EDITORIAL: City politicians show early signs of effective approach

By: The Gazette editorial
March 7, 2014 Updated: March 7, 2014 at 8:40 am

As City Council President Keith King wisely promotes a Commercial Aeronautical Zone at the Colorado Springs Airport - a plan for jobs and prosperity - Mayor Steve Bach seeks confirmation of three appointments intended to move our community forward. Maybe 2014 will be a year of progress.

Here's why it's important that we stop playing inside ball and refocus on government's role in the market.

"I love Colorado, especially Colorado Springs, and would love to stay, but this possibility is looking bleak," states a letter to The Gazette from an engineer laid off in 2009. Since his layoff, the man has applied for jobs all over the country. His only prospects in Colorado have been for low-wage positions that cannot support a family.

"I wonder how Colorado Springs can attract people or even keep people here without good jobs and better flights into and out of our airport... In addition, the Utility rates keep going up every year with no end in sight, making it even harder to live here without a good job."

The urgent need for city leaders to get serious - to obsess about allowing the economy to grow - is confirmed by a report from the U.S. Department of Labor regarding the metro area's jobs performance for the past 13 years. We've seen no net increase in jobs in 13 years and have traded down from high-paying manufacturing wages to lower-paying work. Local government has helped drive us in the direction of secondary, service-oriented employment with massive taxpayer subsidies to favored retail developments such as Copper Ridge and University Village.

"Frankly, it is urgent that we rebuild a vibrant economy with stable, well-paying jobs to complement our growing attraction to retirees. There is no time to waste," Bach wrote to the council after reading the report. "A renaissance at our Airport, University of Colorado Health (including a branch medical campus and new children's hospital), and City for Champions are three immediate economic drivers which can launch us forward."

The mayor's appeal prompted Councilman Andres Pico to write a respectful and insightful response. Pico told the mayor he wants a review and reduction of business license fees and "an extensive effort to keep utility rates as low as feasible consistent with high reliability and compliance with mandatory state and federal requirements... I've also been looking into possibly reducing the use tax and business property tax across the city similar to the Airport Zone proposal in order to spur small business growth."

Bach thanked him for his "thoughtful response."

Meanwhile, Bach publicly assured the community his appointments will improve relations between the council and mayor. They include: Brett Waters as deputy chief of staff; Wynetta Massey as city attorney and Dan Gallagher as airport director. Although the council has 90 days to confirm, King expects action in two weeks. A major battle between the council and the mayor involved former City Attorney Chris Melcher.

"Wynetta (Massey) is a tremendous step forward and that is going to work out very well for improved communication between the mayor and council," King said.

This is how city government can and should work. The executive and legislative branches should keep one another in check, but mostly should cooperate in finding ways to make this community a more inviting enclave for companies that pay high wages. That means eliminating bad taxes and regulations, filling potholes and providing what residents and businesses reasonably need from lean local government.

The council and the mayor have a tremendous opportunity to quickly make this community a model for success. Early signs of new airport vitality indicate how this can be achieved. It's time to set aside personal grievances and political stunts designed to aggrandize politicians. Focus on the economy. Put the genuine needs of taxpayers first and make Colorado Springs the envy of other Front Range cities.

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