Go to the Humane Society and adopt six dogs. Don’t pay any attention to the Golden Retrievers and Labradors — we want tough, assertive, dominant dogs. How about two Pit Bulls, a Doberman, a Rottweiler and a pair of German Shepherds?
Now load ’em in the back of your pickup, drive down to their new home at the corner of Nevada Avenue and Kiowa Street, and introduce them to their kennel mates — three relatively mellow mutts and a big, difficult dog who likes to fight.
Think your 10 dogs will get along? No way — and you made a really stupid deal with the Humane Society. You’ve agreed to keep the four dogs you already have for two more years, and you have to keep the six new ones for four years.
You must love watching dogfights, because that’s what you’re going to get. I know, I know — you’re the dog whisperer, and you’re sure these dogs will get along. They told you so, didn’t they?
Welcome to the new City Council, same as the old City Council. Just as 10 tough dogs penned up together will fight for food, dominance, safety, attention and fun, our freshly elected officials will be snapping and snarling at Mayor Steve Bach and each other before summer arrives.
And that’s OK. The problems that Mayor Bach and Council have to wrestle with in the next few months are so large, so important to our city’s future and so difficult that they certainly can’t be solved without a few brawls.
What are we going to do about Drake power plant, Neumann Systems Group and the governance of Colorado Springs Utilities? A majority of Council may want that issue to go away — why can’t we just leave Drake alone, burn coal for another 30 or 40 years, and relax?
Go ahead, sweep it under the rug. So what if scores of coal-fired power plants are closing, and no new ones are being built? So what if the new boss at the Environmental Protection Agency is an ardent environmentalist? So what if electric generation is increasingly a business of scale, and that stand-alone municipal electric utilities may be going the way of stand-alone municipal hospitals?
Mayor and Council had better get answers to these questions, and I suspect that the new Council majority won’t like what they hear.
What about the military, which has underpinned and sustained the local economy since World War II?
We’ve relied upon the lunacy of strangers, assuming that there will always be Koreas, Vietnams, Somewhere-istans and Osama bin Ladens. Maybe we should fear most a world at peace, one in which the Chinese clamp down on North Korea, Iran gives up its nukes, and Israelis and Palestinians come to their senses. That won’t happen, but the present uneasy peace is likely to continue for years to come.
The regional military presence will suffer the death of a thousand cuts, as cold-hearted Pentagon budget-slicers whittle away at programs, contractors and personnel.
Will we sit passively by, hire a couple of marginal lobbyists, complain about Obama and watch our local economy wither slowly away? Or will the city, the county, Colorado Springs Utilities, and the Regional Business Alliance create and seriously fund a cut-fighting task force? Let’s not mess around — we need to hire someone with real clout and stature to run it, and dedicate $1.5 million annually to the effort.
Stormwater funding? Fire mitigation? Banning Lewis Ranch? In the next couple of years, Bach and Council could move forward swiftly to resolve all of these problems.
Banning Lewis: Just buy it! Utilities and the Trails and Open Space Coalition can partner and preserve the land for posterity as open space and a working ranch. Simple, achievable and wonderful — so why not?
Fire mitigation: We’ve seen how effectively our engaged elected officials can be when they work together. Rep. Doug Lamborn may have been a no-show, but thanks to Rep. Cory Gardner, Sen. Mark Udall, Commissioner Sallie Clark, Sen. Michael Bennet and others, we finally managed to get federal dollars for Waldo Canyon mitigation. Next step: fire prevention funding for the whole length of the wildland/urban interface.
Stormwater: Figure out what it’s going to cost, hammer out a regional agreement, and bring a funding package to the voters modeled on the PPRTA. Sounds simple, but it’ll take another year — shoot for November 2014.
And here’s a final tip: Don’t try night meetings! Most of you are too old to stay up late…