Tuesday, September 17, 2013

CAUTION: Colorado Springs' Mayor’s Vision for a “City for Champions” requires Centralized Planning in place of Free Market Competiton

            Over the past several months, the citizens of Colorado Springs have been presented with Mayor Steve Bach's proposals for projects which address his vision of the city's “need” for increased tourism, greater visibility in the hierarchy of cities, more businesses and jobs, and ongoing general development.  This vision is being strongly supported by the Gazette, the only newspaper in Colorado Springs and owned by Phillip Anschutz, also the owner of the Broadmoor Hotel, that stands to benefit substantially from an additional 500,000 to a million new tourists each year.

            During Mayor Bach's initial campaign for election as the City’s first “Strong Mayor,”  I strongly supported him, being convinced  that he had the best understanding of one of the primary roles of government, that being to protect our individual liberties.    In fact, when placed against the other candidates, he seemed to grasp that understanding far better than most other candidates.  I believe he still does, or at least did.  During the early months of his “reign,” his efforts to make the city more business friendly by reducing regulations, encouraging a more responsive city employee force, and actually reducing expenditures by eliminating city positions were very encouraging.  However, along the way, a different Bach has emerged.  The tenor of his vision has changed from reduced costs and increased efficiencies to acquiring more revenue, albeit from enticing more tourists to our area.  These ideas have not come from the average citizen, but rather from businesses seeking more profit without regard to how they will truly affect the real quality of life of the city’s residents.

            According to Mayor Bach, “we have a lot of work to do” to attract and retain 6000 stable and good-paying jobs to our city.  However, is this HIS "problem" to fix? IT IS NOT.  Who says it is even a “problem”?   Having served as a Colorado state legislator for ten years, I know full well the tendency of those in power to first identify a “problem” and then work hard in an attempt to “solve it,” ignoring the fact that the free market will adjust to citizens’ wishes without intervention by the government if the government will only stay out of the way.  His “bold ideas” are now morphing into centralized planning.

            Mayor Bach is now willing to use centralized planning to implement his vision.  Setting specific job goals within industry sectors, and creating economic opportunity zones, as is being advocated by the Business Alliance and others, has never been known for anticipating unintended, and most often, negative consequences.   By their very nature, economic opportunity zones disrupt free-market competition by picking winners and losers. One has only to look at the Garden of the Gods corridor to witness the traffic congestion caused by that road's designation as an enterprise zone.

            Mayor Bach’s efforts should be directed towards his initial goals of making the city's government more efficient and responsive, cost effective, and supportive of free enterprise, while concentrating on fulfilling the mandates that only government can do best: maintaining roads, bridges, parks, utilities, fire and police forces.  Raising revenue for businesses is not, nor ever has been part of that mandate.  Building stadiums, museums, and visitor centers should not be on the list of what a city promotes.   Those visions should be left to the private sector.  Instead, the Mayor's Vision, while sounding beneficial to the city, seems to many of us to be driven by the love of money.  Increased tourism is the means, held out as a carrot by the possible availability of $86 million from the state.

 Many citizens moved here, preferring to live in Colorado Springs rather than a major metropolitan area like Denver. with its increased congestion, crime and parking issues.  That will all change over time if the Mayor's vision is fulfilled. 

For those individuals seeking to implement Mayor Bach’s vision, I ask you to examine your motives.  I would suggest that for most, they revolve around the hope of becoming wealthier.  I recently read a quote by Maurice Sendak, which said “There must be more to life than having everything.” Those words might be worth pondering.