‘Strong mayor’ proposal deserves strong support

Filed under: Opinion |

Something has been missing in Colorado Springs for a long time — political vision.

As a consequence, we’re seen as a city that doesn’t know what it wants to be when it grows up.

Sure, there are plenty of ideas about what shouldn’t happen to Colorado Springs, and most of them include avoiding anything to do with a dirty, little three-letter word that begins with “t” and ends with “x.”

Folks in Colorado Springs are so afraid of taxes that it has stunted the city from reaching its potential.

And now a proposal to change the city charter to allow a strong-mayor form of governance will in all likelihood be challenged by those who seek to avoid taxation at all costs.

Remember a while back there was an idea to build a downtown convention center, something that would surely inject life into the marrow of the city and help us grow to the next level?

Somewhere along the way someone whispered “public money” and the measure failed.

And, remember not so long ago, there was an idea to boost property taxes to pay for things like police, fire protection and parks, not even items that would help us grow, just keep us from stepping backward, but again the aversion to taxation in any form showed its incredible power to restrain.

In both of these cases supporters of the failed measures gnashed their teeth and shook their fists at the anti-tax faction. But, what they really lamented was the fact the proposals had no real visionary leadership behind them.

The people of Colorado Springs who have sought to advance the city’s position in recent years have commonly complained about a lack of visionary leaders.

Now, a group of those people, calling themselves Citizens for Accountable Leadership, have come up with a plan: Change the city charter to allow the strong- mayor form of government.

Under the proposed charter, this new mayor would be serve as the president of the city council, and council would serve as the legislative body of the city government.

The mayor would have the power to appoint city department heads and suggest procurement and contracting procedures.

In essence, the charter would allow a mayor who can lead according to his or her vision.

Sounds good to us.

Not so fast, many are already saying.

What’s this new mayor going to have up his sleeve? And, more importantly, how deeply will that sleeved hand be reaching into taxpayer pockets?

A strong mayor doesn’t mean we’ll be electing a king.

This new mayor will not govern without oversight. They will be accountable to the council and to voters.

Sure, the mayor could veto council ordinances. But under the proposed change, the council would be able to override a mayoral veto with two-thirds vote. And all of the mayor’s appointments would be subject to council approval.

Voters will most certainly remain divided about the city’s direction. But the election of a mayor who can fully commit themselves to the job and provide clear direction is a good first step toward fulfilling our potential.