Remember the deservedly famous Sherlock Holmes story, “Silver Blaze”? The eponymous racehorse was stolen from his stable on the eve of a major race and his trainer was apparently murdered by the perpetrators.
Holmes was called to investigate. After questioning the stablehands, Holmes had this exchange with Inspector Gregory:
Gregory: Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?
Holmes: To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.
Gregory: The dog did nothing in the night-time.
Holmes: That was the curious incident.
I thought about the curious incident of the dog in the night-time as I sat with an acquaintance having lunch at the Ritz. The gentleman in question is not someone whose name would be familiar to most of us. But he is a guy who has been at the epicenter of Republican politics, here and nationally, for the last decade — let’s call him the Ruthless Political Operative.
Promised confidentiality, he shared some thoughts.
“Have you noticed” he asked, “that the Republicans aren’t going after Hillary?”
“Well, yeah,” I responded, “but I thought they were just busy with their own stuff.”
“No. They’re praying every night that she’ll get the nomination, and they don’t want to screw up her campaign — and you know something, she may already have it sewn up,” he said. “If you add up the NEA delegates, the other unions, and the automatic delegates, the elected officials who already support her, the local politicos, and the rest, she’s got 53, 54 percent.
“And that’s great, because the Republicans know that, for example, a John Edwards-Barack Obama ticket couldn’t be beaten by any Republican, but Hillary is very beatable. The polls show that 20 percent of voters are actually afraid of her — not that they just don’t like her, but they’re afraid of her. You ask the voters whether they want a Democrat or a Republican in the White House in 2008, big majorities want a Dem. But you ask ’em who they’d vote for between Hillary and Rudy Giuliani, for example, and those big majorities just evaporate.”
He shook his head.
“The Dems ought to take everything in 2008. I mean, look, Iraq, Katrina, the budget,” he said. “We can’t keep the country safe, we’re incompetent at governance, we spend like drunken sailors — it should be a complete debacle. But if the Dems go with Hillary, they might just snatch defeat from the jaws of victory — they’ve always been good at that.”
How about our problems locally, with our forlorn, besieged congressman, Doug Lamborn, helplessly struggling against the tide in the House?
“I feel sorry for Doug,” RPO said. “But look, he’s got to stop being an ideologue and get with the program. (Marilyn) Musgrave and (Tom) Tancredo can be jerks from time to time because there are three other Representatives from the Denver area (Mark Udall, Ed Perlmutter and Diana DeGette) that businesses can go to and get things done. Look at the Brown’s Canyon wilderness area deal. Hefley pushed it, but now Lamborn’s against it. He ought to get behind it, do the Dems and the enviros a favor, and then maybe get a little help on Pinon Canyon. He has to do it all himself — nobody’s got his back.”
So what about the Southern Delivery System? What should we do to get the pipeline deal done?
“It’s actually very funny,” RPO said. “You’ve got this 88-year-old man (Pueblo Chieftain Publisher Bob Rawlings), at an age when most of us will be half senile, and he’s got you tied up in knots. You need to get to the people who can cut a deal, maybe Jane Rawlings and Barb Vidmar — but fighting and threatening won’t work any more.”
Meanwhile, barely a day after his return from Ukraine, Douglas Bruce stormed into the City Clerk’s office with a rewritten initiative aimed at killing the stormwater fee (or, as he calls it, the rainwater tax). Great turn of phrase, terrible idea.
If city residents listen to his siren song and actually vote to overturn the fee, here’s what will happen.
Most of us will save a few dollars annually — in my case, about a hundred bucks, thanks to the massive paved parking area that a previous owner created in my side yard. But those petty savings will be eclipsed by the initiative’s side effects.
Remember the classic definition of a side effect? It’s an outcome so awful, so nasty and so catastrophic that we don’t want to think about it, as in: Terry Barton burns her cheating boyfriend’s love letters, thereby symbolically him excising from her life (effect). She didn’t stamp out the blaze, so it became the Heyman fire and incinerated 130,000 acres (side effect).
Absent the storm water fee, our bedraggled stormwater drainage system won’t be repaired or upgraded. We won’t be able to better control flooding and erosion on Fountain Creek. That will swiftly and permanently kill the Southern Delivery System, or any other means of developing our water rights on the Arkansas River.
Our options will be limited to recycling our sewage effluent, which will be about twice as costly as SDS. So what we gain from killing the stormwater fee, we’ll lose in the form of sharply higher utility bills.
And I doubt whether our water will ever again place in the top five municipalities in the nation in a blind tasting, as we did a couple of weeks ago.
We won’t be talking about our pure Rocky Mountain water anymore. Instead, we’ll have a new motto — maybe “Colorado Springs! Where We Flush it in the Morning, and Drink it in the Evening!”
But if you think the Dougster’s right, go ahead and kill it. After all, if we’d listened to him in the past, we wouldn’t have Red Rocks Open Space, or America the Beautiful Park, or a trail system, or dozens of playing fields, or a new courthouse, or a bus system, or money for the Union-Austin Bluffs separated grade intersection, or dozens of renovated school buildings in District 11 or … it’s a long list.
And yup, the city would be so much better off without any of that junk! Just ask Doug. He can explain — but I won’t listen.
John Hazlehurst can be reached at John.Hazlehurst@csbj.com or 227-5861.