Early last week, I dragged myself out of bed at 5:30 a.m., gulped down some coffee and, hoping to burn off some of that winter weight, jumped on my bike for a strenuous ride through the Garden of the Gods.
It was one of those perfect, crystalline Colorado mornings — a sky of the deepest cerulean, about 60 degrees, a slight breeze from the west. A perfect morning for a ride.
Riding through the quiet streets of the west side, there was scarcely any traffic, unless you count two foxes trotting back to their dens during the morning calm.
At Ridge Road, I turned north, climbed that impossibly steep hill and entered the garden.
It was virtually deserted — just me, one or two runners, three other cyclists and a dozen curious deer. Riding the loop, it occurred to me (not for the first time) that this is one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Is there a better place for a morning ride in Colorado? Not in the crowded, narrow streets of Aspen and Vail, not on the dusty dirt roads of Crested Butte, not on the streets of Denver … nowhere.
So where are all the people?
Try to go for an early-morning ride along Boulder Creek, or the Cherry Creek trail in Denver or in any of the resort towns and you’ll run into hundreds of folks doing exactly the same thing.
But here in Colorado Springs, you’re practically alone. Why?
I dunno, but here’s a theory.
The fit, cheerful, mostly young folks whom you meet on a morning ride in Boulder or Denver are members of the so-called “creative class” — entrepreneurs, techies, artists, designers and the like, drawn like flies to those energetic, diverse, vibrant communities.
These are the very people that we’re trying to attract to our not-so-diverse, not-so-vibrant, not-so-energetic little city — but they prefer Denver and Boulder.
Once there, they swarm to the parks, the trails, the museums, the art galleries, the cool restaurants and the historic neighborhoods.
And just as bad money drives out the good, the energetic and successful drive out the lazy and unmotivated.
Result: crowded bike trails, expensive restaurants and overpriced real estate.
It might be counterintuitive, but maybe our interests are well-served by not catering to the creative class. I don’t know where my fellow Springsites are on a beautiful weekday morning (Bible study? Denny’s? Sleeping in?), but I’m glad they’re not out for a ride.
And I sometimes wish that my house were worth a lot more, but then I couldn’t afford it. Indeed, when I tell friends from Boulder or San Diego what I paid, they assume that I’m lying: “C’mon — you couldn’t buy a 400-square-foot studio apartment for that in (Boulder/San Diego/San Francisco/New York) and this is a giant Victorian on a big lot!”
Then they all say they’re going to move here, but they never do. We’re too right wing/religious/Republican/intolerant/dull/suburban/smug/well-scrubbed and just plain boring for them.
That’s right! We so are! So just stay where you are, all you smart, creative, demanding, successful people and let us lead our poky, boring little lives.
And just ignore all this “Best Place to Live in America” stuff — that was just a misprint in some magazine!
Meanwhile, a fond farewell to Lorne Kramer, who was both an exemplary chief of police and city manager.
I had the privilege of serving on City Council when Lorne was police chief. His predecessor, Jim Munger, was competent, abrasive and sometimes eccentric. And while Jim began the process of professionalizing a small-town police force, he was sometimes tripped up by his own zeal.
Munger made enemies — and in one notorious incident, these enemies manufactured allegations about a supposed cover-up of a Denver traffic accident. The allegations were false, but Munger’s enemies managed to enlist a couple of council members in this attempted character assassination.
Kramer was just as tough as Munger, but possessed such superb political skills that potential enemies never tried such shenanigans. He made friends, built coalitions, created networks and schmoozed the politicians who were his nominal superiors. He, not Lionel Rivera, has been the real mayor of this city, the man who took on Doug Bruce and beat him, the man who gave credence and legitimacy to major community endeavors like the Regional Transportation Authority.
His leadership was both effective and invisible, because he was interested in outcomes, not in getting credit. Like his counterpart Terry Harris at the county, he was the glue that held the city together. Calm, friendly, utterly professional and a fierce advocate for the city, he was a giant among … well, maybe not pygmies, but among normal folk.
It’s hard to speculate about who could replace him. There are plenty of competent, intelligent people out there who are eminently well-qualified for the job — Mike Anderson and Paul Butcher come to mind — but none with Kramer’s gravitas.
These are perilous times for the city. Regionally and nationally, the Democratic surge has diminished our political clout at precisely the time when we most need it. Fort Carson? The Southern Delivery System? Fountain Creek? Transportation dollars?
Our elected leaders, to put it politely, leave something to be desired. This is not the era of Mary Lou Makepeace, Bob Isaac and Joel Hefley, but of Rivera and Doug Lamborn.
We need a city manager who is more than a competent bureaucrat, we need a leader. We need someone who commands respect, who symbolizes everything good about this city, who knows how to negotiate, who knows how to play a weak hand.
Who would that be? I have no idea. Fifteen years ago, the city embarked on a national search for Jim Munger’s replacement, and chose Lorne Kramer. We should do the same in looking for his successor.
Who knows, there might be another Lorne out there.
John Hazlehurst can be reached at John.Hazlehurst@csbj.com or 227-5861.