Theater of the absurd? Tempest in a teapot? Or just another day at the office? After hearing activists from both sides describe last Tuesday's Council hearing concerning Amendment 24, one conclusion was inevitable: Them as stayed at home was the lucky 'uns.

A little background: A few weeks ago, local opponents of Amendment 24 (the so-called anti-sprawl, controlled growth constitutional amendment that will be on the ballot this November) asked City Council to approve a resolution opposing said amendment. Given that the amendment is bitterly opposed by all segments of the real estate industry, and given that every member of Council received financial support from real estate interests in their election campaigns, it was not unreasonable to suppose that Council would sign obediently on the dotted line.

But just as the most docile old nag will occasionally balk and make life difficult for her rider, Council decided to have a presentation from the amendment's proponents before making a decision. So they invited John Fielder and the pro-24 gang to come down and go through the motions.

Showing an amazing lack of political smarts, Fielder & Co. did just that, even though any attentive five-year-old could have told them that Council was unanimously opposed to their amendment. If Doug Bruce had been running the show, he would have called an impromptu press conference, denounced Council as puppets, lackeys, and stooges of the powerful, and refused to participate in such a charade.

But the pro-24 gang filed obediently into Council chambers, made a courteous presentation, and Council, after the requisite huffing and puffing, signed on to a resolution opposing 24. Of course, the whole show was an exercise in futility; no one but city hall insiders paid the least attention to it, and not a single vote was changed thereby.

But if you're keeping score at home, mark one down for the real estate industry and their allies on Council. After all, they forced John Fielder and the amendment's proponents to spend the better part of a day cooped up in Council chambers, when they could have been out in the real world hustling up votes.

Meanwhile, last week's High Country News contained a remarkable editorial by Ed Marston, wherein he talked about the need for truth telling in the American West. Marston suggests that it's time to reexamine the myths that local communities have long cherished. Here in Colorado Springs, many of our beliefs and assumptions about our community are, shall we say, questionable. For example:

We're a Western town, with a proud Western heritage; rodeos, range riders, cattle drives and the like. Sorry, but we're not. We started as a snooty resort, became a boom town from Cripple Creek gold, and have focused most of our civic energies on real estate development and tourist promotion since 1900. Our "Western heritage" was invented by local businesses as a promotional tool; most of the "ranches" closely adjacent to the Springs were small operations supplying meat and vegtables to local markets. We were (and are!) a lot more like Iowa than Montana.

Proud conservatives, we abhor big government, and elect folks who are dedicated to reining in government and all of its excesses. Not exactly -- in fact, residents of El Paso County, per capita, receive more federal dollars than all but a handful of similar jurisdictions nationwide. Our representatives may stridently oppose federal funding for public transit in Boston, but their enthusiasm for programs that bring us some of that federal moolah knows no bounds. It helps that most of our federal dollars are filtered through the military; after all, an adequately funded national defense is a key conservative tenet. And no politician in his or her right mind would ever suggest that any local military installation was not absolutely vital to national security!

We cherish the natural -- and manmade -- beauty of our community, and do our best to preserve it. Yeah, right -- that's why we turned Pikes Peak into a venue for dirt-track racing, and downtown's historic core into a wilderness of parking lots. Ours is a history of continual battles between preservationists and fast-buck artists, with the latter usually coming out on top.

And yet, if we're going to tell the truth, we need to acknowledge that Council has done some fairly wonderful things in recent years. Vast tracts of open space have been preserved, downtown has been transformed from a dusty wasteland into a thriving business district, Confluence Park will be at least fun, and maybe even great -- the list goes on.

Come to think of it, maybe we are a world-class city. Maybe the Uncle Wilber Fountain will soon eclipse the Fontana de Trevi in Rome as a tourist attraction! Let's hope so -- truthfully, it'd be really good for business.

-- johnhazlehurst@aol.com


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