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The Outsider


Let's face it: our city needs a new motto.

Our present motto, or mission statement, is long-winded, tendentious, and utterly disconnected from reality. World-class city? C'mon, we're not even in the top three in the state.

No, we need a motto that truly reflects the goals and aspirations of the leadership class, since no one else cares about it. How about "Colorado Springs -- Sprawling to Greatness!," or maybe "Colorado Springs: Leash Laws Enforced for Dogs and Democrats"?

And speaking of Democrats, not to mention Republicans and Independents, how about the reemergence of the Great White Shark of Colorado Springs politics, Mayor Bob?

Seeing that County Clerk and Recorder Pat Kelly (not to be confused with his spouse, City Attorney Pat Kelly) has invalidated a bunch of County Commissioner Chuck Brown's petitions, thereby throwing Brown off the Republican primary ballot, Bob Isaac promptly filed as a write-in candidate for the spot. So if Brown's appeal is unsuccessful, it'll be Isaac vs. ultraconservative Betty Beedy clone, Rich Brenner.

And what a battle it'll be: our own private Armageddon, good vs. evil, with control of the county government in play. If Isaac wins the primary, he'll win the seat, and we'll once again be privileged to watch the most brilliant politician of our era in action.

How do you describe him? Try relentless, intelligent, unsentimental, yet wholly devoted to the well-being of his hometown, Colorado Springs. Can he win? Can Michael Jordan still play a little ball? Brenner must be wishing that Kelly had not been quite so accommodating; no aspiring pol in his right mind would want to go up against Isaac!

Moving along, even developers get the blues; look at the controversy over the roads in Cedar Heights. Chuck Helenberg initially developed that exclusive, gated community; when he went bust in the late '80s, the development sat idle for a few years until it was acquired by a company headed by developer, and former guv hopeful, Steve Schuck.

Roads in the development had not, it appears, been constructed to city standards, and although Schuck made substantial improvements, residents believe that he's obligated to rebuild the road network, at a cost of many millions of dollars.

Schuck disagrees; hence the lawsuit, which has been plodding along for several years now. Meanwhile, land sales in Cedar Heights are at a standstill, home values are relatively stagnant, and the roads are unfixed. At a recent settlement conference, there were no less than 32 lawyers present; lawyers for the plaintiffs, lawyers for the defendants, lawyers for the insurance companies, and, for all I know, lawyers for the lawyers.

If each lawyer was billing $300 an hour, that little kaffeeklatsch was generating about 10 grand an hour in legal fees. Actually, it might generate much more; because lawyers for the homeowners have structured their suit as a class action, they stand to reap literally millions of dollars in legal fees when the suit is eventually resolved.

Given that Steve Schuck is one of the smartest men I know, and given that the mostly wealthy and powerful folks who live in Cedar Heights are not fools, you'd think that they could have dealt with this outside of the legal process.

But we're in classic Charles Dickens Jarndyce v. Jarndyce territory now; it's not about fixing the roads, but about Alpha maledom. Still, some good will come out of it; imagine the mini-boom in luxury car sales that will take place the moment the plaintiff's lawyers get their big checks.

I guess a world-class lawsuit is something of a feather in our city's cap, but, as Denver's planning director Jennifer Moulton reminded 200 attentive listeners at last month's Historic Preservation Alliance's monthly wingding, great cities are not built by lawsuits alone.

Moulton, who talks faster and says more than any Coloradan since Roy Romer, gave her listeners plenty to think about. It was good to see most of the city's planning establishment there, as well as several council members.

Let's hope that they heard Moulton's simplest message: There's no substitute for tough, inspired leadership.

Maybe that was on Jim Null's mind, when, in introducing Moulton, he asserted that Springsites would be mad at Council when Confluence Park is completed -- because they hadn't funded it years ago. On the other hand, it might occur to a citizen or two that, for a fraction of the tab for Confluence Park's 30 junky acres, we could have bought Red Rock Canyon's 720 beautiful acres to the west.

Put that way, Confluence Park doesn't sound like such a good deal, but maybe we could hire 32 lawyers to write a new mission statement that would explain it all.


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