Mayor must create and preserve to be remembered

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A couple of years ago, the Business Journal ran a story about the hundreds of well-meaning, carefully drafted plans that were gathering dust in a forgotten city archive. Many were produced in-house, while others were created by expensive consultants. Most were ignored, while some were incorporated into city policies.

Maybe the plans were too ambitious, or too detailed, too expensive or just too much trouble to implement.

In these fiscally challenged times, few plans are being created.

Candidates for seats on City Council this April will have to make do with tired clichés, Republican talking points (this is not a community that has been receptive to Democratic talking points!), and the Academy Boulevard “Great Streets” plan.

That won’t cut it. They need plans. They need simple, inexpensive, and easily communicated solutions to our city’s many dilemmas.

So here’s my contribution.

Mr. Bruce, tear these buildings down!

Douglas Bruce isn’t the only property owner in the city with decaying, apparently abandoned rental properties, but he’s one of the more notable offenders. In 1993, he acquired a fire-damaged fourplex at 1326 West Kiowa for $9,500. It has been boarded up and vacant since.

Bruce also owns other derelict properties. At 815 E. Las Animas, which he acquired from HUD in 1990, two cottages built in 1915 occupy a single lot. The county assessor assigned a market value of $10,281 to the lot, and valued the two structures at $229 and $344 (no, that’s not a misprint).

Is it too much to ask that our soon-to-be new council members deal with this pernicious urban blight? Their predecessors have been ineffective, but that doesn’t mean they have to follow their example. Tear them down, fix them up, but don’t just ignore the problem.

Don’t be afraid to ask for a raise.

Now that the mayor is appropriately compensated, let’s pay council members as well. State legislators make $30,000 annually for the four months that the legislature is in session, plus out-of-session committee work, meetings and constituent services. If council is to counterbalance the mayor’s power, and help make the new form of government function effectively, its members need to be paid. Put it on the November ballot.

Don’t be afraid of the voters.

Your predecessors should have listened to their colleague Darryl Glenn, who thought that both the USOC deal and the Stormwater Enterprise should have been put to a vote. Events have proved him right, especially in the case of the Stormwater Enterprise. TABOR has many flaws, but voters love it. If ever you think of issuing COPs to support a worthy project that a majority of voters might not approve, that’s fine — but it won’t end well. Like Banquo’s ghost, Douglas Bruce will appear in all of his spectral glory, whispering “New Jersey,” “California,” and “runaway taxes” in the ears of voters.

No, they don’t like you! They really don’t like you!

The voters liked Bob Isaac. I’m not sure that they’ve liked any elected official since. Council members and mayors are like cell-phone companies — everyone chooses a provider, but that doesn’t mean you like your choice. Your job is to see that city services are delivered efficiently and unobtrusively. Your success is measured by the extent to which press and public ignore you. Any meeting that opens without a single member of the press or public in attendance is a successful meeting. Keep your constituents happy, and they’ll spend their days in productive endeavor instead of ranting at your meetings.

Build, don’t argue.

When Limon was leveled by a tornado 20 years ago, a new city hall arose from the rubble of the old. It features a wall of glass, encouraging council members to look out at their city, and residents to look in to their government.

By contrast, the once-resplendent council chambers in Colorado Springs are dreary and claustrophobic, windows covered and sealed. No natural light enters the room, which the building’s architects intended to be flooded with afternoon sunlight.

Start your term by opening the windows, and looking outside. You can see the city you represent, and the mountains that define it. Think, while sitting at the dais, of how you want to be remembered. In 10 years, no one will care about your quarrels and distractions.

But if you create, build, and preserve you’ll be remembered. There will be a bronze plaque with your name on it in an obscure corner of your park/building/civic project, and you’ll make it a point to visit it occasionally and show it to your impatient grandchildren.

“See, kids,” you’ll say, “that’s what I did when I was on City Council.”

They won’t pay any attention — but that’s still immortality, right?

Hazlehurst can be reached at john.hazlehurst@csbj.com or 719-227-5861.