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If City Council elections were soap operas, we'd title this one As the Real Estate Market Turns. The leading man, dashing and handsome in his starched white shirt would be District 2 candidate Kevin Butcher.

But wait! What evil lurks behind those baby-blue eyes? What is that language he lapses into when he's asked to articulate a position on any issue? Who are the henchmen pulling the strings, directing his every move, his every thought? Could he be brainwashed? Could he be brainwashing the good people of Our Town, USA?

Tune in on April 3.

In the Council races of 2001, we've witnessed a development (pardon the double entendre) that should set off alarms for citizens who care about growth management, who care about a healthy balance between government and industry, and who care about what kind of city we are and what kind of city we want to be.

Sure, we've all known for the past decade that the real-estate and development community strongly influences the direction of City Council decision-making. And as we've pointed out many times in the past, the sitting Council members were all once candidates who received endorsements and financial support from the Housing and Building Association.

But this year is different, and not even subtly so.

This year, the development industry has recruited, propped up, royally financed and positioned, front and center, one of their own to help run City Hall. Butcher represents one interest in our community, and that's the interest of runaway growth through business as usual -- rampant, roughshod real estate growth and development with a minimum of oversight by city government and not a whit of innovative thinking.

And alongside this alarming trend lurks another -- apathy and complacency among the voting public. Although the No. 1 issue of concern identified by the citizens of Colorado Springs in the past two years has been growth, and although most citizens recognize that the way the city grows is determined by the highly profitable enterprise of new subdivisions marching in lock step across the plains and the foothills, the populace seems to have just thrown up its collective hands and said, "Oh well, that's the way it is."

That's not the way it has to be. We can and should say no to the HBA and their appointed candidate at this juncture. While we all recognize the importance of housing and building to the local economy, we should not give City Hall away to a man with a clear conflict of interest. We should politely thank the developers, agree to work with them fairly, and get on with the business of addressing all the city's needs with a mix of voices representing all the myriad voices of our rapidly growing and increasingly diverse city, not just those who can pay for a seat. (Are you listening, Council?)

That said, here are our endorsements for the upcoming City Council election.

District 1: Jim Null. Null runs unopposed and has been a decent councilman. Enough said.

District 2: We strongly oppose Butcher as a matter of principle and because as a candidate he has been unable to articulate a single, clear position on any policy matter. We like Leon Kirk's no-nonsense, honest approach, but we feel he has been an unreliable candidate, dropping out and then back into the race. Given the alternatives, Charles Wingate is the best available choice, though we cannot endorse him without reservations, given his past political support of Jesse Helms and notorious former County Commissioner Betty Beedy. Wingate is articulate, has been moderate in his positions, and appears to have a strong grasp of policy issues, something sorely lacking in the other two candidates in this race.

District 3: Sallie Clark. Clark has proven herself an energetic, concerned, involved citizen advocate and deserves a shot at City Hall. Her opponent, incumbent Linda Barley, has waged a negative, mud-slinging campaign rather than focus on the serious matters at hand, and has been a lackluster Councilwoman. We're ready for a change, and we're hoping Sallie will bring a strong voice to Council.

District 4: Margaret Radford. Radford's a smart community activist with a solid civic record. We especially like her apparent dedication to her community which includes the burgeoning southeast sector of Colorado Springs.

At-large: Judy Noyes. We applaud the strong dialogue that opponent Tim Pleasant has provoked on issues we care about -- especially the casual acceptance at City Hall of an autocratic city manager who advocates policy rather than take direction from his bosses, our elected representatives. However, we believe the city needs a leader like Noyes with her rich institutional and historic memory and a record of undying dedication to making Colorado Springs a liveable, lovable city.

We urge everyone to vote on April 3.

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