Newcomers with even the slightest political awareness quickly pick up on one of the strange facts of life in the Pikes Peak region: Our elected local leaders are almost all, if not unanimously, Republicans. And yet, much of the conservative-dominated populace feels neither trust nor goodwill for our local governments.
Nevertheless, both political parties, as well as city and county leaders, always seek (and often find) willing volunteers and even candidates for elected office. If you care enough about making this a better place to live, you'll find plenty of opportunities.
If anyone involved in politics is eligible for heaven, those at the front of the pack are probably the unpaid, unrecognized, but absolutely essential party volunteers. If you're interested in keeping enthusiasm — and money — flowing for candidates of your persuasion, contact the county Democratic Party (peakdems.org) or Republican Party (gopelpaso.com).
One of the best ways to get involved in city government has been the Citizens' Academy, an eight-week course that gives citizens a better understanding of government and prepares them to serve on boards and commissions. Unfortunately, because of budget cuts, your next chance to attend won't come until 2010.
Still, you can apply to serve on boards and commissions at springsgov.com/ccbindex.asp, or call 385-5453 for more information. They range from the Trails, Open Space & Parks Working Committee to the Liquor and Beer Licensing Board.
Certain city departments are often looking for volunteers; Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services, police and fire are good examples. Check springsgov.com for more information, and sign up for the Personalized CityWire to have pertinent city information e-mailed to you.
As far as City Council goes, we feel compelled to remind you that you'll get paid all of $6,500 a year to attend brutally long meetings and to take constituents' complaints. And that neither those meetings nor those complaints lately have kept councilors from having to lay off city employees and kill social programs.
Still want to run? You're quite a good person. It's too late to declare your candidacy for the 2009 election (held in April). But there'll be five seats up for grabs in 2010. For information on running, call the city clerk's office at 385-5901.
El Paso County
You won't see many Dukakis '88 bumper stickers in El Paso County parking lots. But in the past few years, a growing Democratic Party has actually competed in county elections that historically have gone blood-red. The big prize: a sweet-paying gig ($87,300 a year!) as a county commissioner.
Commissioners meet most Tuesday and Thursday mornings (visit elpasoco.com for agendas and other information). Five commissioners, representing five districts, are elected to four-year terms. Districts 1 (northern county) and 5 (central and northern Colorado Springs) will be open in 2010.
Like the city, the county also has dozens of volunteer boards. In the first couple months of 2009 alone, it put out calls for its Community Development Advisory Board, its Park Advisory Board and its Planning Commission. Visit bcc.elpasoco.com/volunteer_boards for information, or try 520-6436.
If you're interested in running for office, the county has kindly posted a PDF titled "How to Run for Office" at elpasoco.com/get_involved.asp.