Every election has a Defining Moment, that sudden flash that encapsulates everything that is stupid, bizarre and surreal about politics.
For me, this year's Moment of Truth occurred a week or so back, when I turned on my television set and mayoral candidate Kendell Kretzschmar's image filled the screen in my living room. Mr. Kretzschmar was in the middle of answering a question during a mayoral forum, sponsored by KRDO Channel 13, which was being aired live.
The topic of the question that Mr. Kretzschmar was answering is irrelevant. What mattered was what he admitted, without any reservation at all, on live television: If elected mayor, Mr. Kretzschmar said he would execute basically anyone who disagrees with him.
The camera panned over Channel 13's News Director Dave Rose, who, moderating the event, didn't miss a beat.
"Thank you, Mr. Kretzschmar," Rose calmly intoned. "And now, for the next candidate... "
Hello? A man who wants to be mayor sanctions, on live television, executing people at whim and this is the response? "Thank you, Mr. Kretzschmar ... "
Possibly this journalist/moderator could have inquired of Mr. Kretzschmar exactly what method of execution he would prefer, if elected: Would it be a guillotine, set up in Acacia Park, perhaps? Or how about the gallows? And who would Mr. Kretzschmar appoint as high executioner? Would he consider newly-elected Councilman Tom Gallagher?
But no, this is Colorado Springs television, apparently at its finest. And for many of us who fondly remember the good old days when Mary Tyler Moore ruled the airwaves, we will never again look upon Dave Rose without conjuring up visions of Ted Baxter.
Of course, it isn't fair to single out Rose for ridicule.
Consider, for example, yet another mayoral get-together, sponsored by Channels 5/30 which was also aired live the night after Channel 13's wingding. It may as well have been a rerun from the night before: A candidate gets asked a question, something comes out of his or her mouth, and we move along to the next one.
Afterward. Channels 5/30 conducted a poll. It showed Mr. Kretzschmar's approval rating at 20 percent.
Is it any wonder so many people tune out?
Meanwhile, reporters from every local news organization -- the Independent included -- have been yukking it up among ourselves about Mr. Kretzschmar's bizarre rantings. For example, throughout the campaign, Kretzschmar claimed that lawyers and doctors should not be allowed to serve on the City Council because lawyers write laws and doctors just keep human "vegetables" alive. He promised anyone who voted for him a job. He wanted to move the city jail to the Broadmoor or to Focus on the Family and force inmates to produce their own food to stay alive.
But none of us in the media directly challenged him, or for that matter, anyone else.
In addition, few of us media types raised serious questions about the election process itself. Should we have talked about whether the bar should be raised in an effort to limit the field to serious candidates? This year, a whopping 27 people ran for office. It was downright unmanageable and as a result we know virtually nothing about a majority of the men who we elected to lead our city forward.
What will it be like, for example, to have a developer on Council for the first time in recent history? How will Scott Hente deal with the myriad of potential conflicts of interest that he is likely to routinely encounter over proposed business projects involving his friends and colleagues? And if Hente steps over the line, will his other greenhorn council colleagues challenge him?
The bottom line lesson that we learned this year is that four very decent, experienced members of the City Council abandoned their positions to run for mayor, which in actuality means little more than another vote on Council.
Theirs was a collective act of pure ego.
We have lost Ted Eastburn, who was often the sane lone voice challenging the status quo. Sallie Clark, neighborhood bulldog, is gone. Jim Null, whose expertise on water issues, has been relegated to the annals of history.
The only woman left on Council is Margaret Radford.
The only moderate left on Council is Richard Skorman.
The only other currently experienced member of the City Council is Charles Wingate, who heads to court later this month on charges of pizza-related felonies that could result in his forced resignation from office.
How will it turn out? We're about to find out. Our Day of Reckoning has arrived.
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