Let’s try not to be so polarized

We wish we could announce in this space today that, to restructure the words of former President Gerald Ford, our long regional nightmare is over. But we can’t.

At least the recall election is over, regardless of its outcome. Now we can move beyond the disruptive phone calls and mailings on both sides as millions of dollars flowed into the recall campaigns, not counting the thousands of volunteer hours on both sides. And all focused on just 69,000 voters in state Senate District 11, about 12 percent of El Paso County’s total population.

All we could think of was how that money and time could have gone to other needs, from flood mitigation to fixing potholes, enticing companies to move here, building a stronger workforce, rewarding businesses that want to stay and grow.

We have so many positive things going on. Think about the efforts of Old Colorado City residents who opposed the Kum & Go planned there. Kum & Go backed off, and now a mixed-use redevelopment could take off sooner than imagined. And we marvel at the Ivywild School’s rebirth, a haven for locally owned businesses, as well as the success story from revitalizing the old Roundhouse complex at the corner of 21st Street and U.S. Highway 24.

We’ve been through so much in the past 15 months.

Up north, the ongoing boom has engulfed University Village Colorado, with UCCS spreading nearby to add momentum. Out east, Powers Boulevard links several thriving areas, and for those who embrace infill development, the intersection of Academy Boulevard and Austin Bluffs Parkway is on the rebound.

But we’re still so divided, at times just plain angry.

Part of it, psychologists might tell us, is because we’ve been through so much in the past 15 months. We’ve suffered through two horrific fires, destroying nearly 900 homes, followed by repeated flooding from summer rains on the burn scars. We’ve even dealt with one of the city’s most prominent high schools being closed, and Wasson had impacted many thousands of students and families over the past half-century.

We saw it in another form this week, as the Colorado Springs City Council refused to endorse the city’s Regional Tourism Act application (though Monument, Manitou Springs and El Paso County elected leaders did). Instead of looking for positives, the majority preferred to chastise Mayor Steve Bach and RTA organizers for not being transparent from the start.

There it is again. We’re polarized, sometimes without trying to be. This past week, we put up an online poll asking what effect the recall election had on Colorado Springs’ image across the state and nation. We wanted to stay neutral, as we avoided taking sides in the recall. But our three answers — no effect, some negative impact and much damage — created heartburn among some readers.

Several questioned our motives, accusing us of being one-sided. Some were more diplomatic, such as Mark Volcheff, saying, “You have biased your results and I hope not intentionally.” He’s right, it wasn’t intentional, and in retrospect we should have included an option for readers to say the recall had a positive effect. That would have shown our neutrality, and we missed the chance. Why? Probably, we were so weary of the relentless vitriol — yes, on both sides.

We could argue that 55 percent did say the recall was “very damaging,” and that comes from our business community, which clearly leans right. But the result still would have more credibility if we had offered the “very positive” choice.

We’ll try to be more sensitive, in part because we want the Business Journal to help in bringing the community together, not tearing us apart.

And it’s actually good to know that some readers cared enough to take us to task.

One Response to Let’s try not to be so polarized

  1. Five years ago, an independent, out-of state, professional economic analysis firm was brought into the region for an extensive 6 week review on the strong and weak points of the local region resulting in the Project 6035 report. This report identified one key component that would inhibit local economic development:

    “ – – – polarizing ideological differences in the political arena”

    Is ‘polarization’ locally less than, equal to, or greater than in other communities?

    If the answer is equal to or greater than – – is it inhibiting local development, are there core causes to be identified – and can those causes be addressed and who is looking seriously at the issue and prepared to handle the answers? – – or, is this one of those issues we prefer to keep under the rug?

    Downloading a copy of this report makes for interesting reading.

    Rick Wehner
    September 17, 2013 at 9:39 am