Looking into the crystal ball for next year
Another year gone, and what do we have to show for it? An optimist would say that he/she has grown, learned and flourished; a pessimist might note that he/she is just that much closer to dusty death.
But since none of us are dead yet, let’s be optimistic.
Despite alarums and excursions, the local economy held together quite satisfactorily. Houses were built and sold, job creation continued at a reasonable rate, new companies came to town and those already here mostly stayed put. We didn’t break any records, but we still had the kind of economic performance that most cities would envy.
And although we may not be the smartest city in America (that honor went to Boulder, according to Forbes), we’re the best place to live (so says Money Magazine). And that’s not so bad — remember when Mohammed Ali flunked his pre-draft intelligence test? Teased by a reporter, he simply said “Hey, I didn’t say I was the smartest — just the greatest!”
So that’s us — the best, if not the brightest.
With that in mind, then, it’s time for the annual predictions of things to come. I’ve made these predictions for a number of years, and it’s dismaying to realize that they haven’t been terribly accurate. But let’s be optimistic that 2007 will forever be known as The Year of Accurate Predictions.
- Barack Obama will decide to run for president, and in 2008 will easily capture the Democratic nomination. The Democrats may love Hillary, but in their heart of hearts, they know she can’t win. Obama’s narrative is as compelling as the man himself, and he, unlike Clinton, could knit together a new Democratic coalition that might endure for longer than a single election cycle. But can he get elected? That prediction will have to wait.
- Lionel Rivera will be elected to a second term as mayor. None of his colleagues, by their own accounts, are ready to challenge him, except Darryl Glenn. Head to head, Glenn couldn’t win — but his candidacy might tempt a moderate (Sallie Clark? Richard Skorman?) to jump in. Lionel and Darryl would then split the conservative vote, in theory at least, opening the door to a credible moderate. It’s an interesting scenario, but it’s not going to happen.
- The April elections may see a couple of new faces on City Council, but nothing will change. We’ll still have nine stolid conservatives — six guys in ill-fitting suits, two spiffy dressers (Lionel and Darryl — those guys are definitely camera-ready!) and Margaret Radford. That’s both good news for business (no dangerous liberals running amok!), and bad news (if the sky is falling, they may not notice).
- If the sky falls, it’ll be because the Southern Delivery System devolves from a possible train wreck to an actual train wreck. Despite the comforting platitudes coming from City Hall, there’s a real possibility that it may self-destruct. If it does, count on city leaders to blame Pueblo, Pueblo Chieftain Publisher Bob Rawlings, the Salazar brothers, Mark Morley — everyone and everything, except their own ineptitude.
- Downtown businesses will suffer far more than they imagine from the demolition and rebuilding of the Bijou & Cimarron bridges, effectively cutting off downtown from Interstate 25. Rather than deal with clogged detours, westsiders will simply shop and recreate in Old Colorado City and Manitou.
- Gov. Bill Ritter will be a lot more like Gov. Bill Owens than his fellow Democrats imagine. He’s already quietly huddling with House Speaker Andrew Romanoff to make sure that bills emanating from the loony left are killed before they reach his desk. And many of the Democrats’ pet projects — for instance, preferred drug lists for Medicaid recipients — will be watered down and modified by Ritter’s cautious centrism.
- It used to be said that the political landscape was littered with the bones of those who underestimated Ronald Reagan. The same may be true of our new congressman, Doug Lamborn. He’s off to a good start — building bridges, making himself available to everyone and even making nice to the ruling Democrats. Result: no primary opponent in 2008 … and by the way, Doug, thanks for the nice Christmas card.
- But for Colorado Springs, the most important congressman will be … Boulder Democrat Mark Udall! As the political junkies at Coloradopols.com pointed out last week, “In addition to being on the Resources committee, Udall sits in the Armed Services committee, which is of particular interest in a state with such a large military presence. Udall is also expected to pick up a chairmanship on the Space Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science …” The Armed Services Committee is, as if we need to remind anyone, the single most important committee in the House as far as Colorado Springs is concerned.
- And believe or not, Udall is going to do his best to be our big cool best friend in Washington. He wants to run for the Senate in 2008, and for a Democrat to win statewide it’s usually crucial to trim the Republican margins in El Paso County. If he can get points for supporting — and even adding to — our military base, so much the better for him.
- The Colorado State Legislature, in common with such bodies nationwide, will be trying to figure out how to get … mo’ money! And, like all politicians, they will be mindful of the late Illinois Sen. Everett Dixon’s famous couplet: “Don’t tax me and don’t tax thee/Tax that fellow behind the tree!” And if you can extract money from unpopular entities who don’t vote, all the better. That’s why the formerly obscure phrase “Severance Tax” will become a staple of our political dialogue.
The severance tax is imposed upon the extraction from the earth of non-renewable resources, such as oil and gas and “metallic minerals.” Four years ago, it yielded less than $30 million. Now, it brings in more than $200 million. That’s a lot of money — and since the existing tax rates range from 2 percent to 5 percent on a sliding scale, a modest rate increase would bring in a lot more. It’s a politician’s dream, isn’t it? $200 million in new money, and who pays? Just the wicked, greedy oil companies. Not to mention the wicked, greedy mining companies.
- And finally, what’ll be next year’s big scandal? I think we’ve pretty much exhausted the possibilities of lecherous closeted gay Republicans and/or evangelical leaders. It’s time for Democrats and secular humanists. And since our local Dems are noticeably sober-sided, we’ll have to depend upon the national pool — and they’re pretty unpromising, too. Face it, Harry Reid may be from Vegas, but he’s not a good candidate for a Vegas-style scandal. So, just as Bogie told Bergman “We’ll always have Paris,” we can comfort ourselves by saying “We’ll always have Bill Clinton …”
John Hazlehurst can be reached at John.Hazlehurst@csbj.com or 227-5861.