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Random thoughts. Mercifully, the primaries are over. But our suffering has only begun; for the next couple of months, expect to be assaulted with whatever lies are currently fashionable among candidates and their handlers.

And there's one lie that's part of every candidate's repertoire, which will appear in every brochure, every mailer and every campaign ad. And what might that be?

I'm a leader! Yessir, yes ma'am, I'm ready to lead. I've led in the past, I'm leading now, and I will lead in the future. I'm strong/tested/resolute and fearless in my all-too-evident leadership.

Baloney. Politicians are supple, weak-minded, infinitely adaptable and eager to compromise. They'll do whatever it takes to get elected -- and, once elected, whatever it takes to stay there. They have infinitely sensitive antennae; the successful ones figure out what the voters want and do it.

In our democracy, leaders don't run for elected office; they become lobbyists for special interests, agents for change. So when a candidate describes him/herself as a "leader," imagine his/her kindergarten report card: "Plays well with others." "Seldom takes the initiative." "Wants to be liked." And "Already campaigning to be class president."

And what about U.S. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, who managed to blow 86 grand in campaign funds playing the stock market?

Not only that, 'ol Ben took some of his remaining contributions and bought hisself a custom tractor-trailer for a little under $200 thousand. Seems as how this particular monster truck is going to be his rolling campaign headquarters for his 2004 Senate race.

As F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, "... the very rich are not like you and me." Nope, and neither are U.S. Senators. If Campbell is typical of the breed (and I fear that he is), they're spoiled trust-fund babies with virtually unlimited access to money and no adult supervision.

I admit to a certain sour satisfaction that the Gazette, in last Sunday's long article about the drought, made exactly the same points (albeit in about seven times as many words) that I made in a column several weeks ago.

But I don't think that many of us are seriously considering the drought's real message, so here it is: Economic/population growth, as a way of ensuring the State's prosperity, doesn't work. In fact, it'll end by destroying what all of us love about Colorado.

We're already running up against natural limits; we need to start imagining a different paradigm, one of conservation, severely restricted growth and realistic planning for the future.

I know, I know -- everything's just fine and I've swallowed the hysterical line of the no-growthers. Why, agriculture uses close to 85 percent of Colorado's water and we let California steal hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of water from us!

If we just take back our water from the thieving Californians, and stop farmers and ranchers from flood irrigating, we can keep on growing indefinitely. Sorry, folks -- those are fantasies. Unless the drought ends and never recurs, there's no there there.

And do we really want the kind of Colorado that growth, continued indefinitely, will create?

The water buffaloes and growth addicts are apparently perfectly happy with the prospect of a state with neither ranching nor agriculture, without free-flowing rivers and with a population numbering in eight figures.

As Chips Barry, president of the Denver Water Board, remarked a few months ago, "There's enough water in Colorado to support 15 million people."

Suppose Colorado Springs shut off the growth machine? What would happen? Who'd win, and who'd lose?

Losers would include those of us employed in the real estate and construction sectors, which would shrink dramatically. Change would ripple through the economy, creating hard times for some.

There'd be fewer houses, schools, highways, factories and restaurants built. The media would suffer; with fewer new businesses and new customers, advertisers would cut back.

But there'd be winners, too. If Boulder's experience is a guide, limiting new home construction would cause the value of existing houses to soar, increasing both the owner's equity and the County's tax base.

Absent the pressures of growth, there'd be little reason to increase taxes; after all, Colorado Springs didn't even have a local sales tax until the late '60s. We might start to see our city as a place to live in, improve and enjoy, rather than a killing field -- a place to make a lot of money and move on.

I'd like to see our so-called leaders start an honest debate about such a course, instead of just passing the problem on to the next generation of fearful politicos.

It's worth a shot.

-- jhazlehurst@csindy.com

  • John Hazlehurst on leadership.

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