Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Muddying the Waters

Good news, everyone. Pueblo, Colorado, can now officially be certified as a crime-free city. There are no robberies, no rapes, no spousal abuse or purse-snatching or petty crimes to prosecute. That leaves Pueblo DA Bill Thiebaut with so much time on his hands that he can focus his prodigious crime-fighting skills on another culprit -- Colorado Springs -- by interjecting himself into the Colorado Springs-Pueblo water feud.

For the second time in his tenure, Thiebaut is acting as if he exercised authority over water quality and management issues in Fountain Creek; this time, by submitting a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers designed to toss a monkey-wrench into the Southern Delivery System pipeline project. But his views on the matter are irrelevant, as his earlier attempt to intervene proved.

Thiebaut a few years back dragged Pueblo into a federal lawsuit, claiming that Colorado Springs waste water spills were violating federal Clean Water Act regulations. It was grandstanding of the worst kind. He was unceremoniously dumped from the suit by a federal judge who ruled that this exceeded his authority.

How much taxpayer money Thiebaut wasted on this lark is unknown. One can't help believing those resources could have been put to better use, since Pueblo is not, contrary to my lead, a crime-free city. But this has nothing to do with the law, or with water quality, or with Thiebaut's sincere desire to serve as eco-enforcer on Fountain Creek. It's about politics, plain and simple -- about Thiebaut's desire to curry favor with a few crusty old water warriors in Pueblo (and possibly distract public attention from some major housekeeping problems in his office).

Thiebaut must have gotten a call from Bob Rawlings, publisher of the Chieftain, who has long played the role of puppet master on such issues, suggesting that a letter from Thiebaut might help slow the recent progress Colorado Springs has made on clearing away hurdles to SDS. The ploy probably won't do much in that regard, because Thiebaut's opinions on Fountain Creek are as legally and morally relevant as the tooth fairy's. He has no expertise. He has no legal standing. He has no jurisdiction, unless a body is found floating down the creek south of the Pueblo County line.

But it plays well as propaganda with Springs-bashers in Pueblo. And it wins Thiebaut another merit badge with Rawlings, whose editorial page can come in very handy when re-election time comes around.

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