Remember the “6035” project? Remember “Dream City”? And whatever happened to those hundreds of fresh-faced community leaders that the Colorado Springs Leadership Institute has trained, graduated and sent on their way during the last decade?
I have good news for you! Dream City is alive, sort of, kept on life support by the occasional article in the Gazette. 6035 is apparently hibernating, ready to stun the world by announcing that they’ve hired someone to … well, implement some very important recommendations that will vastly improve our spiritless little burg. And as for all those leaders, they’re sooo ready to lead, and they’re especially willing to serve on committees that will consider important issues and produce important reports which will make important recommendations to which most of us will pay no attention.
That’s why there were more than 60 applicants to fill six seats on a city advisory committee which will consider the “ownership structure” of Memorial Health System. Presumably, the committee will meet, gather data, hear from the various players, and summarize its findings in carefully parsed bureaucratese.
The report will then become a part of our ongoing and historically futile debate over whether Memorial ought to remain in public ownership or sold to the highest bidder.
Advocates of selling the hospital system believe that the city has no reason to be in the health care business, or in any other business for that matter, and that such ownership confers few benefits upon city residents. They claim that a sale might net hundreds of millions for the city, and yet have little effect upon Memorial’s ability to provide care.
In health care, as in government, business and private life you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Any private entity buying the hospital will see an immediate increase in fixed costs, as the new owners are forced to refinance all of the hospital’s debt at higher rates. Being capitalists, they’ll want a return on their investment – and that can only be realized by raising prices and reducing uncompensated care. And who will pay the bills? That would be us.
But the argument over Memorial will go on, and will serve as one of many issues that distract us, and our hundreds – nay thousands! – of leaders from dealing with our city’s core dilemma, that being …
We love our entitlements! In common with welfare recipients before 1996, UAW members before the collapse of the domestic automobile industry, subprime loan recipients, and Wall Street bankers, we think that we can get something for nothing.
We want a prosperous, vibrant city, a spacious park system, a vital downtown, and an efficient, smoothly functioning city government – but we think that someone else should pay for these things. Our city council was so sure that we wouldn’t fund even essential governmental functions that they backdoored a stormwater fee in a futile attempt to outsmart the tightwad taxpayers.
Absent divine intervention, most city community centers and Rock Ledge Ranch will close in a few weeks. And unless our timid city council forces Colorado Springs Utilities to provide water at greatly reduced rates, our once-verdant city parks will be withered and sere.
Absent an aggressively funded Economic Development Corporation, we’ll fall farther and farther behind our peer cities, as the jobs and companies that would once have come to Colorado Springs are lured to Albuquerque, Omaha, Des Moines, Fort Collins…and even Pueblo!
Absent a focused community effort to diversify our economy and rebuild Downtown, South Nevada, South Academy, and the West Side, we’ll continue our slow decline.
The city doesn’t need leadership – it needs followership. A handful of sincere would-be leaders cannot easily reverse decades of Bruceite propaganda, which has led people to believe that taxes can always be lower, the government always has plenty of money, and that most politicians are lying weasels who just want your money.
What this means in practice is that brilliant governance, such as that provided during the last two years by county executive Jeff Green and our five county commissioners is largely unremarked, while the floundering incompetence of city council during the same period is seen as the norm.
Folks, don’t you think that we’ve wasted enough time? Let’s leave Memorial alone, and concentrate on our immediate problems.
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