Bill a slap in the face to military

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The military is an economic driver in our community, without a doubt.

So, why, when we are facing budget shortfalls on so many levels, would House Bill 1317 call for our attorney general to “oppose any attempt by the United States Department of Defense or other unit of federal government to acquire by any means, including purchase or condemnation, lands for which consent to acquire has been withdrawn pursuant to this section, including state lands associated with the expansion of Pinon Canyon maneuver site pursuant to subsection (1) of this section and section 36-1-123.5, C.R.S. Such opposition shall be made a priority by the attorney general and, whenever feasible, take precedence over any other matters”?

Sorry about the legalese, but it is important.

To try to pass into law something that could put southern Colorado at a significant disadvantage when working with the Department of Defense doesn’t make sense to me. How could a bill like this impact any future base realignment and closure decisions? I find it a tad scary. Especially the part in the bill that says, “take precedence over any other matters.”

OK, it does say “whenever feasible” before it, but it is still over-the-top.

What kind of precedence would this set? Shouldn’t landowners be able to make the choice to sell, lease or keep their land without government intervention? I think so.

I have been to Pinon Canyon; I have written about Pinon Canyon. Even some of the people down in Las Animas County agree that there is a way to work through to a win-win situation with the Department of Defense and the Army.

Why would elected officials introduce such silly legislation that could be so detrimental to the economic health of southern Colorado? Basically saying to the Army: “We don’t want to work through to a mutually agreeable solution.”

Tie House Bill 1317 to Operation 60thirtyfive’s (that is the recent community study) key economics findings that “tax structure has weakened the state’s and regions ability to attract or encourage growth through abatements, incentives, or infrastructure investments. This, combined with limited modern real estate options creates major challenges in presenting the region and state as a business-friendly environment” and we have some serious economic vitality issues for southern Colorado.

Maybe anyone who is thinking about running for elected office should take Economics 101 and 102. Maybe a wake-up call is needed. Like the recession isn’t enough.

The Quality of Life indicators report will be coming out soon, and I am telling you right now the chapter on Growing a Vibrant Economy is going to be a real eye-opener. The business conditions index is an overall measure of the economic health of our area and has declined for the second year in a row. The Springs’ gross metropolitan product, which measures the economic output of our region, has dropped in national rankings from 83rd in 2001 to 89th in 2006, the last year the statistics were available.

We didn’t even rank in the Milken Institute’s report on the 25 best performing cities. It had cities such as Provo, Utah, ranked No. 1 and Des Moines, Iowa, ranked No. 25, with cities in between like Lafayette, La., Greeley and Huntsville, Ala.

The good news is we did not make the list of top 25 losers in rankings, with cities like Richmond, Va., Birmingham, Ala., and Honolulu.

We are at a crossroads to either become a city of world class stature or continue hobbling along in mediocrity. We need to support our military bases, while at the same time diversifying our employer base. One primary job supports between two and five other jobs.

So again, I ask why would elected non-economists be trying to pass a bill that could be detrimental to our economy? Maybe to try to get re-elected, and if that is the case, they should never have been elected in the first place. Always do the right thing.

Lon Matejczyk is publisher of the Colorado Springs Business Journal. He can be reached at Lon.Matejczyk@csbj.com or 329-5202.