Newly appointed City Councilman Sean Paige called me last week and left a voicemail saying now that he is on City Council, we can figure out how to build the private-public sports stadium downtown.
He was chuckling.
I appreciate his enthusiasm for rugby, but when I consider what he’ll mean to the business community, I’m not chuckling.
Running a city is a lot like running a business, and Paige doesn’t seem to know too much about business.
Paige’s bio says nothing about how he has built a business, had to make payroll, sold products or developed marketing channels. Instead, it boasts about how he, as The Gazette’s editorial page editor, has championed The Gazette’s unyielding libertarian philosophy, something that has kept the city from being all it can be.
At the G, he straddled the worlds of politics and journalism but has not dabbled in business, and that’s concerning.
I’m concerned that a guy who posts comments on www.stopcorporatewhores.blogspot.com, an anti-economic-development rant Web site, is the right person to help lead Colorado Springs.
In 2008, a Florida newspaper reported that the city of Daytona Beach was offering its City Hall as the headquarters for a company, which would pay $240,000 annual rent and have an option to buy for $3 million within three years.
A sarcastic Paige had this to say on the stopcorporatewhores blog:
“It’s outrageous. It’s pathetic. It’s unbelievable. But the auctioning off of City Hall is also a fitting symbol of how mercenary, and how out of hand, the corporate whoring, and community pandering, has become.”
I thought it was a pretty innovative idea.
I’m not really sure why Paige was chosen for City Council. Perhaps City Council was desperate for transparency and thought that opening the hen house door for the fox would keep him from breaking in.
But, now Paige is on the inside looking out.
If Paige is going to be a friend to the Springs’ business community, he needs to be more receptive to the ways government can aid commerce.
Paige says he wants to look at new ways of solving the Springs’ insolvency problems. For instance, in an interview on page 13 of this edition, he says the Pioneers Museum could become a nonprofit foundation and would not need money from the city.
Paige’s offer to collaborate on a private-public stadium no doubt was accompanied by a wink and a smile, but I do have a serious task he and I can work on together: I’ll help him write a business plan for the city. We can do it on weekends, and we’ll even ask for help from the Small Business Development Center and the Service Corps of Retired Executives.
Economic development is about bringing primary jobs to the city. Considering his virulent disdain for government aid to business, I don’t see Paige as an effective ambassador when a company thinking about moving to the Springs inquires about incentives.
More businesses mean more businesses can grow. Businesses grow and employ more people, the tax base increases. It is that simple.
Maybe this foray into politics will enlighten Paige. Maybe he will realize that offering incentives to businesses is not a form of socialism, but rather a strategy for a healthy local economy. Maybe he will realize that it takes money to run government just as it takes money to run a business.
However, I doubt he’ll change and I’m concerned.
And it appears that I’m not the only one.
As you can see below this column, 75 percent of respondents to our CSBJ.com weekly poll are concerned, too.
As for Paige’s writing career, I encourage him to keep contributing to blogs, even to stopcorporatewhores. I’m 100 percent in favor of free speech — what publisher isn’t? — but I just hope he doesn’t save all his sarcasm for his blog posts.
If he is going to slam the city or his colleagues on the council, I trust he will do it face-to-face. He is no longer merely a critic. Now, he has to work for a better Colorado Springs, not just write about it.
Lon Matejczyk is publisher of the Colorado Springs Business Journal. He can be reached at Lon.Matejczyk@csbj.com or 329-5202.