The current hostility between Mayor Steve Bach and City Council is divisive, disruptive and counterproductive to the future well-being of Colorado Springs.
It is inhibiting our community’s efforts to move forward economically because our city leadership can’t agree on a common game plan. It is seriously damaging our ability to repair long-neglected infrastructure because we squabble over the fine print while losing sight of the big picture.
And it impedes our collaborative efforts to work within the Pikes Peak region because other governmental entities are reluctant to get drawn into our infighting.
The best example of this is the current “war of words” over the initiative to form a regional partnership for stormwater mitigation.
In the first two years of our new venture into the Council/Mayor form of government (2011-13), I served as the City Council president. As has been previously documented, I had my differences of opinion with Mayor Bach on several items — I freely admit that I was the source of some of those disagreements.
So with my own personal knowledge of what happens when our two branches of government are at odds with each other, I urge both the Council and Mayor Bach to work together on the stormwater issue.
OK, full disclosure: I was a strong advocate for the previous Stormwater Enterprise. While, with perfect 20/20 hindsight, I would have pushed to do some aspects of that previous attempt differently, I still think the effort was noble and just.
Many of us on Council at the time felt frustrated with the decades of neglect, discussions and committees that only talked and never solved the problem, and a general reluctance to actually push forward an item that would impose a financial burden on our citizens.
But the problem was real and was growing year to year. Yes, the voters demanded that we put an end to the Stormwater Enterprise, but all that did was let the problems continue to magnify and worsen.
So now we have a new alliance that has proposed a real solution to the problem on a regional basis. And that is actually better than what we had in place before — as is often stated, stormwater and flooding do not respect municipal boundaries.
I am not about to let my minor issues with the proposal get in the way of the larger issue – we need to solve this problem now.
Let’s examine a couple of objections to the proposal:
• A new bureaucracy would be formed of elected officials who would oversee the projects and the funding allocation.
And why is this bad?
It is modeled to a large degree on the wildly successful Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority. Having elected officials oversee it is letting the voters actually hold people to task for its success or failure, unlike having appointees who would not be accountable in the next election cycle.
• It possibly distributes funding on an inequitable basis — some of Colorado Springs’ funds might be used outside of the city limits.
So what? If, for example, funds can be used on solving issues with Monument Creek north of the city, than maybe Colorado Springs won’t have to spend as much money when the flows reach our city.
I think it’s important to note that, like a lot of other people in this city, there are parts of the stormwater proposal that I would personally do differently. But, as is often said, “Politics is the art of compromise,” and I am not about to let my minor issues with the proposal get in the way of the larger issue — we need to solve this almost $1 billion problem and we need to solve it now.
Can we get back on the right track? You bet we can.
But it will take all of us, and especially our elected leadership, to stop the incessant bickering and squabbles and get down to business.
Scott Hente, vice president of Robert Scott Custom Homes, served on City Council from 2003-13, the final two years serving as Council president. He is an Air Force Academy graduate.