Thursday, June 30, 2011

Bach's 'State of the City': An only slightly skeptical take

Posted By on Thu, Jun 30, 2011 at 4:26 PM

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The State of the City event Thursday featured not only a sit-down lunch for 700, but a brass fanfare, a violin/guitar performance, and a particularly annoying video touting the "Spirit of Colorado Springs."

We’ve all suffered through such videos. They’re usually part of the fare at corporate get-togethers, and herald an excruciating hour or two of puffery.

[For more on the video, and the atmosphere at the event, see J. Adrian Stanley's post here.]

Awards are awarded, speeches are made by folks who ought to be enjoined from addressing the public, big shots in the audience are recognized, and the Big Man/Big Woman is fulsomely praised.

Soon, he/she will ascend the podium to deliver a tiresome and interminable address, thereby bringing the event to a thankful end.

The State of the City lunch conformed precisely to the corporate template, until Mayor Steve Bach (the Big Man) spoke.

His speech was brief, unpretentious and faintly humorous. He broke sharply from the dreary recitals of his predecessors. He didn’t spend the next 30 minutes praising the city and enumerating all of its remarkable accomplishments.

Instead, Bach summarized the city’s problems in a few sentences: unemployment hovering around 10 percent, flat city revenues, net job losses in the city over the past 10 years, vanishing young professionals, bloated city personnel costs, and increasing demand for city services. He noted that while the city’s military presence has “saved our bacon” during the past decade, we can’t count on it in the future.

“Those decisions are made elsewhere,” he said.

Bach then announced a wage/hiring/promotion freeze for city employees, which he later confirmed was a first step in radically restructuring city government.

“We need to quickly achieve a smarter, leaner city government,” he said, promising to implement zero-based budgeting in the next year.

Bach ended with a call to the audience to step up, to work together, and to help forge shared goals.
“We’re a fragmented community without a shared vision or a shared action plan,” he said, “but from this day we will go forward together.”

Congratulated on the brevity of his speech, the mayor deflected any praise.

“Actually, I ran five minutes over,” he said. “I was timing it on my phone.”

Can Bach actually change things? We’ll see — but whatever your opinion of his nascent administration, the lunch was well-attended by the city’s power elite, most of whom arrived at least half an hour before it was scheduled to begin, and engaged in furious networking.

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