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Predictions of things to come



Admit it: You never thought we'd make it, did you? You never thought that the scrappy little 24-page tabloid with the unreadable fonts, weird layouts and lefty editorial rants could survive for more than a couple of months, did you? And you sure never imagined that we'd not only survive, but thrive; not only endure, but prosper; not only prevail, but conquer! Yup, here we are: a big, honkin' alternative weekly, all of 96 pages this week, a community institution no less. Who'da thunk it, 10 years back?

Not me, that's for sure. Like so many of us, I was pathetically grateful to Indy founders John Weiss and Kathryn Eastburn when the newspaper burst on the scene, but I figured that Colorado Springs, in all its right-wing torpor, would bring 'em down in a hurry. Fortunately, I was wrong.

There used to be a news radio show in the late '40s -- maybe it was Drew Pearson -- that featured a segment called Predictions of Things to Come. In a deep, stentorian voice, an announcer would gravely intone:

"And now, predictions of things to come! Proven to be over 99.3 percent accurate!"

The show's host would then, in the same mocko profundo tone, proceed to offer some less than earth-shaking insights about the future (example: "We are informed that General Electric will introduce a new, fully frosted light bulb into selected Midwestern markets this fall!").

So let's have a little fun, and try to predict, at least semi-seriously, what'll happen in the next 10 years in our fair city, now simmering happily in the summer heat at the foot of Pikes Peak.

Some of the predictions are easy. It doesn't take much deep thinkin' to come to the following conclusions:

There will be more Republicans.

There will be more suburban sprawl.

There will be more big-box stores.

Traffic problems will get worse.

Local governments will try to raise taxes.

And just as today's city looks very much like the Colorado Springs of 1993, the city 10 years hence will probably resemble today's sprawling burg. But there are a lot of wild cards in the deck, events and trends that might create drastic, unforeseeable change. Let's examine some of them.

The Gazette: By the end of the year, our only rival for print supremacy, the all-powerful G, will almost certainly have changed hands. Right now, it looks like the Denver Post's Dean Singleton is the most likely buyer, with companies such as Gannett, Knight Ridder and the New York Times Company also potential owners. If either Gannett or Knight Ridder acquires the paper, it won't change much, since those chains don't have companywide editorial policies. But if Singleton or the Times wins the bidding contest, there may be drastic changes. Singleton would probably merge the G's regional sports coverage with the Post's (bye-bye local coverage of the Broncos), and try to effect economies of scale across the board. Under Times ownership, the G would move toward the moderate center editorially, and would, thanks to the resources that the Times could deploy, become a much better paper. Good news for the community; bad news for the Independent, which would no longer be the city's sole moderate voice.

The Drought: Is it over? Maybe, maybe not. If we are indeed in the midst of a long-term regional climactic shift, the consequences may be severe. Combine water rationing with a decade of dry summers, and we could lose most of our deciduous trees. Imagine the old North End and the West Side stripped of their century-old elms, ashes and maples -- it'd be a community tragedy. And that'd be the least of it. Regionally, the fires would continue to burn, and water wars would define Colorado -- cities vs. farmers, Front Range vs. Western Slope, developers vs. environmentalists. As the drought continued, the economy would decline, capped by a real-estate collapse and a general exodus of developers for greener pastures. And if you think living with developers is a pain in the butt, living without 'em would be much worse.

Local Government: Here's an easy prediction: in 10 years, there will be more than a combined total of two women serving on the Board of County Commissioners and City Council. Today's skewed lineup (let's call it "The League of Elderly Gentlemen") isn't a harbinger of things to come, but a temporary replay of times long past. In fact, today's leaders, with their quaintly antediluvian attitudes toward gays (back in the closet with you!), the role of government (roads and public safety and that's it!), and guns (love 'em!!) are most likely the last of a disappearing breed. Polls show that younger Americans view these issues far differently than do their elders. Ten years from now, local elected officials will likely resemble Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper -- sensible, savvy, businessmen/women who support gay rights, gun control and community enhancements. Today's power people will be tomorrow's geezers, wheezing and snorting unhappily in their favorite downtown bars, no longer players. Which makes me wonder ...

Who'll Run Things? By 2013, the single most powerful person in Colorado Springs, El Pomar Chair Bill Hybl, will be in his late 60s. Does that mean that he'll take up golf full time and let the young folks take over? No way! Bill's not leaving the game -- not unless it's feet first. Further down the food chain, expect state Sen. Andy McElhany to make a run for governor, and expect a vastly amusing Republican donnybrook when Congressman Joel Hefley retires, probably in 2006. The players: former Sheriff John Anderson, U.S. Attorney John Suthers, Mayor Lionel Rivera, former Councilwoman Sallie Clark, ex-Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace, County Commissioner Wayne Williams, state Rep. Dave Schultheis, Focus on the Family honcho Tom Minnery, and maybe even some wild cards like Councilman Tom Gallagher and developer/power broker/voucher guy Steve Schuck. It'll be fun to watch, especially since the winner gets the political prize of all prizes: the country's safest Republican seat. And whoever gets elected had better ...

Save Fort Carson! Not a chance. Rumsfeld's reforms -- faster, lighter, smaller, easier to deploy -- are here to stay. That means bye-bye to our 60-year-old Army base, especially without Hefley's decades of congressional seniority to protect it. A disaster or a blessing? We'll take that up in 2013, because ...

Final Prediction: Politicians and power people may bloom and fade like spring flowers, but the Independent will still be here, just as sprightly, irritating and pesky as ever. And me too, I hope. After all, I'll only be a few years older than Bill Hybl ...


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