Farewell, and a final plea 

Your Turn

I write this on my last day in elected office on City Council. Our family's move from Colorado Springs is a bittersweet one. It is sweet as we are returning to our home state and preparing ourselves for added financial security. It is bitter as we love this community, and I wanted to serve out my last term and help the city cope with the enormous threat to our quality of life that lies ahead — immediately ahead.

Colorado Springs is at a turning point, and our quality of life is at risk if we do not act decisively. A yes vote on Measure 2C will freeze city services at the 2009 level and prevent further cuts in 2010, including police and fire personnel reductions. Also, a no vote on Douglas Bruce's Measure 300 will prevent even further financial deterioration and service cuts.

Those votes will give Colorado Springs the time needed to find and implement long-term solutions. We need time to come together as a total community to assess all revenue and service alternatives and to plan for our long-range prosperity without the immediate pressure of additional cuts. We need to agree on true Taxpayer's Bill of Rights reforms that must include modifying the recovery formula.

Meanwhile, my personal thoughts also turn to reflecting on my tenure as part of City Council. I am shocked by the lack of involvement of the average citizen and the low percentage of voters participating in local elections. During my service, despite many serious problems such as police officer murders, outrageous prices paid for property by Utilities and serious fires, the No. 1 item producing the most e-mails and phone calls was a citizen's request to keep a pot-bellied pig, violating a city ordinance.

My tombstone votes (those votes I'd like on my tombstone when I am put into the ground) include those related to Red Rock Canyon Open Space, the Southern Delivery System, the U.S. Olympic headquarters, changing Utilities' policy on sewer breaks, helping businesses stay here, keeping senior and community centers open, the efforts to renovate South Nevada Avenue, the Springs in Bloom flower-bed adoption program, and helping the homeless find homes and jobs. While not a tombstone vote, my greatest satisfaction has been getting requests from citizens for my involvement in a local neighborhood problem or a needed change, and helping to make it happen.

That's what makes our city great. But it's all threatened by Mr. Bruce, who is demonstrating his disdain and lack of trust in voters. He has shifted from being on a crusade for taxpayers to being all about him and his plans.

If we don't start working together without regard for party affiliations, such designations will matter little as we view the destruction of our wonderful community. Our elected leaders must demonstrate by their actions and votes that the good of the community is their driving force.

Even when the economy improves, if we don't address preserving our quality of life, we will continue to see property values fall, unemployment increase and city service cuts continue. Public safety, especially, will become second-rate. Our children will leave for careers elsewhere, companies that are here now will downsize or leave, and few companies, if any, will move or expand here. Also, our huge reliance on the nation's defense industry will begin to unravel.

Nobody wants to be taxed any more than necessary to provide the revenue for basic services. We should always demand efficiency in local government and hold those we elect accountable.

I hope the citizens of Colorado Springs will begin the process when their ballots arrive this month by voting yes on 2C and no on Mr. Bruce's 300. Those who oppose 2C claim cuts in services are scare tactics. Yes, the prospects are scary and a definite threat to our quality of life, but they are not scare tactics.

Please send the message that we are going to control our own destiny by educating ourselves beyond the emotional rhetoric, voting with knowledge and putting the welfare of our community first and foremost.

I see a bright future for Colorado Springs if the citizens will rise up and take control of our city away from Mr. Bruce and others who want to direct our future while looking in the rear-view mirror — rather than through the windshield.

Jerry Heimlicher left City Council on Sept. 30 after serving six-plus years. He and his wife, Mary Margaret, will move to their native Memphis, Tenn., in November.

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