These carefully managed, publicly financed advertorials have about as much to do with democracy as, say, the launch of the latest version of Windows.
Indeed, they have a lot in common: Just as we're all stuck with Windows, so, too, are we all stuck with the major parties. And like Windows, they're clumsy, unresponsive, maddeningly obtuse and controlled by very rich people who use them to get even richer.
Anyway, back here in our noisy, sprawling, and safely Republican little metropolis, it looks like our newly annointed Deputy City Manager/Police Chief Lorne Kramer has been carefully studying the art of political campaign management.
According to a July 10 memo from Kramer to his boss, City Manager Jim Mullen, the Chief lays out his proposals for creating and implementing a campaign whose goal would be to persuade the hapless citizenry to vote for a tax increase in April 2001.
In the memo, which was passed along by a mischievous insider, Kramer identified no fewer than 15 "action items" which are to be put in motion over the next few months, in order for the city to mount a credible campaign to get the tax increase passed. Here are a few of them:
Kramer proposes recruiting "suitable" public safety employees (i.e., cops and firefighters) to shill for the city's latest tax scheme. Kramer's hand-picked model employees (i.e. his Stepford Wives) would make up the city's "employee's speakers bureau" and would be charged with "selling the need" for the city tax to various community groups.
OK. Here's a reality check: If you're identified as a "suitable" city employee for this position, and refuse to go along with it, what do you think would happen to your career prospects? You'd be toast.
The memo reveals that the campaign is being conceived and directed by high-level city employees, including SCIP director Elena Nunez, city public communications flak Eugenia Echols, budget director Mike Anderson and comprehensive planning manager Ira Joseph. These individuals will be assigned the duties of making the effort "credible" and dressing it up as a citizens'-driven campaign. But make no mistake: Despite Kramer's call for the need to "find space somewhere for a volunteer war room," in a "private sector location" to demonstrate "neutrality," the city will be running the show.
Once again, the Convention and Visitors Bureau's political muscle is evident. In his memo, Kramer greases the skids for their support of his tax increase by reassuring the bureau that its bed and car tax money pit will not be tapped by the proposed tax increase. Of course the bed and car tax funnels $3 million annually to the industry's trade association, which is, duh, the Convention and Visitors Bureau!
Hey, and what about that pesky impact fee policy issue, which has put the city and local developers at loggerheads for at least two years? Well, Kramer wants to "resolve the impact fee policy issue prior to the SCIP campaign beginning." Translated, that means that the city is ready to roll over for the development community and cut a deal to get their support (which Kramer calls "critical" in the memo).
In the document, Kramer directs Mike Anderson to initiate a meeting with Economic Development Corporation boss Rocky Scott, Classic Homes honcho Doug Stimple, ur-developer Scott Smith, and city officials Ira Joseph and Tom Paine. Good news for developers; less so for those who think developers ought to pay higher impact fees.
Finally, Kramer suggests that campaign "volunteers" should be recruited from the funny little cults that train "leaders" for our fair city. These organizations, Colorado Springs Leadership Institute and Pikes Peak Leadership, would obviously be delighted to get the Manpower franchise for the campaign. By training apprentice members of the establishment, they serve the same purpose that the Cheyenne Mountain Country Club and the El Paso Club served a generation ago; they keep out the riffraff.
So here you have it: a bunch of city employees planning a political campaign in their official capacities, proposing to cut deals with the powerful to accommodate political needs, strong-arming city employees to work on the campaign, and doing it all on the taxpayers' dime.
Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but it seems to me that this entire effort is, at the very least, improper, reprehensible, and dishonest, and may even be illegal as well.
I think it stinks, but what do I know? After all, I dropped out of the Citizens' Goals Leadership program.