Voters come through for city 

Between the Lines

At various sites around Colorado Springs, political-minded people were mostly celebrating Tuesday night. There was some commiserating, too, because that's always the case on election nights.

But few were looking at the big picture of this municipal election. Not with a happy winner or a stubbornly not-ready-to-concede loser lurking nearby.

So let's take the longer look.

Congratulations, Colorado Springs voters. You did your job well. Many of you waited a long time to fill out your ballots, but it's hard to criticize the outcomes.

You made some easy choices and some very hard decisions. You weren't fooled by those lacking substance, or those who would have decimated our city.

We needed a new chemistry, a new outlook, at City Hall. And we're getting it. In one swoop, we go from one woman to four on Council. And instead of everyone being between 50 and 70, we have rookies who are just 32 and 40, plus a much better cross-section.

We needed to send a strong message to Douglas Bruce and his so-called Reform Team that their draconian ideas weren't the answer to rebuilding trust and stability in local government.

So the voters came through, not just embarrassing Bruce and his disciples, but even giving the Dougster a harsher, in-your-face reality check, as teammate Ed Bircham picked up 2,000 more votes than Bruce himself. In other words, Bruce didn't even carry the Reform Team. He dragged everyone else down with him.

Yes, some good candidates lost. This new City Council could have benefited greatly from the expertise that Bill Murray and Tony Exum had to offer, not to mention Michael Merrifield's immense legislative experience. They fell short for different reasons — Murray and Exum in part because we had too many good candidates with only five at-large spots available. In fact, let's hope Council and the new mayor will be smart enough to remember them in moving forward.

Oh yeah, the mayor.

So many folks believed we had a large group of strong challengers. Actually, we didn't. We had a few who should have been running for Council (Dave Munger for sure, Buddy Gilmore maybe), and at least one pretender — Brian Bahr — who wasn't getting good advice. Bahr's handlers wanted us to believe they had polls showing their guy running neck-and-neck with Richard Skorman and well ahead of Steve Bach. Not on this planet.

My guess was that the voters would have a tough time with this mayoral race, with Bahr openly pandering to Republicans, Tom Gallagher hoping to milk his previous Council successes, and Munger boasting credibility from his activism. Instead, those guys must have been everybody's second or third choices.

So here we are, waiting six weeks for the first strong mayor, but with a new-look Council set, bringing fresh ideas. Brandy Williams and Tim Leigh already look ready. And with Scott Hente as the best option for Council president, and Jan Martin as the other leading presence with a clear mandate (she got more than 50 percent of the possible vote), that transition should be smooth.

There is one problem, one unintended consequence. As feared, two very strong newcomers — wouldn't you know, Williams and Leigh — placed fourth and fifth, meaning they only get two-year terms instead of four years, because the hastily conceived Issue 1A also passed. So we get six district Council seats and three at-large, starting in 2013, meaning Williams and Leigh have to hope they will fall into new districts without a sitting incumbent already in office. (This is precisely why the Independent urged a "no" vote on 1A.)

Williams says she will ask the city attorney to make sure 1A has no holes. But, showing her upbeat attitude, she adds, "If we have to live with 1A, we'll just do this again in two years."

First, we have Skorman vs. Bach. Both have work to do, and not much time to get it done. It may come down to whether Skorman can convince enough eligible voters who sat out this first round to participate in the runoff.

Those are stories for the next few weeks. But the voters definitely are paying attention. And the real suspense is yet to come.



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