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Ran into lawyer, longtime political observer and all-around smart guy Lindsay Fischer on Tejon Street the other morning. It was one of those brilliant, translucent October mornings that makes you think (hope!) that summer will never quite leave.

Like your columnist, Lindsay's a child of the '50s, and he saw the day rather differently. Talking about our local politicos, Lindsay observed that "even the finest cut of beef has a 'sell-by' date." Put somewhat more gently, I think that he meant that the current crop of elected officials are, although they themselves would dispute it, fast becoming irrelevant.

The process by which politicians devolve from power to impotence, from relevant to ridiculous is, like the passage of the seasons, slow, inevitable and utterly predictable.

When you're first elected -- young, eager, and thoroughly nave -- you have all sorts of great ideas, and you're sure the voters are behind you 100 percent. After all, they elected you, didn't they?

Once you take your seat, you quickly find out that your elected body -- Council, County Commission, Legislature -- is effectively controlled by a bunch of awful old geezers. They're totally out of touch but they know the system; they're ruthless, cunning and manipulative; and they manage to thwart you at every turn.

But you hang in there and gradually the geezers lose power. They retire. They don't get re-elected. Elections bring you new allies, and you learn the ins and outs of elected office. Finally, you can begin making the positive changes that you -- and, no doubt, the voters! -- have yearned for.

But wait! All of a sudden, the voters have put those new people in office. They're full of stupid, ruinous notions, which is what you'd expect from people barely old enough to vote, let alone hold elected office. They want to dismantle the wonderful new reforms that you've scarcely begun to implement.

Thank God, you can stop 'em in their tracks, because they're too busy posturing for the media to learn how the system really works. Surely the voters will see the error of their ways ... if only you can hang in there for a few more years.

On the other hand -- what the hell, you've given the ungrateful morons who put you into office the best years of your life -- maybe it's time to climb in the R.V., head for Sun City and let the damn town throw itself in the dumpster.

So here's the question: who's headed for Sun City? If we apply the Peggy Sue test, which simply states that anybody who remembers hearing that great Buddy Holly song when it was first released ought to immediately retire, about half of our peerless leaders should be motorvatin' down I-25.

Unhappily, our current crop of geezers seems to have thrown away their mirrors, seeing themselves as forever young, forever vigorous and forever in office.

You'd think that term limits would have pushed some of 'em out the door, but they just run for different offices. Reading about Andy McElhany and Ron May moving from one legislative house to the next to avoid term limits is like enduring yet another Saturday Night Live rerun of John Belushi's "The Thing That Wouldn't Leave!!!"

OK, they won't leave, so who's gonna push 'em out?

It seems as if our local political system has reached a kind of bizarre stasis, like a perfect fall day that never ends.

Access to most partisan offices in El Paso County is under the de facto control of a particularly fossilized segment of the Republican Party, while nonpartisan offices, like City Council, are effectively barred to those whom the real estate industry deems unworthy of its largesse.

Since the system, as presently constituted, is immune to change, it makes no sense to replace any of the players. Let 'em die in office; who'd notice?

Meanwhile, observing the current furor over sprawl-limiting Amendment 24, it's interesting to note that everyone, whether for or against 24, is opposed to sprawl.

But let's be honest; urban sprawl perfectly expresses what most of us want and like in today's comfortable America. Want to own a car? A house? Have a garden? Live in a quiet, single-family neighborhood? Work in a nice office? Willing to endure traffic on Garden of the Gods Road every morning and afternoon to have all this, or would you rather live in an apartment and ride the bus?

Like it or not, sprawl makes the good life affordable.

But unlike those of former Washington Mayor Marion Barry, whom the FBI videotaped smoking crack with a hooker (and was later reelected anyway), our nasty little secrets need never be revealed.

Life is good; sprawl is bad. And may these perfect October days never end.


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