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Running the city like a business

One of our august city councilors remarked the other day that the current elected body is different than of years past; its members have the perspective of businessmen, and they intend to make the city function more like a business.

I don't know how many times I've heard wet-behind-the-ears rookie elected officials utter that particular banality. Too many, that's for sure.

And, of course, we know what our council member means when he talks that businessman talk: exactly nothing. Like all pols, he'll pander to the electorate, try to please his campaign contributors, and hope that nothing goes seriously wrong, so that he can either be re-elected or move on to another office.

But why not take him, and his colleagues, at their word, and make 'em run the city like a business?

As any businessperson knows, the secret of success is to control your costs, deploy your resources effectively, and, whenever possible dominate your market. In examining the city budget, it's clear that we fall short in almost every area.

Labor costs are, by a long shot, the largest component of the city budget. Our workforce is packed with long-serving, middle-aged bureaucrats, police officers and firefighters who are both extraordinarily expensive to retain and far less effective than younger workers.

Besides, we pay through the nose for benefits, notably healthcare, just to keep these superannuated fossils in running order.

Any bottom-dollar businessperson knows the solution: fire 'em all, and hire illegals! OK, OK, let's be politically correct and call 'em undocumented immigrants -- in any case, they'll work a lot harder for a lot less than any current jobholder. Right off the bat, we'll save millions!

But what about the cops? Surely, we can't just hire untrained, inexperienced folks to replace the men and women in blue. No problem -- we just send a couple of recruiters to Iraq, where, at this very moment, thousands of fine young people are being trained to be policemen/women by our own people! You can bet that they'd far rather be patrolling the quiet streets of Colorado Springs than dodging bullets in Baghdad. The speeders zipping past my house on 21st Street don't seem to pay much attention to our plump, pleasant, policemen; they might give a little respect a lean, mustachioed Iraqi totin' an AK-47.

And as for specialized functions like development review, budgeting, auditing, and the city attorney's office: outsource it all! And I don't mean to a bunch of high-priced consultants who'll hire the same damn bureaucrats and lawyers and charge us twice as much -- nope, send it all to India and China. Don't tell me that they don't have accountants and bureaucrats and lawyers and such over there in Bombay who'll do twice as much work for a fraction of what we pay.

Looks to me as if we could fire about half of the city's workforce, and replace the rest with low-cost, no-benefit contract labor. And that'd mean we could get rid of City Hall and the City Administration Building. Which brings me to another area, namely asset deployment.

I mean, come on. What kind of business has thousands of acres of prime development land just sitting around, bringing in nothing, used only by a few scruffy hikers and bikers, not to mention these so-called "neighborhood parks," where teen-agers congregate to smoke dope and drink beer? Massive development, here we come!

And let's not forget that since we make the laws, we can shut down our competition overnight. Any developer would do exactly that, if he could -- we'll just stop annexing land, handing out building permits and approving development plans. Our own land inventory -- Palmer Park, the Garden of the Gods, Red Rocks -- will last for decades.

But there's one last problem: We're going to create overnight a business worth hundreds of millions, even billions. The shareholders -- OK, the voters -- are going to want tax cuts, or rebates, or some damn thing. But we -- the elected officials who created all this wealth -- need to get our fair share.

So let's just dissolve the city, form a corporation, distribute stock to the voters, and, naturally, give the founders their fair share. At a guess, that'd mean about 60 percent of the equity to the seven founding directors (Margaret Radford and Richard Skorman are so not team players, so let's leave 'em out!).

And that's fair -- successful businesses create multimillionaires, so why should Colorado Springs, Inc. be any different? And in all fairness, I should be one of 'em -- a nice little $3 million consulting fee would work fine.

In certified funds, please.

-- jhazlehurst@csindy.com

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