Little did anyone realize how quickly the ground could shift underneath Colorado Springs Utilities as the result of a single unexpected mishap. But that’s exactly where we are now with the temporary forced closure of Martin Drake Power Plant after the near-catastrophic fire of May 5.
Make no mistake, that fire qualifies as yet another disaster for the Colorado Springs area. Perhaps it’s not as devastating as the two fires, Waldo Canyon and Black Forest, that destroyed more than 900 homes in our midst the past two years. But it’s damaging nonetheless, possibly far more than anyone initially thought.
Yet, unlike the cohesive spirit of community that helped us get through those historic fires, we don’t see the same kind of unity now. And that’s too bad.
This is another situation that should inspire our city leaders to sit down together and hash out the options on how to respond. Not in the form of petty political skirmishes, but true leaders dealing with a sudden problem.
This is not about wondering who might be taking advantage of whom. This is about acting like grownups and visionaries.
That means the nine members of City Council along with Mayor Steve Bach, and perhaps not stopping there. Given that only three councilors have served more than one full year, and nobody besides Jan Martin having been around more than three years, we’d suggest that these circumstances are unusual enough to bring in some additional help for advice.
What would be wrong with seeking guidance and ideas from a handful of true experts in overseeing Colorado Springs Utilities?
We’d suggest asking some former members of Council to meet with the current group and share their perspectives. We think it would be smart to include the past two mayors, Lionel Rivera and Mary Lou Makepeace, as well as several ex-councilors such as Larry Small, Randy Purvis, Scott Hente and Richard Skorman. (For obvious reasons, we’re not including anyone now serving in another elected office, such as Sallie Clark, Darryl Glenn or Bernie Herpin. And we’re intentionally avoiding Margaret Radford, who now works for Utilities.)
Still, just those six initially mentioned ex-public servants alone would provide more than 50 years of experience on City Council, also supervising Utilities. And you’d have to assume they could bring many pearls of wisdom that the newcomers haven’t considered.
Let’s be clear. This has nothing to do with offering any kind of delaying tactic, and it’s also not about trying to create yet another blue-ribbon task force with an open-ended time frame.
The whole idea here is trying to help the present City Council see through the unusual situation and evaluate all the possible alternatives, utilizing the clear-eyed expertise of predecessors.
With that kind of input, obviously in a public setting, the city and Utilities might avoid the kind of regrettable, impulsive misstep that might result from this Council having such a glaring shortage of experience. Surely, such former leaders as Rivera, Makepeace, Small, Purvis, Hente and Skorman would appreciate the opportunity, set aside any personal agendas and return to City Hall for one or two forums that hopefully could produce the best-possible strategy moving forward.
We believe it’s an idea worth considering. Why not?