As one of the political leaders of Colorado Springs, I have some observations regarding the recent election results. Colorado College Professor Bob Loevy was right on in his assessment that the political leaders failed to support the issues they had placed on the ballot. Although I know he did not intend it as a compliment, former Councilmember John Hazlehurst also made a point in his statement that elected leaders should have done what they do best, "campaign."
As the people elected to serve the public, we failed in our most basic function. Ballot issues are not developed in a vacuum. I can only speak for myself, but I owed my fellow citizens better than this. While I had read hundreds of pages of documentation, statistics and financial data, I did not ensure that voters had the same information. My decision to support MEERTA was based on stacks of documents almost a foot tall, but I failed to get out and share that information with the voters.
In population, we are the second largest city in Colorado, but geographically, we are the largest. Did I make the case that while we like the "elbow room" offered by suburban living, we also must recognize that public safety and infrastructure cost more because of it? Did I remind my fellow citizens that our many parks, trails and open space, envied by many, cost more than alternatives?
The election outcome will not change our needs regarding public safety or infrastructure. Those priorities must be dealt with, and so must transportation needs. The rider of need is still there. The choice rider still has no choice. And though the District 11 mill-levy effort failed, our children still turn to us for the best educational opportunities.
Our fire and safety needs will not diminish. The gang wannabe is still vulnerable. The heart-attack victim, on an errand across town from home, still wants speedy lifesaving response. The drivers want and need to get where they're going. The list goes on ...
It was not arrogance, but ignorance for some of us, as newly elected representatives. But a valuable lesson has been learned. How ironic that our city councilmembers were attending a retreat, studying the art of collaborative leadership and financial planning on Election Day. We failed in one of the most fundamental lessons -- getting good information to a very inclusive group to move a community forward.
In closing, I must offer a brief analogy. Much like a trip to the supermarket, where you get to the checkout line with $100 worth of items, but only $80 to pay for it, some things will have to be put back on the shelf. We have some hard choices to make in the next few weeks.
Joanne Colt is a city councilmember at-large.
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