Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Carpe Diem

I’ve seen a lot of city council members accused of doing too little. I must be the first in history accused of doing too much. It’s a criticism I can live with.

John Hazlehurst seems to want my service on council to be as unmemorable as his was, but given that I was appointed to a truncated term (18 months), and given that those who appointed me knew full well that I would shake things up, and given the number of important issues that are coming to a head in the city, I didn’t even consider the possibility of running out the clock.

If I wasn’t having an impact, or gaining some measure of colleague support, I might agree with John’s grandfatherly advice. But on a number of issues, I think I’ve been able to get helpful and interesting things done. And I couldn’t have done this without the support (some grudging, to be sure) of colleagues, showing that I’m not the lone wolf John suggests.

A majority of my colleagues supported city partnership efforts – an idea I first proposed during the budget crisis of last year. Community centers, pools and a number of other city amenities scheduled to be axed when I came aboard are open today as a result of those efforts. A majority on council also backed creation of the City Committee, at my urging. It’s been quietly providing City Council and other city leaders with some very enlightening briefings on the city’s big picture budget outlook, and I’m confident it will play a larger role going forward. Also at my urging, the interim city manager is in the process of creating an Optimization Committee, which will help the city explore outsourcing opportunities and other innovations. That, too, has buy-in from colleagues.

A majority on council seems on the verge of approving some reasonable regulations for the medical marijuana industry, based on a comprehensive ordinance drafted by a task force I chaired along with Tom Gallagher. A majority backed my proposal to conduct the first-ever performance audits of the EDC and other recipients of public funds, putting some teeth behind the words “accountability” and “transparency.” A majority supported my proposal to explore passenger screening alternatives at Colorado Springs Airport. And I believe a majority doesn’t really give a hoot what the Planning Commission says about marijuana dispensary setback rules, even if they won’t say so, as I did.

I’ve more quietly shaped or influenced a lot of other decisions made by this council in the year I’ve served, even if it’s gone unreported, unnoticed and unheralded in some circles. And I’ve tried to be responsive to more day-to-day constituent issues, whether it’s helping Westside merchants confronting the homeless situation or helping someone maneuver through city red tape. I normally don’t go around bragging about any of this, but since my accomplishments on council have been called into question, I thought it was important to correct the record.

Not all my initiatives or ideas are warmly embraced by colleagues, to be sure. Few had any interest in trimming back the just-approved 2011 budget, for instance, in an effort to not spend every dollar coming in. Few (except Jan Martin) seem to have any real interest in improving the governance model of Colorado Springs Utilities, by creating a more professional and independent board (though that issue isn’t dead yet). And none except Tom Gallagher would join me in the dunk tank at the community center fundraiser.

I’m not sure how this stacks up against Hazlehurst’s accomplishments. I asked around but no one remembers what those were. It’s a challenging time for Colorado Springs. A lot of issues are coming to a head. Given the vacuum of leadership and lack of creative thinking that exists at some levels, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved. I never imagined I would stand accused of getting too involved.

I’ve stepped on a few toes and bruised a few egos along the way – it’s hard to get anything done around here if you’re afraid to do that. But I think I’ve also gained supporters, judging from the positive feedback I receive every day. I’ve not done too badly for someone who was billed, coming in, as too “radical” to work with others or get anything acomplished. And I’ve still got five months before my term expires.

I plan to finish strong.

1 comment:

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