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Let's all move forward

Between the Lines

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If you came to this space looking for a diatribe, you're in the wrong place. If you came here expecting a message like, "Sell the house, pack up everything and leave town while you can," you'll be disappointed.

If you assumed this column would point fingers of blame for what happened in the election, you should look elsewhere.

This isn't the place, or the moment, to scold and condemn the voters of Colorado Springs for the numbing messages they just sent this local government.

Something has gone terribly wrong over the past year. The people's trust in City Council, already eroded, has totally evaporated. Vanished.

The consequences struck Tuesday night with crushing force. We don't believe in you anymore, the people effectively told their leaders, so we're gonna make life hell for you. And rest assured, the days ahead will be a living hell as Councilors scramble to regain their equilibrium and give the people what they want.

But this is no time to lash out at those who voted against 2C and for 300. Instead, this is when those who still truly care about the city must accept a humbling defeat and learn from it.

Little did anyone realize, back in August, just how destructive this election could become. Those who supported 2C — and even some who didn't — viewed it as the best way to let voters decide what they truly wanted, with clear-cut options: approve the property tax increase or face big cuts in services, facilities and jobs. And very few (if any) of those who backed 2C really felt that Douglas Bruce's 300 would pass, after similar measures lost twice before.

Instead, as we found out, 2C probably helped 300 (which probably would have lost by itself, or in a special election), and they weren't just a referendum on whether to accept the next $25.4 million sliced out of the city's 2010 budget. They became weapons in an all-out voter revolt.

The cynics were loud and merciless. They seized upon every morsel of bad news, whether regarding the U.S. Olympic Committee retention deal, Mayor Lionel Rivera's ethical questions (though he was cleared) or the publicizing last week of city employees' salaries. The lack of compassion was scary: So what if community centers would close? Why worry about eliminating night and weekend bus service? Who cares about the Pioneers Museum and Rock Ledge Ranch? What's the big deal about letting 128 city-owned parks go to waste? Who'll really notice if we don't have as many police officers and firefighters?

Between late August and now, the ranks of naysayers who felt bamboozled by city leaders swelled. For the past 10 weeks, it was open season on government. And the election showed Colorado Springs at its absolute worst, plumber's butt in full view.

Today, those cynics have what they wanted: 2C failed and 300 passed, and Councilors must face the ensuing dilemmas. Should they cut deeper into parks and bus service, just to save police and fire at all costs? Should they even try to salvage community centers? Is there enough time to look at areas such as economic development and tourism?

Nothing about the next five weeks will be easy, as Council moves toward wrapping up the 2010 budget by Dec. 8.

Meanwhile, here's one suggestion: The entire group should call a news conference and issue a public plea for a cease-fire. Despite their disagreements, they should appeal to all residents for a chance to begin taking the city in new directions — even if they aren't sure what those directions will be.

This wouldn't work with just two or three. It should be everyone: Rivera joined by Larry Small, Scott Hente, Randy Purvis, Tom Gallagher, Jan Martin, Darryl Glenn, Sean Paige, Bernie Herpin. They all share in the quandary, so they should reach out together, each offering at least one fresh thought on how to move forward. Each asking for input and patience, with a moratorium on nastiness.

This is a bleak moment in Colorado Springs' history, but it also can be a turning point. It's time for people to be more creative, more open-minded, better organized for future ballot issues, more willing to set aside differences and work together. It's time for constructive ideas, and the bolder the better.

Mostly, though, it's time to forget about this election. We can't just wallow in this poisonous sewer of negativity. We have to move on.

routon@csindy.com

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