At lunch a few weeks ago at Phantom Canyon, one of our city’s leading economic development honchos, we’ll call him Mr. H., was asked why the local business community doesn’t seem to have any clout with the El Paso County legislative delegation.
Other than the delegation’s lone Democrat, the group opposed last year’s statewide Referendum C initiative, which business fervently supported. Moreover, our GOP legislators are supporting other business-unfriendly initiatives that we may see on the November ballot.
Asked why business has stuck with folks who so clearly don’t care about its priorities, Mr. H. had an interesting reply:
“We could endorse Democrats, but it wouldn’t make any difference — the Republicans would still win — even if we didn’t give ‘em a dime,” he said. “This way, at least we have a little leverage with them.”
But, I wondered aloud, aren’t we just being enablers? Letting these guys use and abuse us for all the world — like a battered spouse? Shouldn’t we at least try to change things, rather than just passively accept our fate?
Mr. H. shrugged, and went back to his meal.
I thought about that conversation while reading about GOP gubernatorial candidate “Both Ways Bob” Beauprez’ latest about-face.
Thanks to the Colorado Supreme Court, there won’t be a GOP primary — Marc Holtzman is off the ballot. So, since he no longer has any primary competition, Beauprez has backtracked, and no longer supports the Douglas Bruce-authored Initiative 38 which would, according to its opponents, “paralyze local governments, force taxpayers to pay for special-interest petitions and threaten private property rights.”
But he supports Initiative 88, Jon Caldara’s cleverly written attempt to repeal Referendum C.
If my informal poll of local business leaders is any guide, Beauprez’ twists and turns may have forfeited the advantage he might have had with business voters.
He ought to have locked them up long ago, given that he’s a smart, amiable and eminently successful businessman. But he spent the primary season pandering to the party’s extreme right and that’s alienated his natural base.
That wouldn’t matter, if the Democrats had nominated some hardcore anti-business, pro-union lefty — but that didn’t happen. The donksters learned their lesson in 2004 when they rejected fire-breathing liberal Mike Miles in favor of the soothingly moderate Ken Salazar as their candidate for the U.S. Senate — and won the election.
The Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Bill Ritter, is scarcely anti-business; in fact, he was an ardent supporter of Referendum C, and strongly opposes Initiatives 38 and 88. Like former Gov. Roy Romer, he’s a centrist, pro-business Democrat; a combination that plays well in our cautiously progressive state.
And it may have occurred to state business leaders that a Ritter victory could benefit the business community. The Democrats, realizing that business support was key to yet another victory, would move aggressively to please their new friends with sensible, pro-business policies and legislation. And the Republicans, realizing that they could no longer take business for granted, would distance themselves from the excesses of the extreme right.
Result: two moderate, sensible, business-friendly parties working cooperatively with the business community to build a better future! Machiavelli himself couldn’t orchestrate a better scenario.
Meanwhile, Joseph Schumpeter’s legendary description of capitalism as “creative destruction,” whereby old enterprises are swept away by the new, seems to be in full force here in the Springs.
During the last few weeks, we’ve seen Hathaway’s, the tobacconist/newsstand that’s been a downtown fixture since 1942 close, the unexpected sale and re-imagining of the Garden of the Gods Club, and the impending closure of yet another downtown bookstore, the Book Broker. The world changes; and it doesn’t always change in ways that we expect or like.
We live in our own small worlds, so it’s difficult to understand that unpleasant changes are often beneficial. Absent Hathaway’s, Chinook and the Book Broker, downtown is diminished — yet books and magazines have never been cheaper or more available, thanks to the Internet.
Dealing with change is never easy, and yet communities that thrive are those that embrace change, adapt rapidly and discard the unusable past. We’ve always been good at doing just that in Colorado Springs — but change is fluid, unpredictable and inconvenient.
I wonder whether the six Ponderous Political Pachyderms (probably time to retire the “not so sexy six” reference) vying for Joel Hefley’s seat have any inkling that their world — so safe, so comfortable, so predictable, so traditional — is just an airy pastiche of wishful thinking and pious pronouncements? Probably not — dealing with reality doesn’t seem to be their strong suit.
To wit, my favorite unsubstantiated assertion of last week: Mayor/Candidate Lionel Rivera, opining that things in Iraq are actually going really well — the “liberal media” is simply conspiring to cover up the good news. Right, Lionel — Baghdad is Mayberry-on-the-Tigris, but the New York Times simply doesn’t want us to know about it!
And by the way Mr. Mayor, speaking of reality, how’s the Southern Delivery System doing?
John Hazlehurst can be reached at John.Hazlehurst@csbj.com or 634-3223, ext. 241.