Lorne Kramer, former city manager and village police chief, eases back in the coffee shop chair, sips from the steaming cup and smiles. He's happy these days. Life is good.
Since retiring in 2007, Kramer has been around the globe a time or two with his lovely wife, Kena. He has played a lot of golf. And nothing makes him light up like watching his grandson play baseball for Air Academy High School.
The grin? Well, it comes from all of that. And, of course, from knowing that no matter where this new path leads, he will never have to sit through one of those endless, boring City Council meetings ever again — meetings that were moved several years ago to old City Hall and a room with no windows so people wouldn't jump.
(Footnote: Councilor Jerry Heimlicher was so tired of the riveting debates about streetlights and roads that last fall he quit and moved to Tennessee, the only state in the nation where they don't have either.)
Kramer, just back from a trip to Europe, was asked about persistent village rumors that he will run for mayor in 2011. Next year our current mayor Ray Marshall, I mean Lionel Rivera, will be term-limited out of that office. This proves that the 1994 vote by Coloradans to apply term limits to local offices is working and also proves the existence of a loving and merciful God.
Anyway, word on the street has been that Kramer, 67, is quietly organizing a move to wrest control of city government from the usual cast of characters — and by "characters" I mean men who wear costumes and makeup — and put it in the hands of people whose idea of running a village doesn't include giving away $30 million to the Olympic Committee ("Citius, Fortius, Threatenus") while ending bus service and making poor people walk 11 miles to work.
Part of the rumor is untrue. Part is true.
"I have no plans to run for political office," says Kramer, who was city manager for five years after serving 11 years as police chief. "It's not my thing. But I'm involved in a bigger project, one that will support and help quality people run for public office in 2011."
Kramer talks of an effort that has been months in the works, of gatherings where he and others who believe the town has stumbled down the wrong road sit and discuss a future. And a peaceful takeover.
Because next year — if we manage to survive the winter on unplowed and unsanded roads as USOC executives playfully flick caviar at each other — at least six of the nine Council seats probably will be on the ballot.
And so Kramer huddles with others who will no longer sit and watch the slow death of our village. People such as Phil Lane, a smart and successful businessman who was a finalist for Heimlicher's vacant seat a few months ago — a spot the Mensa-like councilors instead handed to anti-government wizard Sean Paige.
Kramer, Lane and others are about to make a move.
"It will be a campaign with a slate of people with like-minded views of our city and what it can become," says Kramer. "A unified group. There are a lot of talented and bright people in this community. People with a vision."
They are not, he says carefully, the people who currently call the shots.
"I know the mayor and the Council, and I have great respect for all of them," he says. "I respect their dedication and their motives. They are good people. But there's no sense of unity on our council, of working together towards a common vision. They have no focus. There never seems to be a plan."
Kramer leans forward, his elbows resting on the table, and adds: "If a ship from another planet landed here today and they said, 'Take us to your leader,' who the hell would that be?"
The movement to take back the village will, Kramer hopes, gather neighborhood support. People will create a voice that will rise and roll across the entire village. A voice that says we can do better. We can be more.
"Colorado Springs," Kramer says, "ought to be the kind of place where our kids go away to college and then want to come back."