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The cowardice of Council

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It's heartwarming, isn't it, to realize that our new City Council is so dedicated to municipal thrift that they managed to slash a whole six grand from the city's $364 million budget in their very first meeting?!! Yup, by reversing the previous Council's decision to offer medical coverage to same-sex partners of city employees, they sent a plain and simple message to anyone paying attention.

The message has nothing to do with thrift or limited government or campaign promises. By an 8-1 margin, Council formally declared that they stand shoulder to shoulder with Focus on the Family, with Ed Bircham, with Rush Limbaugh, with Sen. Rick Santorum and with all the extremists of the far right. These folks believe that sexual orientation is a choice, not something you're born with. And they believe that homosexuality is evil and disgusting, and that people who choose to be homosexual are, ipso facto, evil and disgusting.

Never mind that there's absolutely no scientific or medical evidence to support their beliefs; true believers don't need facts. After all, the Bible says them queers are bad, don't it??!! End of discussion.

Mayor Rivera and Council members Radford, Purvis and Small, I know all of you pretty well. I know that you don't believe that anti-gay nonsense for a minute. So what the hell are you doing, parroting the vicious bull that the extreme right has been peddling for decades? Don't bother to answer, because I already know.

You caved because you're afraid. You know what the polls say -- 80 percent of the citizens oppose same-sex benefits. You work for the citizens, and you're afraid that they'll fire you if you go against such an overwhelming majority.

So you've rationalized your actions -- after all, why waste political capital on a handful of gay city employees? There are big issues facing the city -- water, transportation, the economy. You figure that you just can't afford the distraction of this petty, pain-in-the-ass issue that no one cares about except a handful of irrelevant liberals.

You're wrong. In any time, the great moral and ethical issues don't come gift-wrapped, nicely tagged for maximum political advantage. The great issues are difficult and perilous, and moral courage -- especially in a petty politician! -- is often met with scorn.

Colorado Springs is ground zero (remember that phrase from a few years back?) for anti-gay prejudice in the United States. By yielding to prejudice here, you strengthen it everywhere. And by fighting it, you weaken it.

Most all of you included "leadership" as a campaign theme. Here's a definition of leadership: a leader, driven by the force of his/her convictions, takes people where they don't want to go. That's what President Bush did with me, and with a substantial majority of Americans. Bush staked his presidency on the belief that America could remake Iraq, and the Middle East, by force of arms. Whether or not you agree, that's leadership.

Many of us thought that George W. was a genial incompetent, a weak-minded frat boy. We were wrong. He answered the bell.

But you caved. You could have been real leaders, but you ducked. For you, "leadership" is just a word on a campaign billboard, a phrase you mouth to get elected.

At least we know what to expect from the get-go with this Council. By an 8-1 margin, you're timid, fearful and ready to pander to the powerful. Doesn't look like you're going to accomplish much, other than greasing the skids for developers and giving speeches at Wal-Mart openings.

So if we want to improve this community in any meaningful way, we'll have to do it ourselves. That being the case, maybe we'll see some interesting citizen initiatives on the ballot come November of '04 or April of '05.

A decade or so ago, a local initiative modeled after Denver's cultural facilities tax was defeated by a narrow margin. If successful, a modest increase in the city's sales tax would have provided support to our leading arts/cultural institutions, such as the Fine Arts Center, the symphony and the zoo. We needed it then; we need it much more now. Last year's Council would have been sympathetic and helpful; this year's edition is likely to be as supportive, as, say, The Gazette's editorial page.

Come to think of it, didn't the G editorialize against the TOPS extension half a dozen times? And didn't it pass by a 2-1 margin?

Council! Never change! Stay as sweet as you are! See you next fall at North Dakota A & M ...

-- jhazlehurst@csindy.com

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