The City Council candidate forum season came to a merciful close last Thursday, as the Forum for Civic Advancement hosted the 22 survivors at the Penrose House for a "roundtable discussion with the candidates."
Food and drink were supplied, but the canny Kyle Hybl of El Pomar Foundation withheld both snacks and libations from the ravenous crowd until each hopeful had spoken his or her piece.
For both the media and the sparse entourages accompanying most candidates, it was a dreary event. There were no angry confrontations, no impassioned speeches that we hadn't already heard, no new issues to discuss — just the same group of players strutting and fretting their hour upon the stage, most to be heard no more.
Bizarrely enough, Tom Gallagher and Bill Murray were in attendance although neither spoke. Their names will appear on the ballot, although each abandoned his campaign and endorsed a rival. One wonders why Hybl (or, better still, his spouse Sally) didn't bring them to the stage and croon "Beauty School Drop-Out" to the less-than-dynamic duo.
As the campaigns wind down, here's a sampling of what we've learned:
• Every candidate claims to be a leader. Just listen to them speechify. They've led in business, military, previous political office, family life, the nonprofit world, as volunteers, board members and community activists. They've stepped up; they've listened, learned and led; they've made a difference, and they all love Colorado Springs! And when they're elected, they will lead even more! The word "follow" is not in their vocabulary, though most pledge to "work with" Mayor Steve Bach.
• Angela Dougan isn't just a conservative, she's a conservative conservative! Brandy Williams is an engineer! Joel Miller really, really doesn't like Dougan, and he has two engineering degrees! And among all of them, few seem interested in the disagreeable routines of Council. They talk about "my residents," "my constituents" and "the problems of my district," but only Dougan gets granular, pledging to go to bat for a constituent with a burned-out streetlight. And though I often disagree with her on matters of policy — make that almost always — she's the one I'd call. Think city employees enjoy being pestered by Dougan? She can be nasty and persistent and has Bach's ear. She'd get your pothole filled.
• Keith King may be running for Council, but he has more in mind. He's all about restructuring city government, streamlining procedures, Utilities governance and so forth. Those are issues that properly concern the mayor and, as some may recall, Bach sort-of said initially he'd serve only a single term. So if King gets elected and persuades his new colleagues to choose him as Council president, he might be well-placed to become our second strong mayor.
(And speaking of candidates for higher office, what's going on with El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa? As the Indy reported last week, he decided to go all medieval in his opposition to new gun-control measures — the kind of posturing that plays well with the extreme right, but doesn't make sense if Maketa wants to oppose U.S. Sen. Mark Udall in 2014, as some have speculated. Maybe he's running for an entirely different office: Maketa might have a real shot at deposing incumbent U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, but needs to position himself as far to the right as possible. Locking up the gunnies is a good first move.)
One more thing: It's sad to see the libelous strategies of statewide and national politics infect our petty local election. Joe Barrera, Tim Leigh, Angela Dougan, Brandy Williams and Ed Bircham have all been targeted by hit pieces. The largely anonymous authors of mailers, billboards, Facebook ads and TV commercials have made ludicrous accusations, for reasons best known to those who funded the ads.
Can the city craft election ordinances requiring these shadowy organizations to identify their principals, and the source(s) of their funds? Such ordinances are easy to write and hard to enforce, but that doesn't mean our elected officials should shrug their shoulders.
If this city stands for anything, it should stand for fair, free, above-board elections. Refusing to do so encourages and enables those who care nothing for moral and ethical behavior in politics.
Sure, it's a rough game — but even the roughest of games have rules.