Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Old gives way to new at Council ceremony

Posted By on Tue, Apr 19, 2011 at 5:16 PM

Lionel Rivera
  • Lionel Rivera

In a cheerful ceremony Tuesday morning at the Pioneers Museum, our new City Council members were formally sworn in by City Clerk Kathryn Young. Five hours later, they gathered for their first meeting and chose Scott Hente as Council president with Jan Martin as president pro-tem.

The ceremony took place in the radiantly restored courtroom on the building’s second floor, arguably the city’s most beautiful interior space. The room was packed with past and present elected officials, business leaders, political junkies, and supportive family members.

Such ceremonies are very much like wedding receptions. It's a time for optimism and hope, a time to expect a serene and prosperous future, a time to put aside sour skepticism and enjoy the energy and vitality of the young folk who are about to embark on the journey of life.

And to continue the analogy, we had…

Something old

That would be myself, outgoing Vice Mayor Larry Small, and former county commissioner/state senator Ed Jones, symbolizing the vanished political past.

Something new

Six new council members, including 32-year-old Brandy Williams, who may be the youngest person elected to Council in the modern history of Colorado Springs, as well as Lisa Czelatdko, a 40-year-old mother of four beautiful (and notably well-behaved!) girls. Add Angela Dougan and the re-elected Jan Martin to the mix and poof! There goes the good ol’ downtown men’s club…

Something borrowed

The $30 million or so to support the USOC’s relocation to downtown, which soon-to-be former Mayor Lionel Rivera proudly cited as a defining achievement of the last Council.

Someone blue

Douglas Bruce and the Reform Team, who spent more than $50,000 of their own cash, and not only failed to get themselves elected but gave an inadvertent boost to the seven sensible moderates who took office.

Final observations:

- Council normally opens its meetings with a non-denominational prayer. Religiosity overflowed this ceremony, as the ceremony included both an invocation and a benediction — and both preachers cited “our Lord Jesus Christ.” For those who have spent their lives saying such prayers, the words come easily and naturally — and that’s why city staff used to carefully coach the pastors, priests, and ministers who recited the opening prayer. Most of us are Christian, but most doesn’t mean all - and Council represents everyone. Non-denominational, like non-partisan, is easy in theory but difficult in practice.

- The Presentation of Colors was movingly done by the 2nd Colorado Infantry, a local group of Civil War re-enactors. This year marks the 150th anniversary of that terrible conflict, in which my maternal great-grandfather Col. Charles Farnsworth fought for the Union, opposing in battle my paternal great-grandfather Gen. John Gill.

It occurred to me that it would have been fitting to have not only Union re-enacters, but their Confederate counterparts (in this case, the Colorado unit of the 9th VA infantry) involved in the ceremony - but how? Presenting the Confederate flag? That would have really made the national news! The Colorado flag? Dave Hughes, our staunchly pro-union local historian, who has carefully chronicled Colorado’s role in the war, would likely disapprove.

The Civil War is over, but it’s not finished. The anger and divisions of the time still endure, albeit in modern dress. And as our new elected officials enter public life, and participate in the “action and passion” of their times, they would do well to remember those terrible times.

Ladies and gentlemen, a last piece of advice; be civil, thoughtful, and courteous, and treat all who come before you with respect.

And just to relieve your minds: I asked Attorney General John Suthers (whose calm and wisdom you would do well to emulate) whether the Mayor or City Council could grant Douglas Bruce legislative immunity, if he so requested.

His astonished answer: “No!”

One more thing you don’t have to worry about.

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