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Sweating silver bullets

First, a brief update on the City Auditorium: Thank you, thank you, thank you to the 500-plus folks who showed on May 21 to support our effort to preserve, protect and renovate the City Aud!

And thanks particularly to the 400-plus who signed up to become members of Friends of the City Auditorium, our newly revived support group. We'll have a Web site, telephone trees and a proper board within a couple of weeks. Frankly, I was amazed at the turnout; you just don't get that many people to show up on a Friday afternoon unless they care passionately. The gathering was energizing, moving and affirming; I guess that there are a lot of us who love that old pile of bricks.

And speaking of politics, you've got to give Mayor Lionel Rivera, Councilwoman Margaret Radford, the rest of Council, and Utilities administration (yes, the supposedly overpaid and much maligned Phil Tollefson) enormous credit for putting together the Pueblo Reservoir pipeline deal. There is nothing as difficult in Colorado politics as putting together a major water project, and what our city government has just done is only a little short of miraculous.

Remember when Denver tried to build Two Forks Reservoir in the '80s? It was vetoed by the Environmental Protection Agency. And remember when Colorado Springs tried to build the Homestake II project at about the same time? That plan was shot down by the Eagle County commissioners over on the Western Slope.

And remember just last year, when Gov. Bill Owens put all of his political muscle on the line to pass Referendum A, a billion-dollar financing vehicle for unspecified future water projects? It was defeated overwhelmingly. Rivera & Co. had to get the assent of both the cities of Pueblo and Aurora, as well as fluff up the pillows of scores of stakeholder groups. So good on ya, Lionel; that's not just good leadership, that's brilliant leadership. Let's hope that our local Republicans realize that he may be too good to stay where he is -- how 'bout Congressman Rivera, or Gov. Rivera?

So what does the pipeline deal actually mean to us? Even if the drought continues, we've dodged a bullet. Absent this project, it's conceivable that the city would have to stop issuing new water taps by 2011 or so. That'd mean a nasty local recession -- even a depression -- and a forced restructuring of our entire economy. And it'd probably mean a pronounced swing to the brutish right in city politics -- no more water? Must be the fault of those damn enviros.

What Rivera's leadership has given us is the opportunity to create a different water-use culture. We have plenty of time, collectively and individually, to change our profligate ways. But if we just go back to business as usual, come 2030, we'll be in exactly the same fix, only this time there won't be anyplace to go to get more water. Because if we continue our heedless ways, promoting water-intensive development, we'll be like the broke guy who hit the jackpot on the final spin of the slot machine -- and then put his winnings right back into the slots.

Meanwhile, how 'bout that Mike Miles? And how 'bout that Bob Schaffer? I thought Miles was nuts to stay in the U.S. Senate race when Ken Salazar announced. And now he's got top line at the primary. So no more predictions ... but I will say that Miles, in person or in a small group, is one of the most impressive men I've ever met. And it may well be that his "radical" positions -- withdrawal from Iraq, a single-payer healthcare system -- are a lot more mainstream than we imagine. I can scarcely bear to read the news from Iraq -- death, misery, and for what? And come to think of it, I don't much like paying $900 a month for health insurance.

And over in Golden, that impeccably dressed beer salesman, Pete Coors, has got to be sweating silver bullets whenever he sees Schaffer. The former Congressman is an unyielding, hard-line conservative, precisely the kind of Republican that conventional wisdom deems unelectable in a statewide race. But he's also smart, knowledgeable and a man of his word. Virtually alone among elected term-limits advocates, he actually quit Congress after six years, just as he pledged he would.

So maybe, just maybe, we'll have a race for the ages come November. Miles vs. Schaffer, Liberal vs. Conservative, two men of principle and integrity duking it out on the field of ideas.

Politics at its best. And once Salazar is done licking his wounds, he can get ready to go up against Lionel Rivera for governor in 2006.

-- johnhazlehurst@earthlink.net

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