John Hazlehurst

John Hazlehurst

The older I get, the more change rattles me. What’s going on Downtown? What’s going on in the White House? What’s going on with hiring decisions? Is that a new tilt in the playing field? Am I going to hold forth about the good old days? You bet. 

In one year and four days we’ll go to the polls and — wait a minute, polls and Election Day are so 20th century! We’ll have mailed in our ballots, Dominion’s machines will tabulate them and we’ll know the results. Meanwhile, Kevin O’Neil may have already broken ground on his proposed 25-story Downtown apartment building, Downtown streets and sidewalks will be even more crowded, and with any luck Perry Sanders will revive his long-dormant scheme to build a 100-story Downtown mega-building.

But let’s start with the election. 

If Biden does Colorado Springs a big fat favor by reversing Trump’s relocation of the Space Force to Alabama, could a competent Democrat actually ride his coattails and win in the Fifth District? I don’t think so — that’s a bridge too far, even if Democrats do spectacularly well in the midterms. And Doug Lamborn will get credit for teaming up with our two Democratic senators to reverse Trump’s decision.

Remember when Biden was expected to bring calm, stability and experience to the White House? What we’ve gotten is a mess, symbolized by our improvised flight from Afghanistan. You can blame it on Biden’s bullheaded exit plans and/or his refusal to listen to senior military advisers, but some of the blame lies elsewhere.

Consider our sluggish, rule-bound Washington bureaucracy. They might have formulated plans to resettle our compromised Afghan allies as soon as Biden was elected, but doing so would have meant ignoring guidelines, rules, customs, laws and procedures. Rather than moving fast and breaking things, they moved slowly and did nothing. Tragedy ensued.

Biden may stage a comeback by pushing through some infrastructure legislation, but that may not help much. Voters often act on their fears, not gratitude. That’s why Republicans have seized upon wokeness, “cancel culture,” structural racism and defunding the police as campaign themes. 

For most Independents and ticket-splitters, those concerns are marginal. That doesn’t matter — what does matter is unspoken and unacknowledged.

The other day I spent some time with a longtime family friend. Springs native Jeff (not his real name), 46, is a senior administrator in a California university. He’s brilliant, charismatic and was clearly headed for a major leadership position in academia — until he wasn’t.

“It doesn’t matter how good you are,” he said. “The only candidates that get hired for the top jobs are Black, people of color or female. White males aren’t really in the mix.”

Liberals applaud such a cultural shift. After all, women and people of color have suffered from misogyny and racism for centuries — it’s about time the playing field was leveled.

“The [academic] culture is scary,” Jeff continued. “You can’t make the smallest misstep, say one awkward thing, or inadvertently trigger a student. Older professors who take freedom of speech literally are forced out or retire. It’s not just California — it’s the same everywhere.”

Jeff and his spouse, Diane, have three kids. What will their future look like? The playing field once tilted in their favor, and now it seems to be tilted to disadvantage them.

It may be that millions of swing voters are concerned about the future of their kids and grandkids. That could help erase the House Democratic majority in 2022. Personally, I don’t care about the follies of cancel culture, but I care deeply about the future of my grands and great-grands. I want equal opportunity for all kids, but I don’t want mine to pay for the sins of their ancestors (my own included!). 

Absent new pandemics or world economic collapse, O’Neil’s 25-story residential building will be finished in the summer of 2024. Designed by the eminent architect (and Springs native) David Tryba, it’ll be another big step on our road to becoming Downtown Denver Lite. Call me a troglodyte, but I liked the quaint little city of 2000 or so — The Ritz, Southside Johnnie’s, Old Chicago and plenty of parking. The older you get, the more attractive is the past.

But maybe Denver Lite will be pretty great. I know; I’ll have fun crashing Kevin’s opening party. Just look for the crazy old man on an e-bike speeding heedlessly through the youthful crowds on Vermijo Street…

John Hazlehurst, whose great-grandfather came to Colorado in 1859, is a Colorado Springs native. He has worked as a reporter/columnist for the Indy since 1997 and the Business Journal since 2006.

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