Hazlehurst makes predictions for the new year

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I’m tired of gloom and doom-so here are my foolishly optimistic predictions for the year to come.

A quiet boom will re-ignite our local economy, driven by government spending and renewed consumer /business confidence.

New businesses will form and thrive, and existing enterprises will grow, modestly prosper, and even hire new employees.

And here are some specific predictions.

Shortly after Freedom Communications emerges from bankruptcy, the Gazette will be sold to a group headed by current publisher Steve Pope, Independent editor Ralph Routon and councilmember Sean Paige, funded by Boulder congressman Jared Polis. Most operations, including reporting and editorial, will be outsourced to India. Routon will cover sports, Paige will write editorials, and Pope will attend community functions. Reporter Dave Philipps will win Freedom’s second Pulitzer Prize-and like the unfortunate reporters who won the first last year for Arizona’s East Valley Tribune, will be told that his position “is no longer available.”

The Gazette’s deserted and vacant building on Prospect Street will be given to Ted Haggard who, with Polis’ blessing, will launch a proudly gay evangelical church. So successful will the church be that, within a few months, Colorado Springs will eclipse San Francisco, Provincetown, and Key West as a center of gay culture. The happy outcome: better restaurants, better interior design, a renovated west side, and cool nightclubs without armed mayhem in the parking lots.

Politics! Don’t we love to watch all those folks desperately maneuvering to land demanding, ill-paid jobs? Don’t we love to make their lives unpleasant before, during, and after the election? We’re in for some fun.

Unhappily, we’ll be stuck with our same nine weary, dispirited city council members until April of 2011. For political amusement, we’ll have to turn to the county commission, the state legislature, and potentially spirited contests for governor and for the U.S. Senate.

Predictions: Darryl Glenn and Peggy Littleton will replace the term-limited commissioners Wayne Williams and Jim Bensberg , and serve eight years in the cushiest, best paid elected positions in Colorado. The governor makes a little more, and gets more press, but he/she has to travel incessantly, deal with the legislature, live in a rickety old dump that’s open to the public and endure the nasty partisan battles of our age. Our county commissioners work as hard or as little as they please and usually manage to avoid the unseemly controversies that swirl around city council. City council members make $6,250 annually, while commissioners rake in $87,900. That’s the difference between an expensive addiction to publicity, disguised as a sincere desire to serve, and a real job.

Incumbent Democratic governor Bill Ritter will square off against Republican Scott McInnis, and McInnis may well pull it off. Ritter has seemed to be weak and indecisive, he’s alienated much of his own base, and the economy hasn’t done him any favors. McInnis has an impressive resume, appeals to independents, and needs only a bit of luck and a competent campaign to unseat Ritter.

Ritter appointee Michael Bennet has performed well in the Senate. Good for him — but he’ll still have a primary fight with the well-liked former House speaker, Andrew Romanoff. Bennet may have been the most qualified applicant for the job (I didn’t apply), but Romanoff would have been the best choice, both for party unity and for the 2010 election. Dems love him, and even Republicans admire him for his skillful, non-confrontational management of the legislature after the Democratic takeover during 2006. The primary winner will be beaten, bruised, and broke, opening the door for Republican Jane Norton. Like McInnis, Norton has a strong resume, no significant primary opponent, and independent appeal. Norton has a shot, but she’s a comparative lightweight. Advantage: Romanoff/Bennet.

In local legislative races, count on the GOPsters to mount significant challenges to Dennis Apuan and to Pete Lee, who hopes to succeed term-limited Mike Merrifield in HD 18. Merrifield crushed his virtually invisible Republican opponent during 2008 by a 62-38 margin. Hardworking, smart and popular, Merrifield owned the district for eight years — but HD 18 is a classic swing district, where voters dislike ideologues of any stripe. Marcy Morrison held the seat for eight years, so the Repubs can win if they field a decent candidate (that would be me, of course!).

Our vast downtown parking lots will not be replaced by gleaming skyscrapers. South Academy Boulevard will not be reborn as the Las Vegas of the Front Range, derelict shopping centers replaced by the neon lights of mega-casinos shimmering against the night sky (we can dream, can’t we?). On the other hand, rooftops will sprout up on the city’s eastern periphery, the Banning-Lewis Ranch will not be rededicated to cattle ranching, and the embattled Jannie Richardson may yet revive Colorado Crossing.

And finally, the USOC ‘s newly-chosen CEO will quit within months, the victim of internal feuds. His/her successor? This time, forget everything except tough — the USOC needs an enforcer who can control the NGB’s, keep elected officials in line, and shut up the squawkers in the press.

It’ll be Manny Pacquiao.

John Hazlehurst can be reached at john.hazlehurst@csbj.com or 227-5861.