Public Eye 

No elected Colorado Springs City Council member -- all of whom can thank developers for helping to buy them their elected seats -- can in their right minds support Amendment 24, the state ballot initiative that would force cities to come up with a plan to deal with growth and sprawl.

To do so, of course, would be all but political suicide, even for Richard Skorman, who was elected last year by a constituency that hoped to have a progressive champion for their causes, specifically those related to land use.

However, when discussing the proposal last week many of our elected officials -- particularly Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace -- seemed to forget that they don't just represent the homebuilders and development community.

Take the following exchange between Makepeace and Colorado Springs resident Dan Fosha, a Sierra Club member and supporter of the plan. When Fosha addressed the Council, an incredulous Mayor Makepeace forced him through a series of embarrassingly inappropriate questions. Here's the exchange:

Makepeace: Mr. Fosha, you say you've lived here for 20 years?

Fosha: Mmhmm.

Makepeace: Is that about how old you are?

Fosha: (Laughs) No, I'm 28.

Makepeace: And are you employed in our community?

Fosha: Yes, I am.

Makepeace: What is your job?

Fosha: Well, I have a myriad of jobs. I wait tables. I sing for local organizations. I sing opera for the symphony, for the opera festival and around the state. And I do some environmental work, mapping wilderness.

Makepeace: Thank you. Next speaker.

Just imagine the mayor putting, say, El Pomar president Thayer Tutt or developer Doug Stimple -- or any of her community leadership cronies -- through that kind of interrogation.

The City Council initially tried to sneak through formal opposition Amendment 24 last month, without giving the proponents a chance to present their position. However, when they got wind of the agenda item, the discussion was tabled until supporters -- including highly respected nature photographer John Fielder -- could be given the chance to present their side.

Last week, City Councilman Bill Guman complimented Fielder for his work and his efforts, even though he disagrees with the proposal.

Not so Mayor Makepeace. During his presentation, Fielder insisted, "We're not trying to put a fence around Colorado."

"But you would if you could, wouldn't you?" the mayor interrupted.

This kind of obvious -- and even wildly disparate treatment -- of constituents and speakers represents a disturbing growing trend, not just for the City Council but within the city's planning commission.

In a recent example, the planning commission struck down a proposal by the powerful El Pomar Foundation and the Red Cross to build an controversial complex for the homeless in the working-class Mill Street neighborhood south of downtown (a matter which is being appealed to the City Council).

A majority of the commissioners sided with Mill Street residents who expressed alarm that the project would destroy their neighborhood. But the chairman of the planning commission, Zane Bowers, said she thought the plan was a "wonderful idea." Bowers is, of course, entitled to her opinion. But while presiding over the deliberations, the chairwoman was less than temperate in her treatment of the two dissenting sides.

When neighborhood activists spoke in opposition, Bowers sternly advised them to state their names, sign in, stick to land issues at hand and not repeat arguments that had already been made. However, Bowers eschewed such reminders when representatives from the Red Cross, El Pomar and other proponents stated their support for the plan. She neither asked them to sign in, nor provide their names for the record before addressing the appointed body.

Such treatment, both by the mayor of Colorado Springs and the chairman of the planning commission, is discourteous at best. Overseeing formal deliberations in a more judicious fashion should be the norm, not the exception.

The best part of the first presidential debate on Tuesday was that the two candidates were dressed exactly alike, in dark suits, red ties and white starched shirts -- otherwise it was pretty much a wash. Following the debate, plenty of Republicans were pretty relieved that George W. Bush was actually able to articulate his views in a mostly grammatically correct fashion.

Shrub hurled some personal attacks at Al Gore, but at least he didn't screw up his sentences. Still, it's fun to graze the papers and the Internet for the growing list of gaffes that Texas governor routinely utters.

Here are a few recent samples, compiled by the Slate Web site:

"I don't think we need to be subliminable about the differences between our views on prescription drugs." (said in Orlando, Fla., on Sept. 12.)

"It is clear our nation is reliant upon big foreign oil. More and more of our imports come from overseas." (said in Beaverton, Ore., on Sept. 25.)

"I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully." (said in Saginaw, Mich., on Sept. 29.)

-- degette@csindy.com


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