Never mind that Salazar concurs with previous assessments that the Army has not made a case for truly needing so much more room, or hasn't shown how to obtain it without resorting to eminent domain and damaging the area's heritage.

Never mind that Sen. Salazar reported he couldn't find evidence that the 2005 BRAC (Base Realignments and Closure) conclusions made reference to needing extra training space as a condition for adding to the Army's presence at Fort Carson. Never mind that military people have praised other established training bases as being crucial to the new kind of warfare, without including Fort Carson.

Gardner didn't stop there, adding, "It is nothing less than hypocritical and irresponsible for us as a state and a community to now deny the Army the ability to do the work it needs to do."

Come on, Bob. Hypocritical? Irresponsible? In fact, it's more hypocritical and irresponsible to use those words in regard to Salazar, who did his sincere best to gather input from both sides, including a well-promoted public audience on Aug. 29 at City Hall in Colorado Springs. He listened to the many arguments and heard all the urgent pleas from those who are determined to give the military anything it wants especially if it might enhance the Springs' military presence.

Salazar heard all that rhetoric, researched the issue thoroughly and made a decision. But since it wasn't what some wanted to hear, that means the senator can't be trusted? Ridiculous. Salazar considered all the points on both sides. He obviously had access to more details, and could get answers to more questions, than the Springs' lightweight lineup of blustery blowhards.

Given all that, if Salazar had come back and sided with the Army, reasonable people would've had to accept it and acknowledge his credibility even if it wasn't what they hoped to hear. Instead, because the outcome didn't go their way, and Springs leaders found out they didn't have Salazar in their hip pocket, they lashed out and burned bridges with Colorado's soon-to-be senior U.S. senator, firing ill-advised potshots that could come back to bite the Springs.

Those civic supporters might be interested to know that the Pion Canyon area ranchers and residents who oppose the Army expansion, despite a streak of political victories in recent months, weren't celebrating last week or bowing at Salazar's feet. Instead, they are concerned that the senator still left open the possibility of revisiting the Pion Canyon expansion in 2009 and beyond.

If both sides are less than satisfied, that doesn't sound like such a terrible outcome.

It sounds much more like Ken Salazar is doing his job.

routon@csindy.com

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