Throughout her eight years on the Colorado Springs City Council, Jan Martin has tried to take the high road — even when it wasn’t the popular way to go.
She has believed strongly in the need for dealing with stormwater. She feels the city’s residents should be convinced to pay more (yes, in taxes) to develop the trend-setting city that many of us want and dream of having, from mass transit to parks, from road improvements to reasonable pay for City Councilors. Also, she wants to make City for Champions a reality.
Since first being elected in 2007, Martin never has wavered from her initial top priority — always trying to make Colorado Springs a better place.
As her final months in office wind down, though, she’s having to settle for small victories. Last Tuesday, in her final chance to influence ballot issues for a municipal election, Martin became the one picking up the pieces. Mayor Steve Bach and fellow Councilors Merv Bennett and Jill Gaebler had tried to salvage some consolation after the stormwater proposal fell short in November, but they got no traction with Council’s entrenched majority.
Martin made sure it wasn’t a total defeat, pushing through a non-binding resolution that — if the post-election Council doesn’t toss it aside — would make sure the city spends at least $19 million a year on stormwater until the next “big idea” comes along.
That might not sound like much, but it might be enough to postpone the next confrontation with Pueblo over the Southern Delivery System. That alone makes Martin’s effort worthwhile.
She followed that with one more resolution — Council saying it wouldn’t allow C4C’s downtown stadium and event center to go forward with any public funding unless voters approve. Again, some might see that as meaningless. But it should deter, for now, the vultures still wanting to kill that portion of City for Champions, if not the entire package.
So it goes in the treacherous world of city politics. Sometimes you have to lower your sights and settle for what you can get, especially if it keeps alive the chance to prevail later.
Martin has much reason to feel frustrated near the end of her Council run. Given how popular she’s been with voters, dominating all opponents in both 2007 and especially 2011, she certainly had more of a mandate than anyone else on the dais.
In retrospect, perhaps she should have run for mayor in 2011. Certainly, with a clear edge in seniority over everyone else, she deserved the chance to serve her final two years (2013-15) as Council president. She could have stopped the toxic erosion that has taken place.
She’s done so much to earn everyone’s respect. She grew up here in the Baby Boomer generation and came from a solid business background, worked in her family’s Buick dealership, earned her MBA degree and has run her own business consulting company for years. She has mentored young professionals and entrepreneurs, helping many find their niche and stay here. She became politically active as the years went by, then decided her best path was City Council, saying the nonpartisan nature of city politics fit her moderate style.
In her first term, Martin had time to develop her presence, surrounded then by Council veterans including Larry Small, Randy Purvis, Margaret Radford, Scott Hente, Jerry Heimlicher, Darryl Glenn, Tom Gallagher and then-Mayor Lionel Rivera. In those days, newcomers could listen, learn and pick their spots.
But everything changed in Martin’s second term. Stability and equilibrium vanished, many brash newcomers ignored that “listening” stage, and Council’s lack of collective wisdom became more and more glaring.
Away from meetings, Martin has talked about watching that corrosion of behavior and cooperative spirit. She has tried repeatedly to lecture her colleagues without being condescending, asking them to set politics and animosities aside, and instead do what’s best for the city. But the ideologues feel empowered, and they’re stubborn.
So it was again this week. Mayor Steve Bach sent Council his $160 million ballot issue proposal with heavy backing from business leaders and Colorado Springs Forward. But that Council majority clearly didn’t care what the business leaders wanted.
Something tells me the day will come when future city leaders fully appreciate what Jan Martin sought and achieved this week.
Something else tells me Martin isn’t finished with being a prominent, influential figure in this city.
She insists she wants a break, and that’s understandable. But she deserves another shot, with the authority and respect she has fully earned, to find one more challenge and use it to help enhance Colorado Springs’ future.
We can only hope that’s exactly what happens.
(Note to readers: Ralph Routon will be on vacation the next three weeks. His column will return in late February.)