Let's suppose that a Martian touches down in Acacia Park, pops out of the saucer, and says -- wouldn't you just know it? -- "Take me to your leader!"
Who you gonna call? The governor's in a meeting, the White House thinks it's a prank call, so that leaves the local yokels.
You could call the mayor of Colorado Springs; she's got a bunch of elected colleagues, lots of uniformed peace officers, a court system, a parks department, a dozen different bureaucracies to take care of planning, zoning, transportation, drainage and the like ... sounds like she's our gal!
Or you could call the chairman of the El Paso County Commission; he's got a bunch of elected colleagues, lots of uniformed peace officers, a court system, a parks department, a dozen different bureaucracies to take care of planning, zoning, transportation, drainage, and the like ... sounds like he's our guy!
Our mythical Martian, who's a lot smarter than us (remember, he's flyin' around in a spaceship observing the civilization that produced the Yugo), might be mildly surprised to find out that we have two overlapping governmental entities here in Colorado Springs. Each mirrors and duplicates the other, vacuuming up massive quantities of taxpayer dollars, and each is fiercely protective of its own turf. Not only do Colorado Springs residents fun city government, we also pay the lion's share of the El Paso County taxes.
So what about the Martian? Well, he'd probably just chalk it up to the vagaries of a primitive culture, and zoom off.
But we don't have the zoom-off option. We're stuck with a vastly wasteful system of local government, which is both expensive and resistant to change.
Our system of local government is a living remnant of mid-Victorian America. Colorado achieved statehood in 1876, a scant five years after the founding of Colorado Springs. And, the governmental architecture of that era is unchanged.
It may have been appropriate then, when Colorado was roadless, thinly populated, and needed a rough and ready governmental structure. But what served our great-great-grandparents may not work quite so well for us.
And let's not confuse our Colorado Constitution, and the state described thereby, with our nation's Constitution. The latter was created by some of the greatest men in the history of Western civilization; the former, by a largely self-interested group of schemers, promoters, hustlers, wanna-be rich guys, scam artists and political hacks.
And considering that, they did a pretty good job.
Now it's our turn. Shall we continue to pay tribute to two parallel governments, and let the county porkers feast at the city trough?
Make no mistake about it; there's no reason to have two governments in this city. And moreover, the county, which derives most of its revenue from sales and property taxes levied upon city residents, often behaves in ways that are inimical to the interests of those residents.
County policies toward parks, open space, water and development are tailored to suit the needs of developers and landowners in the unincorporated areas, not those of city residents.
All this is old news; the Independent has published a score of articles detailing the agency's various abuses.
So what do we do? We need to create a brand-new governmental entity, to be called the City & County of Colorado Springs.
It's a difficult process, the more so because the local Republican establishment would fight it tooth and nail. You see, El Paso County is the GOP's stronghold, a nonpareil source of jobs, money and power.
El Paso County is also the Afghanistan of Colorado politics, a collection of rival fiefdoms whose elected leaders fight constantly, but are ready to make common cause against agents of change or reform (i.e. its citizens).
Clearly, we, as citizens, need to put enough heat on the governor and the state Legislature, which would have to get involved, to force action. Can we do that? Yes. We have only to create a citizen's initiative, to be put before the voters next April, which would call for the creation of the City & County of Colorado Springs. Such an initiative, if passed, would only be advisory -- it'd have no legal effect. But if it passed by an overwhelming majority, as I suspect, it'd send a powerful message.
Hitting a politician with a 75 percent majority vote is like whacking a mule on the behind with a two-by-four. It may take a few whacks, but eventually he'll do what you want.