Time Tripping into the New Millennium 

One of the consequences of rapid growth is a kind of communal amnesia. The Colorado Springs of 1900 is gone, as is the Colorado Springs of 1950, and even of 1980. Twenty years hence, we'll probably look back wistfully at those halcyon days of 2000, when the Springs was still a little town of half a million.

So let the dead bury their dead; it's time to make a few contrarian predictions for the year to come.

Confluence Park: Sometime in the next year or two, the citizens are going to figure out that Confluence Park is not a park at all, but a voter-financed urban redevelopment project. Far from being our very own Riverside Park, it'll have proportionately less open space than a typical suburban development (e.g., University Park, the controversial Classic Homes development of the former Hauck estate). Unless the El Pomar Foundation bails the city out, we'll have another Lowell Center on our hands -- a weed-infested wilderness, with a lot of expensive and meaningless plans for its future development. But not to worry; since El Pomar inexplicably sees itself as an adjunct to the city budget (taxpayers won't pay for homeless shelters, or sports arenas? No problem! We'll just write a check!), we can look forward to ... who knows, but it'll cost a lot of money, and we only have to put up $15 million!

Internet Stocks and City Manager Jim Mullen: They're both riding high, and their supporters think that they'll be on top indefinitely. Well, I dunno. I worked for a while on Wall Street in the late '60s, early '70s, when a few thousand arrogant twenty-somethings thought that they could repeal the financial laws of gravity. Didn't work then, won't work now.

And as for Mr. Mullen, he clearly thinks that he has nothing to fear from anyone; not from the city employees, not from the timid, leaderless City Council, and certainly not from the tame and toothless G. Witness his recent performance at the annual lunch at which the City recognizes and commends long-serving employees. The Mayor and Councilman Jim Null had already left when Mullen stood up to make a few introductory remarks.

Noting the absence of elected officials, he quipped that they were at a meeting of the Lorne Kramer Admiration Society. He then told the cops and firefighters that he'd had complaints about their campaign signs from the recent election, and suggested that they go pick 'em up. And he even took a gratuitous swipe at me, suggesting that this column is simply the result of past LSD use. There's more, but that should give you a sense of the event.

These are not the actions of a man who sees himself as an apolitical administrator carrying out the policy directives of his elected bosses. These are the actions of a man who sees himself, and his position, as impregnable. It's funny, of course, in the sense that the vain antics of the powerful are always funny, but it's also sad, because it profoundly weakens the city manager form of government.

After all, if an unelected and untouchable bureaucrat is clearly in charge of the city, maybe we need to change to a strong mayor system, such as Denver's, in order to make government accountable. Given Mullen's unpopularity with everyone in the city except Council, a majority might well support such a change.

But what do I know? Because although I never tried LSD, I confess that, while on Council, I did take a lot of ... aspirin.


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