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Take me to your mayor 

When Lionel Rivera made an awkward landing in fourth place among a field of six Republicans running for Congress last year, the folks who pay attention to this kind of stuff predicted the Colorado Springs mayor was in big trouble.

Just wait until April 2007, many uttered in ominous tones. Rivera, who just a few years ago was portrayed as the most conservative guy in the field, would be picked off like some scab by a newer, even more conservative rival.

Six months later, in an election that so far seems as dreary and lackluster as this winter, it's looking like a cakewalk for Rivera into a second term.

That's right. In two short weeks, voters will receive mail ballots asking them to select a mayor, plus four at-large city councilors, to lead the state's second-largest city forward.

No offense intended to the three others who have stepped up to run against Rivera, but when the most challenging competitor goes by the moniker "Blabbing Mike," well, you finish the sentence.

This is a huge departure from just four years ago when, of seven candidates running for mayor, four were already members of City Council. All of them quit to run; only Rivera remains. The others were Dr. Ted Eastburn, a cardiologist; Jim Null, a UCCS political science professor since 1970; and Sallie Clark, the former president of the Organization of Westside Neighbors and now a county commissioner.

Here's the lineup this year:

Tony Carpenter, who currently lists his occupation as "Frito-Lay." He is a veteran of past council elections, having run unsuccessfully for mayor in 2003 and the council two years ago. Carpenter, fired a decade ago from a job as a city truck driver, said in 2003 he was running to expose waste and cover-ups in city government.

Tony Tyler, an insurance agent, also is devoid of previous political experience, but he does have a snappy e-mail address: Onemillion@juno.com. So far Tyler has spent $225 on the campaign, including $25 for fuel.

Then there's the aforementioned Mike Coletta. For many years, Blabbing Mike has followed members of the local media around, taking innocuous photographs of them covering the news and posting them at his Web site. Dubbed the "Moose Watcher," Coletta was interviewed at length by KOAA Channels 5/30 in late 2000, when a moose showed up and spent a month hanging out in Monument Valley Park.

This year, Coletta has videotaped several of what he calls "Mayor-mercials," including one in which he criticizes Rivera's "streets of gold," which actually are riddled with potholes like the one that claimed one of Coletta's hubcaps.

Coletta may not have all four hubcaps, but at least he has a Web site. That's right. This election is so laid-back that the incumbent mayor doesn't have an Internet presence, though riveraformayor.com the site he used four years ago is currently listed as under construction and coming soon.

In the meantime, let's consider the issues of four years ago.

How far have we come?

Well, back then, the airport and synchronized traffic lights were both hot on the list. Of all the candidates, Rivera in particular stressed the importance of drumming up business by landing a low-cost airline for Colorado Springs.

Like Southwest, for example. Which subsequently has launched flights in and out of ... Denver.

Another big issue that Rivera embraced was water specifically, patching things up with Pueblo, which has been mad at Colorado Springs over water issues for many years so the city could move forward with the Southern Delivery System water project.

Four years and many hundred thousand gallons of spilled sewage down Fountain Creek later, it's pretty safe to say that Pueblo still is upset with Colorado Springs.

The caveat: It would be unfair, and unwise, to blame Mayor Rivera for all that's broken.

The good news for Rivera: He'll likely have four more years to fix everything.

degette@csindy.com

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