Strong leadership will help city hold its head high

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Some towns are big and brash and happy and confident.

Some are like Colorado Springs, too often a small-minded place, roiling with doubt and discontent, full of angst and even anger.

We’re a place that feels as if everyone else thinks we’re the dork in class, though it’s worse than that. We feel that our boulevards are too narrow, our buildings too short, our chances of becoming cool and desirable are nonexistent.

In short, this is a city with a serious inferiority complex.

Low self-esteem can be a killer.

It can destroy hopes of job creation, cripple any drive to be politically relevant, wipe out any hope of hip-ness.

It’s frustrating. We fare well on all of those national quality-of-life rankings, so why can’t we be more like Denver, Boulder, Austin or some other “hot” American city?

The answer isn’t difficult to see: we lack leadership, primarily the political type.

What we need is a strong voice, a reassuring presence, a commanding “parent,” if you will, someone who can take the reins and set things right.

It won’t be the magic bullet, but it couldn’t hurt to have a charismatic leader who can promote all that’s right about this town.

A fix could be in the offing in a voter initiative to move the city to a strong form of mayor.

The mayor we now have is sadly weak on multiple levels, in terms of his ability to effect change, as well as his ability to energize the populace.

There’s no guarantee that moving to a different form of government will mean we’ll elect a true leader. But it sure improves the odds.

A full-time job with a full-time salary is more likely to induce the candidacy of someone with the skills and life experiences that qualify them for the office.

Unfortunately, Citizens for Accountable Leadership, the group pushing this initiative, has done a weak job of spelling out that point.

Its message has consisted mostly of suggesting we should go along with the idea simply because so many other cities have done so and because it’s how the federal government is structured.

But it’s more visceral than that, and the arguments it could and should be making are more compelling.

At the moment, Colorado Springs is at a crossroads.

Despite the sense of malaise that seems to hang over the city, there’s a lot to admire about this community.

We’re not world-class, not yet and perhaps never. But there’s no denying we’ve got a lot going for us.

Love him or hate him (and never mind whether or not he wrote the piece himself), Mayor Lionel Rivera’s letter to readers of this week’s Engage supplement in this newspaper makes more than a few good points.

Rivera talks about our “rich business environment” and “unparalleled” education opportunities, which, frankly, are exaggerations.

But then he segues into highlighting hard assets that should be points of community pride: the USOC, the aerospace and defense industry, the military, our parks and trails, and our cultural scene.

Engage is filled with data and articles that showcase the best this region has to offer.

I’ve been lucky. My career has taken me to some terrific cities over the years: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Tampa, Fla., Philadelphia, Charleston, S.C., and Indianapolis.

I don’t have a favorite, because each place has certain qualities that I’ve enjoyed. They all also had plenty of problems. Colorado Springs could easily turn out to be tops on my list, so long as we can address some of its dysfunctions.

We need to find the courage to change the city’s charter and then find a mayor who’ll help us out of this funk.

I’ve said this before but it bears repeating: A “strong mayor” won’t solve all of our issues, but it’ll be a good place to start.

Allen Greenberg is the editor of the Colorado Springs Business Journal. Reach him at 719-329-5206 or

One Response to Strong leadership will help city hold its head high

  1. I so wish that it was an inferiority complex, but alas Springs voters have consistently chosen their civic inferiority as a matter of conservative expedience and greed, consistently voting down taxes that are crucial to creating a good, healthy city with a well earned sense of self esteem.

    It has become a household with a couple noisy, greedy spoiled kids, living off of its federal parent, who puts monthly federal pension checks on the table month after month to be chowed down, creating a satiated constituency who really doesn’t care about the commons, the green medians (or the adjacent yards that are also turning brown) or green parks.

    Not all the kids in the Springs family are this lazy for sure, but it seems as if those who are the laziest are the loudest, particularly one named Doug who is creating a situation where no potential parent in its right mind would want to intervene to become a “strong” leader of the family. An even scarier thought is that Doug himself will take over the family, perpetuating its dysfunction. His conservative siblings will simply shrug, eat and find their way to a tawdry Downtown bar to drown their lousy family life sorrows.

    At this point, we can only hope that the next generation voter will be able to know how to provide a better civic life for themselves than the one they saw their screwed up parents provide and tax themselves toward the common good and to provide for those less fortunate, perhaps 20 years from now.

    Colorado Springs own tragedy of the commons.

    Bolder Bolder
    July 4, 2010 at 6:07 pm