Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mayoral candidates can talk, except when they're in the dark

Posted By on Wed, Mar 2, 2011 at 4:51 PM

Imagine the scene: 400 people, including most of what passes for the Colorado Springs establishment, waiting in a corridor outside the Fine Art Center’s magnificent auditorium. They were there to attend the latest mayoral forum, featuring the nine middle-aged men in suits who want to be the city’s next mayor.
This one Tuesday night, principally sponsored by members of the business community, promised to be at least mildly interesting.

Brian Bahr
  • Brian Bahr

One problem: The power was out. The corridor was illuminated only by the faint afternoon light that filtered through the building’s ancient skylights. The auditorium doors remained closed. And where were the candidates? Sitting in the dark, waiting for the lights to go on.

It was too perfect. The candidates, all of whom would later tout themselves as men of action, ready to lead, ready to bring jobs, prosperity, confidence, and growth to our bedraggled city, couldn’t do anything about it. And neither could the assembled power brokers in the dim, airless corridor, who waited without complaint, sure that the power would eventually go on.

After 25 minutes or so, the lights flickered on, and we obediently trouped in.

The evening started well, with a moving rendition of "God Bless America" by the Children’s Chorale. Identically clad in red shirts and dark trousers, the kids’ performance set an unfairly high bar for the candidates who would follow them.

It reminded me of a concert decades ago, when a performer complained about following legendary R & B star Bo Diddley on stage.

“That Bo just digs a hole in the stage, and you just fall in it,” he said. “You might as well be dead — they don’t even notice you.”

Alas, none of the candidates realized that they should simply slink quietly away into the night, and let the crowd disperse to downtown’s welcoming drinking establishments.

Bloviation began.

The candidates regaled us with tales of their superb leadership/business/political skills, promising (insert cliché of your choice).

Brian Bahr: world-class city, focus on the future, a brighter tomorrow for our youth.

Richard Skorman: I’ve been there, I have experience, I’ve accomplished things (TOPS, SDS), I’ve twice been chair of PPACG.

Steve Bach: 45 year resident, Fort Carson/UCCS/track record/getting people to work together/founder of EDC/I love this city.

Buddy Gilmore: 40 years in DoD/I understand how the city’s biggest economic sector works/two daughters and seven grandchildren here in town/I’m the ‘How’ candidate.

Tom Gallagher: I’ve turned up every rock and I’ve seen the slime under them (huh?), this is the best city on the planet, the people here are the best on the planet.

Dave Munger: I’ve grown jobs/make sure that people who are affected by our decisions have a voice/experience in military/business/education/non-profit sectors.

Then the moderator, UCCS chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak, launched softballs at the candidates, who were given 45 seconds to reply. A typical question: “When you drive down I-25 ten years from now, how will the city have changed thanks to your time as mayor?”

Unwilling to endure another hour’s worth of sound bites, I headed for downtown.

Earlier, I had asked Amnet CEO Trevor Dierdorf how he measured the business-friendliness of a candidate.
“If they’ve owned a business, they’re business-friendly,” he said, noting that candidates Bach, Bahr, Gilmore, Munger and Skorman all qualify.

They may indeed be business-friendly, but are they good businessmen? It’d be interesting to see their financials from, say, the last five years.

Have they shown a profit? Have they created jobs, or shed employees? Have they invested in their companies, or used them as cash cows? Have they paid themselves exorbitant salaries, while stiffing their employees? What’s their debt/equity ratio? Are there short-term notes coming due? Do employees cycle rapidly through the company, or do they remain for years? What about lawsuits? And have they paid their taxes, or do they use doubtful strategies not to simply minimize but to avoid taxation entirely?

These are legitimate questions to ask of the folks who want to lead us, but don’t hold your breath. They’ll never be answered. Why burn your bridges and bare all for the sake of a $100,000 job?

Which leads us to another mischievous question for the candidates:

Any six-figure job in the private sector would require the successful candidate to submit to random drug testing. Would all of the mayoral candidates agree to take such a test right now? After all, gentlemen, you’re asking for a virtually unbreakable four-year contract, so we can’t very well wait until after the election.

So here’s the little plastic cup … it’ll only take a minute!

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