For journalists, Colorado Springs has traditionally been a target-rich environment. Ours is an argumentative, contentious and perpetually dissatisfied community — there’s always something going on.
Sadly, for those of us who thrive on dissonance, dissension and dysfunction, 2015 promises to be less interesting than 2014.
• City elections: We’ll have at least four serious candidates for mayor of Colorado Springs, and as many as a dozen City Council hopefuls (depending on how many show up for the dance).
Amy Lathen, Mary Lou Makepeace and John Suthers are skilled and accomplished leaders with deep roots in the community. Joel Miller is a bomb thrower who, thanks to Mayor Steve Bach’s decision not to seek a second term, appears to have few targets for his bombs. He probably can’t win, but he can be a spoiler. His opponents wish him well, since they’re all convinced that they could beat him in a runoff.
Maybe so, but this is Colorado Springs. Admiral Nelson famously said, “No captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of the enemy.” Doug Lamborn might say, “No candidate will fail of election if he places him/herself to the right of all of his/her rivals.”
After the disastrous elections of 2013, which brought Joel Miller, Don Knight, Helen Collins, Andy Pico and Keith King to the Council dais, we can expect the traditional power structure to regroup and put a lot of money and muscle behind preferred candidates for City Council. Three at-large seats will be in play, as well as the district seat vacated by Joel Miller. It’s also possible that Helen Collins will be removed by a recall election.
• Mayor/Council wars: If any of the Big Three becomes mayor, the bitter infighting that has marked the Bach era will end. All know how to compromise without yielding ground, how to schmooze, placate and, if necessary, show the iron fist in the velvet glove.
If John Suthers prevails, I want to be there when Council President Keith King tells him Council must have its very own city attorney. Imagine the icy stare, disbelieving smile and courteous dismissal.
Keith, you’re talking to District Attorney/U.S. Attorney/Colorado Attorney General John Suthers! Let’s make a deal: Don’t give him legal advice, and he won’t tell you how to sell waterbeds.
• Legislate, regulate, confiscate: That’s how many business people view government. That such a culture had embedded itself in city government is debatable, but Mayor Bach initiated many positive changes.
Moving from a hierarchical, rule-bound regulatory organization to a more freewheeling, entrepreneurial and customer-centric local government hasn’t been easy. His successor will pay lip service to Bach’s reforms, but maintaining and advancing them will be painful.
In sharp contrast to 2011, when the four leading vote-getters in the first mayoral round (Richard Skorman, Bach, Brian Bahr and Buddy Gilmore) were successful business owners, none of the 2015 hopefuls has any significant business experience.
This may not bode well for business. A mayor who has personal experience with governmental roadblocks and disincentives can move quickly and instinctively to remove them for others. A mayor without such experience may be less decisive.
[pullquote]It could be downtown’s best year since 1901 when General Palmer opened the second Antlers Hotel.[/pullquote]Will Council continue its feckless ways, or will a new, pro-business majority take over? Worst-case scenario: Mayor Joel Miller and a compliant Council lead us down the road to serfdom. Best case: Mayor Lathen/Suthers/Makepeace forges a cordial alliance with a newly progressive Council, business booms, and we’ll party like it’s 1999!
• Downtown: up or down? This could be downtown’s best year since 1901 when General Palmer opened the second Antlers Hotel. The national economy is growing, the state is booming and the local economy is gathering strength. The burbs are full of geezers, but the city isn’t immune to national generational shifts. We’ll see more downtown businesses, more downtown jobs and, inevitably, more downtown dwellers.
Where will they dwell? We might see the investors who own the vacant half-block on the 600 block of South Cascade (bounded by Moreno and Rio Grande) throw up a multi-story, 100-unit structure. Apparently managed by Griffis-Blessing, the property is owned by 600 S. Cascade LLC.
Expect work to begin on the U.S. Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame as early as midsummer. Dick Celeste is as close to being an irresistible force as anyone in the city (with the possible exception of Pam Shockley-Zalabak!), and he’ll have most of the dough raised within the next couple of months.
And with any luck, Bob Cope and his private sector allies will figure out how to fund the downtown stadium/events center, construction cranes will sprout downtown and Council meetings will become boring and productive.
Happy New Year!