Looking on the bright side 

Here's an early prediction for next year's Pulitzer prize: John Burns of the New York Times, whose reporting from Baghdad has been courageous, brilliant and utterly uncompromising.

Robbed and threatened with death by Saddam's goons, Burns didn't flinch. He wrote the truth: that the Iraqi government, in power for a generation, was simply a continuing criminal enterprise. Easy enough to say if you're a talk-show blowhard; not so easy if Saddam's secret police just told you they were taking you to a place from which you would not return.

Alas for Iraq; the last century has not been kind to that ancient land, which has known little but war, colonial occupation and corrupt, brutal government. By contrast, here in America, and in Colorado Springs, we have been extraordinarily fortunate.

I thought about that good fortune last Sunday morning, while I was fixing my front door.

Our house, a fine old West Sider, was built in 1898. The front door is solid oak, except for a large sheet of beveled glass fitted in the door's upper half. The glass was a little loose, so I reset the wooden moldings that keep it in place.

As I was working, I realized that this was the original glass, still intact after 105 years. Not so surprising; indeed, many, if not all, of the 10,000-plus Victorian buildings that still stand in our city have windows that have endured for a century or more. That's wonderful, and not just because wavy old glass is very cool to live with.

It's tangible and irrefutable evidence of a century of peace, of the rule of law, of considerate neighbors, of careful owners and tenants, of well-behaved kids. In 105 years, nobody took a shot at my front door, threw a rock at it, broke in when the owners were away, or even hit it with an errant baseball. That door symbolizes and embodies what is most precious and most important to Colorado Springs -- that ours has been, is, and will be a civil community.

So as our new City Council starts to flex its muscles, woofing at gays and liberals like so many would-be alpha dogs, don't take 'em too seriously. Left and right, gay and straight, black and white -- whatever our differences may be, we are joined in our common endeavor to preserve and protect this peaceful, nurturing land.

Well, that's enough teary-eyed patriotism to last for the rest of the year. Let's take a moment to gloat about the extraordinary triumphs of the liberal left in Colorado during the past decade.

Am I nuts? After all, Republicans control both houses of the state Legislature, the Governor's Mansion, both United States Senate seats, and five of seven seats in the House of Representatives. What triumphs?

Let's look at what actually happened in our state, not at the political affiliations of officeholders. On the right, Doug Bruce and his allies pushed through an initiative that forbade governments from raising taxes without voter approval, and limited how much revenue governments could keep. On the left, ad hoc coalitions of moderate and liberal voters passed initiatives that mandated lavish funding for historic preservation, for parks and open space, and for public education.

So here we are in the midst of an economic downturn, with our Republican-controlled state government looking for ways to cut hundreds of millions from the budget. You know what they want to do: cut funding for education, for open space, for parks and for historic preservation.

But, thanks to all those pesky liberal initiatives, they can't. Instead, they have to cut in other areas, and they may even have to rescind a few of the tax breaks they handed out to the politically well connected in the fat years. It's a bitter pill to swallow for the GOPsters, the more so since most of 'em now realize that TABOR, the Bruce amendment, is the root cause of Colorado's fiscal crisis.

Alas for the Republicans! They thought getting elected meant having power ... but somehow those sneaky liberals rewrote the rulebook before the GOP team took the field. And when state budget cuts begin to bite, guess who gets the blame?

So cheer up, Dems! Would you rather be elected to low-paying, unpleasant jobs, or have your agenda constitutionally mandated? And if you still feel bad about missing out on the freebies and sucking up that go with elected office, remember the words of my wise pal Kathleen Collins:

Politics is just show business for ugly people.

-- jhazlehurst@csindy.com


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