They are men of principle, to be sure.
They are strong-willed, strong-minded and have spines of steel.
They are not to be messed with.
Unfortunately for us, they’re also easily blinded by ideology and appear to lack much common sense.
That’s right: I’m talking about our very own Colorado Springs City Council, led by a mayor who tends to forget his office is supposed to be non-partisan.
The latest evidence of how dysfunctional things have become came last week, when the council criticized proposed federal legislation aimed at easing the pain for the many who are still feeling the effects of the Great Recession.
The Local Jobs for America Act would help cities save and create public and private-sector jobs.
Yes, it is without question another government bailout and, yes, it would mean adding to the national debt and, yes, spending less would be a great idea.
But when the National League of Cities gives a bill its blessings and when the vast majority of cities are behind the proposal, you have to wonder what our local elected officials are thinking.
Six council members joined Mayor Lionel Rivera in giving the thumbs down to the proposal. Credit two — Jan Martin and Scott Hente — for seeing this issue in its proper context.
Much is at stake.
“The bill would direct $75 billion to cities, towns and counties to save municipal jobs and prevent layoffs,” according to the League of Cities. “Of the $75 billion, $52.5 billion would go directly to communities with at least 50,000 residents.”
Colorado Springs, which has cut 530 positions in local government in the past couple of years, would get about $40 million.
That’s money that could be used for jobs assistance as well as to restore cuts in service, including some 10,000 street lights that were turned off to save money, though, interestingly enough, never around The Broadmoor resort or the affluent Old North End.
We’re projected to spend about $222 billion on the war in Afghanistan this year and next, so although the money in this legislation isn’t chicken feed, it’s also less than half of our commitment to fighting that conflict.
But Rivera and his cohorts aren’t swayed by such things.
“We’re having to suck it up. The federal government should, too,” Rivera said.
Really? Could someone please remind the mayor he was elected to keep the parks maintained, potholes filled and the city out of the glare of the national media?
Instead of sounding like a radio-show host, Rivera would do better to take his cues from Ronald Loveridge, the mayor of Riverside, Calif., and president of the League of Cities.
“While the federal economy may be approaching the late stages of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, local government budget tightening and spending cuts over the next several years will continue and may drag our nation’s economic recovery,” Loveridge said in testimony before Congress.
“The municipal sector … likely faces a combined, estimated shortfall of anywhere from $56 billion to $83 billion from 2010-2012. (That’s) a deficit we must close, as local governments must balance their budgets.”
Rivera says he’s not worried only about avoiding debt. He and some of the others on the council say the money in the legislation will run out after two years and that any positions saved will then have to be cut.
What they fail to acknowledge is that the extra time gives the economy a chance to recover so that eventually, the extra hand we get from the federal government won’t be needed.
By its very nature, this legislation is a stop-gap measure. It was never intended to last forever.
Even with the Local Jobs for America Act, cities could well have to lay off more workers and cut more services. And that, without question, will indeed create a drag on the national recovery.
Maybe Rivera isn’t bothered by the idea of swelling homeless encampments.
“Some people want a homeless life,” he told the Denver Post last week. “Some people, they really do.”
See what I mean?
Allen Greenberg is the editor of the Colorado Springs Business Journal. Reach him at email@example.com or 719-329-5206.