Mayor, council send the wrong message ­— again

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Just look at them.

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 allen.greenberg@csbj.com or 719-329-5206.

5 Responses to Mayor, council send the wrong message ­— again

  1. Has it ever happened that the US government has given money that did not have strings attached?
    Has any government program been allowed to expire? Perhaps the local government does not wish to give more control to Washington politicians, in fact I can see that the decision to turn down these funds allows the citizens of Colorado Springs to be self governing.

    The comment about money being spent on the war exposes the political leanings of Alen Greenburg, (talk about being blinded by ideology!). So Mr Greenburg is willing to sell out the contgrol of Colorado Springs for a possible 40 million dollars, so we can have a few more street lights that are hardley even missed.
    His ideology appears to be one of spend, spend, spend even when we do nt have the money.

    Mr Greenburg writes for the business journal, yet he wants to avoid the principal of cutting back when the money isn’t there. He likes to use the war and homeless people to get the emotions up and devide the community. (how many of the public sector jobs, to be supported by this bailout, will help homeless ex- city employees?)

    As with anything the magnitude of this issue, the cost must be considered. I agree that the cost of accepting this money would far outdistance the benift.

    To the city council, thanks for looking out for US instead of the political side of the issue.

    Rob Roys
    May 22, 2010 at 12:08 pm

  2. Mayor Rivera doesn’t even pretend to be neutral when it comes to the political soap opera that is our city council. Anything that a Republican wants in this town will get the go ahead without any discussion whatsoever. But, if a Democrat dares to question a decision or ask for help with funding a project that might help people in the Springs, there has to be endless meetings with useless dicussions that end with “We can’t afford this right now!” To casually dismiss $43 million dollars that might help this city get back on its feet is an insult to the people here! I’m an 18 year resident, and I’m ashamed of the people who run this town. They make arbitrary decisions without public input and do it behind closed doors! I know that as a Democrat, I am in the minority, but I feel that my opinions merit the same respect as anyone elses opinions do, and I don’t appreciate the way that Republicans have total say over what goes on in this city. We might have money for parks, swimming pools and fireworks this summer if money had not been wasted on a building for the USOC that will not bring a dime of revenue to this city!!!!!!!!!

    Donna
    May 22, 2010 at 2:18 pm

  3. This city and town are so blind to fact that the entire population of the city, county and especially state are not republican. The mayor and his cronies do not even try to hide their bias to the republican party line regardless of the good it might do the city. If it is not in the republican parties (and their special interest and mostly wealthy supporters) best interest, it is not going to happen here.

    Judy
    May 22, 2010 at 9:27 pm

  4. Well said Donna and Judy. Rob Roy, you’re completely misinformed. The New Home Buyer tax credit and Cash for Clunkers are two examples of very popular and successful federal programs that were allowed to expire in just the last year.You should be aware that you sound like a moron when you lack factual or substantive evidence to support your claim.

    And Mr. Greenberg is hardly being idealogical about pointing out how much money these pointless wars are wasting. For a party that claims to be so fiscally conservative, why do so many Republicans believe in these wars that don’t make us safer? Since when is a coalition force of over 200,000 people required to track down less than 100 Al Qaeda operatives? Isn’t that what special forces are for? The answer is simple… be fiscally conservative until either the military industrial complex or Wall Street controllers of the Republican party say otherwise. As misguided and primeval as they are, at least the Tea Party has finally stopped taking orders directly from the corporate-controlled Republican establishment. Unfortunately they’re replacing their leadership with brainiacs like Sarah Palin.

    As for the majority of Colorado Springs residents being Republicans… that may very well have to do with rich conservatives controlling the message, as well as the strongly conservative religious organizations that call this town home. The fact is that if the conservasheep could finally realize that Democrats are the ones looking out for 99% of this country we’d all be better off. Once that’s done, we could finally sit down and have a civilized discussion about the things WE ACTUALLY DISAGREE ABOUT, like abortion, gun control, and the legalization of marijuana, to name a few. But instead, the Mitch McConnells of the country are still successfully programming their followers to advocate for things that work against ALL OF US, like extraordinary yet unnecessary war spending and giving Wall Street free reign to repeat what it did two years ago so it can sink this economy once and for all.

    The fact is that this country is still at least pretending to be a democracy, which means that if you call yourself a true American, then just sit back and let the government the MAJORITY of us elected do its job. Then you can go back to the polls for another shot this November and again in 2012. That’s the way it works… unless you’re a hardline conservative. In that case, defend democracy until it doesn’t put your chosen leader in office. Fight to keep government out of your life, but send it in full force to disrupt the lives of anyone not like you. What you fail to realize is that this country belongs to ALL of us and, furthermore, there are more of US than there are of YOU. So you should consider yourself lucky that you get to be the minority to such a reasonable, informed, intellectual, populist and egalitarian majority because, quite frankly, the guys you put in office last time scare the hell out of me.

    Andrew
    May 25, 2010 at 12:43 pm

  5. I too am amazed at how our city leaders would prefer to make a political statement than to look out for the interests of their constituants, and refuse $40M in job aid that would help get this city back on the road to recovery sooner, rather than later. Let’s also remember that there already is “Federal Aid” all around us – Federal road repair and maintenance being one of many federally funded projects. Whether we like it or not, the National League of Cities viewed this as an important means with which to rcover from the recent economic mely down. Yes, this will all need to be paid for by all of us as taxpayers, but make no mistakes about it, we’ll all pay regardles sfo what our mayor or city council say or do. So it’s insulting to have these elected “representatives” to turn this money down, since we’ll still be paying for it out of our taxes anyway. Let’s stop making political statements and take care of teh citizens of Colorado Springs, who pay your salary (albeit modest) so that you RESPRESENT OUR INTERESTS, not your own political aspirations. I have many friends looking for a job, and making them move to anohter community to find work will not bolster our local economy, I assure you. Wake up, City Council, you can do better than this.

    Wayne
    June 2, 2010 at 7:36 am