June 18, 2013 Updated: June 18, 2013 at 11:45 am
At the end of my first session in the Colorado State Senate, I can't help but think how the root of our problems in Denver and D.C. are similar to those we face in Colorado Springs. Politicians and bureaucrats battle each other behind closed doors while forgetting to be transparent with the average citizen who elected us to serve in the first place.
Consider, for example, the loggerhead in City Council we've had over recent years about how to handle the downtown Drake Power Plant. While some people dream about putting Drake on wheels to send it right out of town and make way for more aesthetic development, the people's immediate and real need for environmental and efficiency upgrades only grows as opposing parties fight each other over costly solutions and who might get rich at the expense of ratepayers.
Back in 2008, The Gazette reported that the Neumann upgrades would run about $20 million in new equipment. Today, we've seen that estimate escalate to $70 million and counting. Meanwhile, the EPA has now deemed that the Nixon Power Plant, our second generating plant, also needs stack scrubbers installed.
Rather than continue trying to solve these problems behind closed doors, we ratepayers deserve to have the bidding process opened to the market place by insisting Colorado Springs Utilities request a round of proposals that can be easily compared. This way, the citizens of Colorado Springs can have confidence when we pick a cost-effective solution provider who can finally get the job done.
Ultimately, all working people, families, the elderly on a fixed income or business owners want is to flick on our lights, while being as cost effective and environmentally friendly as possible, and ratepayers need to be part of the decision-making process. Thankfully, changing to a more transparent "request for proposal" system isn't up to the out-of-touch, tax-and-spend majority in Denver and Washington, D.C. - it's up to our new City Council that citizens had the wisdom to elect just a few weeks ago..
Among these new leaders is Keith King. While he is new to City Council, he is not new to public service. King served in the State House and Senate, where he proved that he is exactly the kind of limited-government leader who can and should take a fresh approach by opening the proposal process for Colorado Springs' infrastructure and other major projects.
While citizens are rightly upset at the majority of politicians in Denver and Washington, D.C. , we are stuck with them for at least another year and a half. But our newly elected City Council here in Colorado Springs can help start the process of restoring power to the people, in more ways than one.
Owen Hill is a Colorado state senator, District 10.