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All hail the white male

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Colorado Springs long held the reputation of being a white man's playland. That is, until the late 1990s. Suddenly, lo and behold, it seemed everywhere you looked, women were in charge.

Women led the city's three largest institutions of higher learning: Kathryn Mohrman was Colorado College's president, Marijane Paulsen was president of Pikes Peak Community College, and University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Chancellor Linda Bunnell Shade completed the triumvirate. Mary Lou Makepeace was elected our first female mayor in 1997.

In the mid-1990s, African-Americans and people of color also started, in earnest, to make strides in leadership. Before Makepeace, longtime City Councilman Leon Young briefly served as the city's first black mayor, filling out the final few months of Bob Isaac's last term. Makepeace was followed in 2003 by Colorado Springs' first Hispanic mayor, Lionel Rivera.

Before going any further, there is nothing absolutely nothing wrong with white males. The executive editor of this paper is a white male, as are the publisher and the CEO and mind you, I think they are fabulous.

But as a community, we've taken decidedly backward steps in diverse leadership. These days, the people more often in the news are those like white presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who came to town last week to huddle with white evangelical leader James Dobson and emerged from the lair not only with a vow to get Roe v. Wade overturned, but also equating abortion to slavery.

The current congressman from Colorado Springs, Doug Lamborn, is a white male just like each of his predecessors. Running against Lamborn this year are two more white Republican men, Jeff Crank and Bentley Rayburn. The white male Dem from the '06 race, Jay Fawcett, doesn't plan to run this year, but retired Air Force officer Hal Bidlack has said he will.

Which by the way, leads us to clarify exactly where Lamborn stands on front-running Republican presidential candidate John McCain. A couple of weeks ago in this space, we reported that given the likelihood that this white guy will be the Republican presidential nominee, a host of Colorado's leading white guys had immediately jumped white guy Mitt Romney's ship for McCain's.

We also noted Lamborn thought McCain was just super, which resulted in a personal call to this white female from the congressman. Lamborn wants everyone to know that he hasn't yet deemed McCain worthy of formal endorsement.

"I want [McCain] to reach out more to the conservative part of the party," Lamborn said. "He's making steps in that direction, but has not gone far enough."

Last weekend, Gazette reporter Perry Swanson reported the results of a city-sponsored study underscoring the current condition. Five of the city's nine city council members are white males. Sounds like a pretty diverse team until you consider who's advising it.

Of roughly 330 volunteers on dozens of city advisory boards, from parks and rec to public art, health care and telecommunications, 62 percent are male (at least of those who responded to the survey). That compares with 48 percent of the city's population.

Further, the daily noted, 86 percent of the board and commission members are white. The city's actual population is 76 percent white.

So why should we care about the whiteness of city leadership? For starters, review the Gazette readers' statements of response to Swanson's story, posted at gazette.com. Suffice to say many were, at best, borderline racist.

There are a few rainbow-hued rays of hope: Three of Colorado Springs' state representatives are women Amy Stephens, Stella Garza Hicks and Marsha Looper and they comprise an important bloc in a dwindling number of female Republican lawmakers statewide. We have Margaret Radford and Jan Martin on the City Council, along with black male Darryl Glenn. The five-member County Commission includes Sallie Clark and Amy Lathen.

Also, last year Colorado Springs established a Diversity Forum, devoted to empowering people and emerging leaders from broad backgrounds, cultures and ideas to build a healthier community.

They have their work cut out for them.

degette@csindy.com

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