Wed, Oct 14, 2009


City Council’s decision to appoint former Gazette editorial page editor Sean Paige to fill the vacant District 3 seat has aroused controversy, to put it mildly.

Paige applied for the position as a joke, found that he had some support, became serious and won the race.

Paige’s sudden ascendancy has not been greeted with universal applause. Three-quarters of the respondents to a poll on CSBJ’s Web site say that Paige was “the wrong choice” for City Council.

Detractors note that Paige has lived in the city for less than seven years, and that his views are very different from those of his predecessor, Jerry Heimlicher.

Heimlicher, who was overwhelmingly elected to a second term by District 3 voters, believed that local government should actively promote economic development and neighborhood revitalization. He was supported by community activists, by historic preservationists, by small businesspeople and by substantial majorities in every District 3 precinct.

Bewilderingly diverse, District 3 includes Nob Hill, the West Side, parts of the North End and Broadmoor, South Nevada, and much of the city’s south side. Its residents are just as diverse, politically somewhat liberal and notably cranky.

Paige isn’t just conservative-he’s a conservative with a capital “L,” for libertarian.

In case you’ve never read one of the G’s editorials, libertarians are just as cranky as West Siders. Inspired by both the liberal and conservative playbooks, libertarians generally dislike much of what passes for government, fervently support your right to bear arms, to smoke dope, to open strip bars, and to paint your house bright purple, regardless of neighborhood covenants. They’d just as soon government keep out of your wallet, and out of your bedroom. Nice in theory, a little more complicated in practice.

Since leaving the Gazette, Paige has founded a nonprofit, Local Liberty Action. According to the organization’s Web site, “LLA was established to celebrate and perpetuate the limited government ideals that made the United States a bastion of freedom, opportunity and prosperity – and to counter the growing tendency of some Americans to look first to government for all the answers. We hope to change the way citizens think and act by being highly respected and persuasive advocates for limited government, free market capitalism, property rights and economic and civic literacy.”

As an editorial writer, as an advocate for limited government and as a persuasive opponent (or supporter) in argument, Paige has few peers.

But now that he’s a member of City Council, he may have some ‘splainin’ to do …

Ours is a representative democracy. In practice, that requires elected officials to find a balance between representing their constituents and following the dictates of their own conscience. He was appointed, not elected-and a lot of his new constituents have views widely at variance with his own.

In Paige’s case, he’ll have many challenges.

Will he, for example, keep his day job with Local Liberty Action? It’s a policy-oriented nonprofit, like the ACLU, the AARP or the Cato Institute. His opponents could argue that such employment is inherently conflictual.

It’s fine to advocate limited government, but political philosophies of any kind often run aground on the shoals of reality.

Council members need to keep the creaky ship of state afloat, not debate the finer points of naval architecture. Paige’s constituents knew where Heimlicher stood on South Nevada renewal, on the acquisition of White Acres and Section 16, on Issue 2C and on the U.S. Olympic Committee deal.

Where does Paige stand on these, and dozens of other issues unique to the district?
He’s opposed to 2C, but what will he do if it doesn’t pass? Will he offer constructive, practical suggestions, or simply recite the conservative playbook?

Paige is no Stepford wife, no mindless adherent of ivory tower libertarianism. He brings a refreshing skepticism, an inquiring and powerful intellect, and an evident desire to serve the city and work with his new constituents.

He’ll find, as all politicians do, that policy is made and implemented in the real world, and that compromise is inevitable and necessary. He’ll find that his constituents are interested in results, not words.

If a West Side sewer line backs up and floods a dozen homes with raw sewage on a Saturday night, he’ll have to show up and deal with it, because that’s what his constituents expect.

Today, the city faces challenges that might be graver than any since the 1930s. Decades of rising tax revenue and expanding services have given way to a new era of austerity.

Paige will have his hands full.

And I, for one, look forward to watching him try to change the city, and watching the city change him.


8 Comments For This Post

  1. concerned Says:

    I heard that Mr. Paige isn’t registered to vote, nor was he when he applied for the seat. Is that true?

  2. lisa czelatdko Says:

    Mr. Hazelhurst,
    I appreciate you reminding people that Council is about representation. I feel that a person who is notoriously vocal and has made it his career to scream out his personal beliefs on limited government may find it difficult in representing constituents fairly.
    I suspect that after the tedious sameness of the Council meetings, the compromises he will have to make, the citizens complaints he will have to answer too, and the frustration of how things work in this town, we will see a softer spoken Paige. This is what I believe the Council’s intentions were in hiring in. Let’s take one of our biggest critics( who has media connections), put him in the hot seat, let him see how hard our job is, and now we’ll see if he still utters the same critiques. The eight individuals up there aren’t stupid and I know because I have been watching and listening to them almost constant for over a year now. Regularly, I have sat in Council Chambers listening and learning. I have even seen you there several times. Fifteen months ago I hardly understood Tabor and how this city worked. I decided I wanted to understand the reasoning behind the way my community thought on issues, who my city leaders were, and try to understand the decisions being made that ultimately shape and alter this city. I wanted to be more involved with the issues my community was facing and be a voice for citizens, especially families. As a mother, I want our neighborhoods and parks protected, myself and my children safe, a vital downtown, historic preservation, and citizen action. I wanted to make a difference! So last year, I decided to run against Jerry Heimlicher for his incumbent seat. After thoughtful consideration I withdrew my candidacy to continue that education and to introduce myself to people. One thing I can say about this town is who you know and who knows you IS important. I have learned that from multiple meetings with people that would give me their attention until someone more important walked into the room. I couldn’t blame them though. Who was I and what could I offer to them? I knew I was at a disadvantage coming in as an attractive woman, young (39), and relatively unknown. I am not a native, business owner, or developer. What I am is educated, self-directed, and truly passionate about my community. My husband and I could have lived anywhere in the country but we chose to move here and raise our children. So here has been the journey of your average citizen who is trying to “get in the circle” and be heard. I have taken the initiative to contact City and County leaders. They all have been generous to speak with me and educate me on how this city works. I went on to do the Citizens’ College, the Republican party Candidate school, and the Community Planning and Design program. I went to numerous interviews for Boards and Commissions and was appointed to the El Paso Citizen Advisory Board, El Paso County Citizen Review Panel, and our City Historic Preservation board. I met with a City Councilor from Pueblo to speak about community partnerships and I earned the respect of my opponent, Councilman Heimlicher, and was asked to be part of the Pikes Peak Miracle Meters team. So if you still don’t know who I am, I’m the tall blonde sitting in the back of the room at Utility meetings, Boards and Commission meetings, Organizational meetings, and numerous City events. I am proof that citizens are listening, becoming educated, and trying to be involved. We aren’t all sitting around watching Jerry Springer. When I was interviewing, I did not share my answers with the Gazette readers for 2 specific reasons: This was not an election and I felt that the Council would feel it was inappropriate and disrespectful for me to share my answers publicly. Secondly, I didn’t want to give my answers away when I knew so many candidates didn’t know many of the issues of District 3 like I did. Infact, I followed a lot of your advice in your “welcome to Council, sucker. Although my right leg was shaking behind that podium, and my voice quivered with nervousness, I knew I was up there for the right reasons and I gave it my best. As a District 3 resident I wish Mr Paige good luck. I truly hope he puts his knowledge to work, that he actively participates in a variety of neighborhood issues, and that he remembers he is representing a diverse population.
    Lisa Czelatdko

  3. Bernie Herpin Says:

    I have faith that Sean will be responsive to his constituents and not merely espouse his “limited government” agenda. As a “safety valve”, he is only one of nine and there are three at-large members who live in District 3. I have frequently attended forums, meetings, and events in District 3 since many of their concerns are also concerns of my district.

    I also see his appointment as a plus. Many expected us to appoint a “rubber stamp” and were surprised with Sean’s appointment. I think this may help to restore some credability and trust in our council. I look forward to working with Sean, not against him, as we go through this very difficult time in the life of our city.

    Bernie Herpin
    Council Member District 4

  4. Theresa Nielsen Says:

    So, are we not part of a government of checks & balances? or are we one just one of one way and the highway? What is wrong with having Sean Page be part of a fair form of governing that keeps balance in citizenry dialogue?

  5. owleye Says:

    Should I make the check out to Memorial Hospital or the City of Colorado Springs for the purchase of this facility?

  6. john hazlehurst Says:

    Lisa-thanks for the post! It sounds as if you’re doing all the things you need to do to become a player-and, in fact, you’re already one. This city may sem to be run by a coterie of “good ‘ol boys’, but in fact it’s pretty easy to move into a position of elected leadership. Just keep networking, contributing, and go for it! When I first ran for Council, one of my motivations was the fact that the then-incumbents had passed me over for the park board. I thought that I’d do a good job, so I ran for Council, got elected, and spent five years sitting through the meetings you so perfectly describe.

    And yeah, I’ll bet that the awful tedium will get to Sean Paige, who as I write is sitting through a budget session.

  7. Ken G Says:

    What is Paige’s position on the USOC mess? Could that have influenced Mayor Rivera’s ‘push’ to get him on the council?

    Check the Mayor’s “client” list and make sure Paige is not on there, or wait 6 months to find out…

  8. lisa czelatdko Says:

    Thanks John!