Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.
-- H. L. Mencken
What a disappointment. While El Paso County is gazing down the barrel at continuing worker layoffs, a lingering recession and a severe drought that has forced us to realize the necessity of solving our existing -- and future -- water-supply problems, the county's growth and sprawl cycle continues. Developers are bulldozing ahead, wielding unprecedented powers over public servants who are supposed to represent all of our interests.
This is a particularly crucial year, when candidates should be thoroughly engaged, listening to constituents, detailing possible solutions with the media and insisting on getting their messages out while stumping in as many public venues as they can find.
Instead, this year, several well-funded Republican candidates have arrogantly ignored the very public they claim they want to serve. They have avoided forums, refused to outline specific positions and attempted to dodge the press as often as possible. Some have refused interviews with reporters, saying they don't believe they will be treated fairly by the press.
To that, we recall the words of Colorado's Republican Gov. Bill Owens, who, back in 2000, offered his opinion on the importance of accountability.
"Candidates as well as elected officials have an obligation to be accessible," the governor pointed out, noting he had never refused an interview with a newspaper because they had printed something negative about him. "If I did that, I wouldn't be able to talk to any newspaper in the state."
The continuing tactics of stealth candidates, frankly, are growing tiresome.
So why should we disgusted citizens pay them any mind? Because this year, as voter interest continues to dip, special interests have cranked up the volume in an effort to get their candidates elected.
The Chamber of Commerce and the developers' special-interest political action committees are pouring money into the campaign coffers of their chosen candidates. As the Chambers' Jeff Crank explained, "It's something that our members tell us is important and they get value out of us being strong advocates."
There is nothing wrong with the organized efforts of the business community. The problem is, when the rest of us don't pay attention and get behind candidates, business and developers end up controlling the game -- and with a tiny number of votes, end up picking people to represent us all.
There are no contested Democratic races in next week's primary. But there are five local Republican races that are worth your notice. The primary is not only open to Republicans, but unaffiliated voters as well who are willing to register as Republicans -- even if it's just for a day. Many of these races are uncontested in the November general election, meaning whoever wins next week will likely assume office.
The following are the Independent's endorsements and recommendations for the five contested local races (complete coverage of those races begins on page 13.)
Commissioner District 1 - Bill Guman
The county needs an experienced policy-setter, someone who is knowledgeable about the intricacies of infrastructure and water issues, to help guide growth in fast-growing northern El Paso County. In addition, the county commission urgently needs a fresh voice, someone who will demand checks and balances on a board that has recently refused to hold itself accountable to the public. With eight years experience on the Colorado Springs City Council, businessman and landscape architect Bill Guman is that candidate.
We applaud Guman's opponent, Wayne Williams, for his candor and his accessibility during this race. However, Williams' pro-development, anti-environment positions -- and his obscene chumminess with the currently elected board of commission -- suggests that if he wins the office, his interests will lie in serving the status quo rather than the people of District 1.
Commissioner District 5 - no endorsement
Kudos to MaryAnne Tebedo for running such an open and inclusive campaign.
Tebedo's extensive experience in the state Legislature has given her a foot up on the day-to-day workings of government over her stealth opponent Jim Bensberg.
Tebedo's past positions, most of them extreme, preclude us from endorsing her candidacy. However, her accountability places her in a position far superior to her inexperienced opponent Bensberg, whose refusal to talk to the press or appear in public forums is an insult to the people of El Paso County. Further, having secured endorsements from the very commissioners he wants to serve alongside sends the message that, if elected, Bensberg would simply serve as a rubber stamp for the majority.
County Treasurer - Sandra Damron
Ken Schinstine has shown his desire to give back to the community by working with a number of worthy organizations. We applaud him for his extensive volunteer work. However, we worry that his prior commitments will eat into his ability to focus on a job overseeing the collection and investment of the public's property taxes. Damron, who has an accounting background and knowledge of financial statement analysis, has proven herself qualified for the job.
Senate District 11 - no endorsement
While we laud Tim Pleasant for his plainspoken criticism of the status quo, and his support for alternatives to fossil fuels, we cannot stomach some of his more extreme viewpoints. His obsession with being able to carry guns into parks, for example, is off base when considering the legitimate and more crucial issues facing the citizens of District 11.
We are, however, just plain disgusted by the behavior of Pleasant's opponent during this campaign. Ed Jones, a sitting county commissioner, has refused to appear in public forums on advice of his paid, professional handlers -- even eschewing one sponsored by one of the largest Republican clubs in the county. Jones' refusal to talk to the press leaves the unmistakable impression that he is running scared, which is unbecoming of a statesman.
House District 16 - no endorsement
We give Republican Bill Jambura credit. This year, unhappy with the representation that incumbent Bill Sinclair has provided, Jambura opted to oppose him. For that, Jambura has practically been lynched by his own party for daring to challenge an incumbent.
We find the behavior of Sinclair and his supporters abhorrent -- particularly that of state party vice chairman Larry Liston, who is supposed to remain neutral yet signed on as Sinclair's campaign manager.
While we cannot endorse Jambura's proDouglas Bruce single-issue campaign, we applaud him for taking a stand.