Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Nowhere is this saying more applicable than with the El Paso County Commissioners.
But while the public fumes and fusses over the arrogant decisions of the commissioners to disobey the will of the voters, ignoring the public interest, one other saying is just as applicable.
The public is getting what it deserves for ignoring the fact that we are supposed to have a two-party political system. The nave, local, greater Colorado Springsarea public has for too long assumed that only Republicans, and all Republicans in every county office, make for the best government.
County government has been rotten for a long time -- because county government is the Republican Party, unaccountable in any meaningful way to anybody but party insiders. Yet local taxpayers pay for it. And keep voting for it. Why should they be surprised?
The failure of the voters of El Paso County to elect at least one Democrat, or even independent, to the Board of County Commissioners for fully 30 years has permitted the cozy, overpaid one-party club.
This club is overseen by a very highly paid, crafty administrator, Terry Harris, who's also a former elected Republican commissioner (detect a revolving door here?).
Partisan county government gets precious little effective press scrutiny, which almost never detects power mongering before the fact. Thus county government operates largely behind closed doors, meeting in public as seldom as it legally has to, to plot and plan whatever it wants to do, without a single opposition-party whistle-blower.
So now, when it is too late, four out of five commissioners have defied the will of the voters who voted 2 to 1 against a large bond issue for the jail. They are going ahead anyway, by stripping needed services, and the City of Colorado Springs, of their budgets.
In essence, they are saying, "To hell with the voters. We are kings. We didn't even work hard to convince the voters we needed a jail. We have the power to ignore them. And we shall."
Gen. Palmer, who founded Colorado Springs and made downtown design decisions to preserve its beauty, would have run today's commissioners out of town. Oops. He wouldn't have needed to. One commissioner, Ed Jones, got pushed up to the state Legislature, even though he has a sordid past, at which even Republican District Attorney Jeanne Smith winked.
You think this kind of arrogant behavior is new?
How about 20 years ago when all-Republican commissioners refused for 14 years to go to bid for their computer services, which were overpriced, obsolete and provided by one vendor who was also the sole technical adviser to the Board? Only citizen action got that rectified.
How about the secret relationship 10 years ago between the crook county pension fund manager and county officials elected to supervise him who were also getting personal loans from him? The stink was so great then, even the local Republican Party had to dump one of their own and put the other one in jail.
Meanwhile, county employees who are hired or appointed by one-party officials or, even worse, by the nonelected administrator, keep their mouths shut, at risk of their jobs.
The time has come for the local Democratic Party -- with support from the state Democratic Party -- to nominate a tough-minded candidate with no ties to the incestuous local Republican Party to fill the next commissioner seat.
And it's up to Independents, Democrats, and principled Republicans to elect him or her.
It's either that or El Paso County will continue to get the lousy government its voters deserve. And continue to send losers to the state House of Representatives. And later even to Congress -- all schemed for by the money behind the El Paso County Republican Party, whose powermongers can be counted on the fingers of one hand. This has been going on for a half century.
Wake up, voters. The El Paso Republican Party has no clothes.
It's time for them to show a little shame.
Retired Col. Dave Hughes is a Colorado Springs native who spearheaded the revitalization of Old Colorado City in 1970 and is still active in business. He is a registered Democrat.
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