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Surfing the mayoral race

City Sage

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Candidate websites — aren't they fun?

"Rather than asking voters for tax increases or circumventing TABOR with new fees, I plan to improve city services and lower our costs through Managed Competition." — Brian Bahr

"Transform City Government so that it works for everyone — and without tax increases." — Steve Bach

"...there seems to be a myth that the tooth fairy puts money under the city's pillow to pay for streetlights, parks, and even the more essential services of city government. That myth must be shattered as we debate the definition of limited government." — Buddy Gilmore

"Business leaders are not going to move to Colorado Springs to create new jobs and existing employers aren't going to stay here unless we deliver the services they need and maintain our municipal infrastructure." — Richard Skorman

Here's the dilemma that all candidates, regardless of personal conviction, must solve: Do you pander to a ludicrously conservative, TABOR-worshipping community that believes itself to be as overtaxed as New Jersey or California? Do you promise these seriously deluded folks that you'll solve the city's problems by being a handsome, well-dressed fellow in a dark suit? Or do you try to tell voters the truth, even though many of them aren't interested and won't listen?

This is a city, after all, where most residents apparently believe in neither global warming nor evolution. Many also believe that Barack Obama was born in Kenya.

If you want to be the boss of our vast open-air lunatic asylum, it may be best to pander. You could adapt an old high school cheer as your campaign song.

"Lean to the left ... Pander to the right

Stand up, sit down ... Right, right, right!"

Of the mayoral candidates, Skorman presents the most comprehensive platform. His "ten-point plan for Colorado Springs' job growth and economic development" will create controversy — if his opponents read it.

Here's one of his suggestions: "Partner with Northern and Eastern El Paso County to address their future water needs. They are 48,000 acre-feet short going into the next decade. By considering an arrangement to use an existing short-term surplus, we could ease the burden to Colorado Springs ratepayers and at the same time ensure the long-term health of the region."

Richard, that short-term surplus may be illusory. Thanks to global climate change, water resources in both the Colorado and Arkansas river basins are diminishing, not increasing. Should Colorado Springs underwrite county sprawl at the expense of its long-term future? Once the city makes a deal to deliver water, what will you do if the eastern Sprawlopolis can't find its own new sources? Turn off the taps?

Such cavils aside, Skorman understands the structural problems that confront the region — as does Gilmore.

"Over the last 10 years," Skorman writes, "Colorado Springs has grown by more than 90,000 people, but we have only added 14,000 jobs to our workforce — 16,000 new soldiers and 2,000 fewer civilian jobs. Over the same period, real wages here have decreased 10%."

Bach and Bahr are hanging their hats on "managed competition," a fancy way of saying "privatization." But just what are you going to privatize when, as Skorman says, 1,200 of the city's 1,623 employees are in public safety and the courts, and the city maintains 9,000 acres of parkland with 13 employees?

Yet, successful politicians know that vague, cost-free proposals to end waste, improve efficiency, and make government more "transparent" often resonate with voters. This also is the city that voted 60-40 to replace a professional city administrator with an enthusiastic amateur to be named later.

So here we are, with amateurs including a pizza salesman, a homebuilder, a commercial real estate peddler and a defense contractor who sang as part of "The World of Children's Dreams" halftime show at the 1985 Super Bowl.

Here's the thought of the day, from none other than Skorman:

"There is no reason we should not be known as a world-class fishing destination, given the large number of reservoirs and streams within our region's boundaries today."

Chile, New Zealand, Alaska — move over! Colorado Springs, where trophy steelhead and salmon spawn at the headwaters of Monument Creek ...

hazlehurst@csindy.com

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