May 10, 2013 Updated: May 10, 2013 at 8:40 am
When I graduated from Southern Colorado State College, now Colorado State University ? Pueblo, in 1970, I began teaching school in Southern California. As a first-year teacher, my salary was $7,300. One day in the faculty lounge, a school counselor, Jack Nukayah, asked me this question: 'How much are you planning and saving for the long term? ' I laughed and said, 'On my salary, none. ' He said, 'You got to put and take and put and keep. ' His statement has stuck with me throughout my career. As we begin the 47th Session of the Colorado Springs City Council with a retreat this weekend, we as a council need to decide how much to put and take and how much to put and keep.
I want council to cast a new vision for our city. I believe we must concentrate on put and keep. We need to think in terms of where Colorado Springs will be 20 years from now. Colorado Springs needs a new excitement that will lead us to focus not on where we are today, but on where we are planning to go.
As part of that vision, I want us to become a strong council. To be strong, I think we need to do the following things: First, we need to be a legislative body that does not aim to run the city but instead develops a legislative framework for long-term success. That means, among other things, becoming more involved in the details of the city and Utilities budgets. Control over the purse strings is one of the most ancient responsibilities of the legislative branch. Citizens can expect this council to embrace that responsibility wholeheartedly.
Second, we need to promote an environment that attracts and sustains businesses. That means developing long-term energy policies that provide the best rates for utilities as well as maintaining a tax environment that provides for long-term economic growth.
Third, we need to engage our citizens and applaud those who are already giving back. We must be a people who focus on the development of others, not ourselves. I believe that, as humans and statesmen alike, our highest mission is to invest in the success of others.
Council members have many responsibilities. One is to be responsive to the citizens and point them to people who can resolve their issues with the city or with Utilities. Another is to help our city and Utilities be operational and efficient. I'm proud that we found a significant efficiency in our very first Utilities meeting, when we voted unanimously to cancel a $500,000 study about whether we should sell the electric component of Utilities.
As the new council embarks on this adventure, I want to thank them for their willingness to work together to accomplish great things. We will not always agree, but we can always be agreeable. I have pledged to lead the council with no hidden agendas, but to be open and transparent and to work together as much as possible.
A strong council can have a civil and productive relationship not only among ourselves, but also with our mayor. To that end, I am asking council to invite the mayor to an informal breakfast or lunch twice a month for open discussions with only one agenda: how to make our city better. I look forward to those conversations.
St. Francis said, 'Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible. ' I have full faith that this new strong council will accomplish the impossible. That will require us to do some put and take, but most of all to put and keep.
Keith King is president of the Colorado Springs City Council.