Published: July 16, 2013
Government in a free society is full of conflict, by design. So it's not too surprising, now that we have fixed city government, to read front page headlines such as Monday's declaration: "Mayor Bach, council on rocky road."
The story went on to explain a rift between City Council president Keith King and Mayor Steve Bach regarding exciting plans for an application for a return of millions in local tax dollars to help with four major new tourism projects. The city wants $82 million in state sales tax rebates that would help jump-start construction of a downtown multiuse stadium, a downtown U.S. Olympic museum, and Air Force Academy visitors center and a university medicine and performance center on North Nevada Ave. The funds would not be a gift, but a return on some new tax revenues that would be generated by the proposed projects.
Voters had enviable options when in recent council elections and not one member of City Council appears to have anything less than the best of intentions for Colorado Springs. All are smart, educated and articulate and each brings special skills and experience to City Hall.
Bach, likewise, has shown himself to work tirelessly, around the clock and on weekends, toward taking this city from good to great. He thinks outside of the box, never shying from the kind of bold new ideas this city needs.
We doubt too many local politicians oppose these proposed projects that would make the Pikes Peak region even more attractive as a destination for tourists from around the globe. As such, the latest spat between council and the mayor doesn't involve the merit of the proposals. Rather, it involves communication, process and propriety.
King has stated his displeasure with publicity about the proposals that came out before council members were, by his account, appraised of details. Bach insists council members were kept in the loop, but says he also had to keep information relatively quiet for a while in order to avoid giving too much information to other jurisdictions that may compete for state funds.
Council members have expressed concerns about having a diminished role in major decisions ever since voters changed the city charter to make the city's top executive an elected official who answers to voters. That's not surprising, given the fact our city had traditionally chugged along without an executive branch of government. Before voters enacted the executive mayor system, council ran the show and hired a city manager as the city's executive. The manager wasn't a separate branch of government because he or she answered directly to Council.
Today, council is a genuine legislative branch and the mayor comprises an independent executive branch. Each can help keep the other in check. They can quarrel and it's not the end of the world. It's the American way.
Understanding and accepting that, it is time for council and the mayor to kiss and make up regarding the four-piece economic development proposal. Our community needs the legislative and executive branches to get together on this one and make it happen. The outcome is far more important than the credit. We have an opportunity to make Colorado Springs a world class city that attracts outside money delivered by high-quality tourists who will benefit from visiting our city.
To make this happen, local government must run like a well-oiled machine. Council members, the council president, the mayor and other local officials must work together to show the rest of the state that we are ready and willing to bring these ideas to fruition.
We cannot think of a single politician in local government who is in this for personal gain. All want to make this community better today and for future generations. Let's get past this dispute and proceed with four of the best ideas this community has seen in at least as many decades. As they say next door in Kansas, ad astra per aspera - "To the stars through difficulties."