Can new leaders handle the load?

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For those who think the Colorado Springs city government and business community are on the verge of becoming more unified and coordinated, just look at the events of Tuesday.

That morning, in a long-anticipated gathering at City Hall, six new members of the City Council were sworn in, with Mayor Steve Bach welcoming them to office.

Yet, that crowd didn’t include about 200 influential business people from across the city. Instead, they had convened at the Antlers Hilton to hear a local economic update from the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance.

It was silly for the Business Alliance to plan that session at the same time as the Council swearing-in. You’d have thought that those business leaders would have wanted to be seen at the Council ceremony, trying to get off on the right foot with the newcomers.

Likewise, you’d have thought that the “new” Council would want to make a good impression on its first day in trying to enhance the city’s image. Instead, just two hours after the rookies took their oaths of office, they made a decision that for many achieved just the opposite.

Council appeared to have only one logical choice for president. With six members on their first day, and two others having served only two years, that left Jan Martin, starting her seventh year on Council after being president pro tem since 2011.

To say that Martin deserved to become Council president, with full support of the city’s business and political leadership, was an understatement. She grew up here, and her family had a Buick auto dealership where she first worked. Martin earned an MBA and has her own business, she has served on numerous boards and task forces, she’s been a Chamber supporter and she has mentored young entrepreneurs along the way.

She was elected to Council in 2007 with the most votes of anyone running for an at-large position. When she ran for another at-large term in 2011, her vote total of 44,901 was so dominant that the second-place finisher among 16 candidates was Val Snider with 33,843 votes, more than 11,000 behind Martin. That should have established Martin as a respected representative of the entire city.

But apparently the newer members of City Council didn’t pay much attention to that history. They chose one of the rookies, Keith King, as president after Martin gracefully bowed out upon realizing she wouldn’t have enough votes. Granted, King is a veteran of state politics, but we had to wonder when he justified his fast ascendancy by saying this election was a mandate for change.

Really? Yet, if you add the six district winners, their grand total comes to 33,625 votes — more than 10,000 fewer than Martin received by herself two years ago (when six new councilors were elected, just like now).

So instead of acknowledging that, recognizing Martin’s years of service by making her the first woman City Council president, the group rudely, crudely brushed her aside.

King has insisted all along that he still has close ties with many in state government and can use his clout to Colorado Springs’ benefit, including the endless quest for more jobs.

Can he deliver? Now, as Council president, the pressure will be on Keith King to walk the talk.