Three days to 2008 — so it’s time for a regretful (or regret-free) backward glance at 2007. Let’s see how your columnist did throughout the year. First up, predictions of things to come, published exactly one year ago.
“…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.”
I was so wrong!
Apparently, there’s a bottomless pit of shoe-tappin’ same-sex lechers out there in GOPster land. It’s high time to catch a Democrat in a good old heterosexual sex and money scandal — but this year’s crop of Dems seems pretty unpromising.
Other predictions were more or less on the mark.
I correctly predicted Mayor Rivera’s easy re-election, Barrack Obama’s run for the presidency and the legislature’s sudden discovery of the once-obscure severance tax.
I said that our lawmakers, like all politicians “… 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. 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.”
On Jan. 19, I correctly forecast the coming meltdown in the subprime mortgage market, to the dismay of at least one local mortgage broker, who accused me of knowing absolutely nothing about money, business or mortgages. But, as a Major League Baseball umpire once famously said, “I calls ’em as I sees ’em.”
Here’s an excerpt from the column.
“How many (subprime) loans were made in the Pikes Peak region? And how many are likely to be foreclosed on?
“There’s no way of knowing, but one thing that we do know is that the subprime lending business, virtually nonexistent a few years ago, is big business today.
“Because subprime lenders accounted for nearly a trillion dollars in home loans, 25 percent of the total, it’s reasonable to assume that many of these loans will go into default. It could be that the problem might be even worse in markets like Colorado Springs than in overheated coastal markets, where equity run-ups have bailed out overextended borrowers.
“And if foreclosures continue to mount, we may see a repeat of the disasters of the late 1980s — a local economic slowdown combined with a glut of housing inventory — which, if history’s any guide, means a Wal-Mart moment … Watch for Falling Prices!”
During February, I was booted out of the GOP — or, more accurately, removed from my petty leadership position. It made for a fun column — and I was pleased, since the El Paso County Democratic Party had cancelled their advertising in the publication for which I had previously toiled, citing my penchant for making fun of them.
It’s a mark of distinction, I think, to be publicly censured by both of our dysfunctional political parties.
“Picked up the mail the other afternoon and there was one of those irritating little notices sandwiched between the bills and the junk mail. I had a certified letter, return receipt requested, from the El Paso County Republican Party.
“It was a formal notification of my expulsion from the GOP. Just as Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden, I was cast out into the political wilderness, a dread and drear landscape, inhabited only by lib’ruls, gays, abortionists, treehuggers, atheists, gun-haters, feminists, pornographers, union members and Hollywood sleazemeisters. Imagine my dismay — what had I done to merit such a fate?
“‘It has been brought to the attention of the El Paso County Republican Party that during the past General Election you publicly supported the Democrat candidate in House District 18 as well as other Democrat candidates.’
Later that month, no doubt still smarting from getting the bum’s rush from the GOP, I observed that the state legislature had become terra incognita.
“What do we, in the Colorado Springs business community, know about the Democrats who now run our state?
“Let’s face it — we know less about the Democratic legislature than the Bush administration knows about North Korea’s nuclear program. And just as the Bushies look upon North Korea with contemptuous loathing, we can barely tolerate those crazed lib’ruls.”
During March, I reluctantly applauded City Council for bypassing the voters and unilaterally establishing the stormwater enterprise. While agreeing with Doug Bruce that it sure looks like a tax, I bought into the city’s rationale, i.e., that the consequences of a defeat at the polls would be too disastrous to risk.
“… sometimes elected officials have to bend seemingly inflexible laws to accomplish essential public policy objectives. Imagine seeing someone drowning in a lake with a ‘no swimming’ sign on the shore. Are you going to attempt a rescue or obey the sign? The answer is obvious.”
During May, I jeered at Denver Democrat Chris Romer’s plan to sell the Colorado Lottery. Somehow, I thought it unlikely that our peerless legislators were smarter than the private equity sharks who were eager to write the state a fat check. I pointed out that there’s a difference between the defined benefit that lucky lottery winners get and a perpetual state-sanctioned gambling monopoly. As I wrote:
“For sheer economic illiteracy, it’s hard to beat State Rep. Chris Romer’s gushing embrace of a recent proposal to sell the Colorado Lottery.
“Giddily contemplating the prospect of a $2 billion windfall from such a sale, Romer reportedly announced that he’d polled his fellow legislators and every one of ’em had agreed that if they won the lottery, they’d take the lump sum, not the annual checks.”
During June, I attended a presentation by Pueblo dignitaries about their city’s view of the Southern Delivery System, the proposed pipeline which would move water from Pueblo Reservoir to the Springs.
The Pueblo folks felt that Colorado Springs saw them as a bunch of country bumpkins, who should just shut up and sign off on the deal. They were dismayed by the perceived arrogance of Springs officials, and by the refusal of those officials to acknowledge the legitimacy of their concerns.
At one point during the evening, Mayor Lionel Rivera addressed our southern neighbors-and told them in no uncertain terms that the water in the reservoir belonged to us and that we were taking it, whether Pueblo liked it or not.
“Lionel didn’t look one bit like the Pueblo folks. He was dressed in an expensive dark suit (as is his wont), a perfectly knotted (and equally expensive) tie, a perfectly folded handkerchief in his breast pocket, perfectly polished shoes and the whole outfit crowned with a perfectly pressed shirt — a striped blue number with a white collar.
As he spoke, he somehow looked familiar. He reminded me of someone who wore those shirts … and suddenly, I got it.
Gordon Gekko. Remember him?
He was the ruthless investment banker played by Michael Douglas 20 years ago in the film “Wall Street.” Supposedly the film’s villain, he inspired a whole generation of bankers, private equity sharks, hedge funders and broker wannabes.
“… If they (Pueblo folks) subconsciously believe that Lionel and the city will try to renege on whatever deal they make, Colorado Springs is in an impossible negotiating position. It doesn’t matter what you’re willing to agree to, if your negotiating partner believes that you’re Gordon Gekko.”
Later in the year, I glumly contemplated our now non-existent political clout.
“Absent Amy Stephens, Bob Gardner and one or two others, we don’t really have a Republican legislative delegation — just a bunch of ideologues spinning their wheels, introducing bills that will never get out of committee.
“A few lines from Yeats’ ‘Sailing to Byzantium’ neatly summarize our dilemma.
“That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees …
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.
“An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick …
“That’s us — old, irrelevant, neglected.
“We’ve had our 15 minutes of fame, and we’ve gotten the hook.
“Looking back, we had a pretty good run. While other cities saw their military establishments shrink or disappear, ours expanded. While other cities saw their signature industries move out of town, or wither and die, we saw businesses move here and prosper. And while other cities struggled to get the attention of policymakers in Denver and Washington, we didn’t.
“We were the most solidly Republican city in a solidly Republican state — maybe even the most solidly Republican city in the country! As Madonna might have sung, ‘We are living in a Republican world/And I am a Republican girl …’
“It’s all over, isn’t it? The fawning politicians, the arrogant lobbyists at our beck and call, the comfortable feeling that we would get what we wanted/needed, because, as ‘Engine Charlie’ Wilson said about GM half a century ago, what’s good for Colorado Springs is good for America!”
But even if we’re irrelevant, we can still make fun of the newly-empowered. In November, I discovered a brand-new verb.
“Get ready for one of the more delicious moments in American politics: the creation of an elegant, double-barreled neologism, in this case a new verb which describes actions with which we are all familiar, and for which we have no colorfully descriptive term.
“Here’s the new verb: blue-ribbon. (Trust me, it really isn’t just an adjective any more — just notice the hyphen.)
“It was first mentioned — to me, at least — by Denver lobbyist Eric Anderson, who attributes its first use to Gov. Bill Ritter’s chief of staff, Evan Dreyer.
“According to Anderson, Dreyer referred in passing to an issue by saying ‘we’ve blue-ribboned it.’
“He meant, Anderson continued, that the governor had created a ‘blue ribbon commission’ of experts, stakeholders and wise men/women to hold hearings, debate the issue endlessly and eventually produce a weighty report, full of equally weighty recommendations.
“Our governor, who is even more process-oriented than Hillary Clinton, is a blue-ribboner par excellence. He’s blue-ribboned energy, transportation and health care so far, and we can be sure that there’s more blue-ribboning to come.
“And as all politicians know instinctively, blue-ribboning is a flawless way to avoid dealing with issues while appearing to do something.”
You’ll have to wait until next week to see my early prognostications for 2008.
John Hazlehurst can be reached at John.Hazlehurst@csbj.com or 227-5861.