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Here's a simple, even idiotic, little truism: News is only news when something happens.

If Clinton had even the tiniest dollop of common sense, he wouldn't have pardoned Marc Rich, not to mention a whole bunch of rich crooks, and the Dems would be holding George W's feet to the fire, and we'd be mourning ol' Bill's departure from the national stage.

Similarly, we can (and do) complain about the city's various failings -- the smarmy evasions around the Pikes Peak Highway, the endless screwups that have bedeviled the Woodmen/ Academy intersection project, the smug arrogance of Mayor Mary Lou and City Manager Jim Mullen. But we seldom consider the successes, large and small, that are equally characteristic of city government.

Let's look at a few of 'em.

Maybe you've noticed that the phrases "rolling blackout" and "spot electricity market" are not part of the vocabulary of our municipally-owned utility. Thanks to our very own vertically integrated, cautious, conservative, city-regulated and city-directed utility enterprise, our city is supplied with relatively cheap and reliable power, not to mention water and natural gas.

It's something of an anomaly that Colorado Springs, arguably the most politically conservative city in the country, has owned its utility system for nearly a century, while San Francisco, arguably the most liberal city in the country, is still dependent upon the various whims of investor-owned utilities and state regulatory agencies. Conclusion: Socialism works, but only if the socialists-in-charge are conservative Republicans.

If the voters turn thumbs down on the so-called SCIP-01 sales tax increase in April, the city will have only its employees to blame. Why? Because they've been overly competent.

All the charts comparing Colorado Springs to similar burgs tell the same story; our taxes are really, really low. Therefore, our infrastructure should be crumbling, crime should be soaring and fire losses should be far higher than those of comparably sized cities. In fact, we compare favorably with any Western city, regardless of measurement indices. That can only mean one thing: The city's exceptionally well run and has been for many years.

When it comes time to vote, then, do you reward our efficient public servants with an extra $600 million, or do you just give 'em a pat on the back, and tell 'em to be even more efficient?

At this point, it looks as if the city's pro-tax campaign will prevail; the city and their developer/business allies have been making the case, quietly and efficiently, that a "yes" vote will mitigate congestion and increase public safety.

Looking forward to upcoming City Council elections, if there's a political kingmaker in town, it's not El Pomar's Bill Hybl, or Focus on the Family's Jim Dobson, or even our own publisher John Weiss. As far as I can figure, one person decides who gets voted off the island, and who stays: the Housing and Building Association's Sarah Jack, possibly the most skilled political operative in Colorado.

Anyone considering a run for local office had better have Sarah on his or her side or, failing that, had better pray that she hasn't been hired by the opposition. One of the best things about being endorsed by the HBA is that you get Sarah, and your opponent has to find somebody else.

That's why District 2 candidate Kevin Butcher has a real shot at winning a Council seat in April, despite being utterly inexperienced in local politics, and despite the fact that his principal opponent, Charles Wingate, is competent, experienced and a formidable campaigner.

And in District 3, if Linda Barley manages to eke out a victory over Sallie Clark, she can thank Sarah for it.

Meanwhile, as the race heats up, expect to see the folks interested in preserving Red Rock Canyon (700-plus acres adjacent to Section 16 and Bear Creek Park) trying to pin down Council candidates. Just as voters along Constitution Avenue succeeded in having the Constitution Avenue Freeway taken off the table two years ago, the Red Rocks coalition will try to force candidates to declare their support for preservation.

Good luck. Most of the candidates are either already deeply indebted to the development community or pathetically eager to jump in bed with 'em.

Failing an extraordinary display of political courage by the new Council, Red Rock Canyon will soon be one more dismally upscale development, its spectacular natural vistas replaced by middle-aged rich guys in plaid pants riding around in golf carts -- environmentally friendly electric golf carts, no doubt.


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