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City's week to forget


The week began with a City Council incumbent talking about the male sex organ at a public forum, no less and ended with policemen treating anti-war protesters as if they were potential terrorists at a downtown parade, no less.

Along the way, the people of this supposedly appealing mecca (according to various sources rating cities) became spectators to a down-in-the-mud smear campaign in a local election.

Colorado Springs, feel free to be embarrassed. It's justified.

We've had other bad weeks, such as February 2003 when police used tear gas against protesters before the war started in Iraq. Or we could go back to the early 1990s and events that led to the Springs being anointed as the "Hate Capital of America" or, if you prefer, the "Epicenter of Intolerance."

The mountains might be beautiful here, but many of the people aren't. And some of the attitudes, in March 2007, remain as nauseating as they've ever been.

Let's start with the story that many might have forgotten, though they shouldn't have. It's about Tom Gallagher, running for a second at-large term on City Council, the guy who always has prided himself in being the Mouth That Roars.

On a personal level, Gallagher comes across as a sincere, likeable, dedicated rabble-rouser. He's 45 now, but you really have to wonder what kind of scoundrel Little Tommy Gallagher must have been in middle school: smart as a whip, quick on his feet, always driving people crazy with outlandish questions and reactions.

Trouble is, in so many ways, he's still that same Little Tommy. Like at that City Council candidates forum, when asked if he would approve a welcoming resolution for the annual Colorado Springs PrideFest.

He could have just said he didn't believe in resolutions for any group. Instead, he had to turn it into a theatrical presentation, pausing for effect with exquisite timing:

"I don't dwell on the sexual orientation of people. I dwell on people. That's what's important: the heart ... the mind ... OK? ... Not the penis. It doesn't think."

That off-base comment made it into the Independent and onto KRCC. Comcast is replaying the forum, unedited, on Channel 2. But nobody seems that upset. Why? More than a few of our rabidly narrow-minded residents probably responded with something like, "Right on, Tommy boy! Way to tell 'em!"

Granted, the best way for horrified citizens to react is to vote for somebody else. It's sad, because in so many ways Little Tommy Gallagher brings the kind of presence City Council needs. He does ask questions. He doesn't swallow staff recommendations. He is a rabble-rouser in every sense of the term.

But he doesn't know when to stop. And he apparently didn't see anything wrong with his main supporters, the Morley clan, paying for TV and radio ads attacking fellow incumbents Randy Purvis and Larry Small, in a nonpartisan election.

If Little Tommy could control himself, he'd be the go-to guy for irate reaction to the St. Patrick's Day parade, when the Springs briefly looked something like a communist country. How could one not think about how Cuba or China treats dissidents, after seeing police manhandling harmless middle-aged and older citizens, men and women, and brandishing a Taser gun for intimidation?

As a co-worker said this week, "We pay taxes to be protected, not abused."

The organizers insist it was wrong to bring "social issues" into the parade. Yet they didn't mind the Hooters girls, political candidates and military, or the same peace-minded group last year. On the fourth anniversary of war beginning in Iraq, what was wrong with a group of adults and kids trying to convey a message of peace (while purposely not bringing any inflammatory anti-Bush signs)?

Nothing was wrong, of course. And the whole mess might have been avoided if organizers had asked the peace group about one or two specific signs before the parade, or if the police had told the organizers, "Sorry, too late. They have a permit." Instead, now the photos and videos tell the repulsive story of a city that got caught with its pants down, in every imaginable way.

The months and years might seem to roll past quickly, but when the subject is Colorado Springs and its image, we're a city that is growing fast yet changing far too slowly.

This is why we have to complain. This is why we have to raise hell after a week that makes our city look so Neanderthal, so podunk.

This is why we need stronger leadership in Colorado Springs.

The timing is perfect: You have city election ballots in your hands. Not all the choices are ideal, but enough of them are worthy.

So do something about it.

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