Mere weeks after a major fire threatened to erase Manitou Springs from geographical maps in libraries around the world, it was a surprise and disappointment to read in last week’s Pikes Peak Bulletin that city administrator Jack Benson’s priorities are skewed. Compassion and concern for residents seems to have been buried underneath the political aims of city council - with the Bulletin’s help.
Apparently, and quoting the Bulletin’s
July 19th article (“Council hopes ordinance deters Soda Springs stage
loiterers, vandals”), Benson told the Manitou Springs city council last
Tuesday, “We have to draw a line in the dirt on what we’re going to
tolerate and what we’re not going to tolerate.” Benson was referring to
his support of a new ordinance recently passed by the council that will
require people to obtain a permit to use Soda Springs park, in
particular, the stage.
What’s the issue with the stage, then?
the Soda Springs park dog-and-pony show began early this year when
officials complained too many people were loitering near the Triangle, a
popular area near Soda Springs park. Then an issue was raised by city officials about crime on Ruxton near the Soda Springs park. Then came something about a proposed anti-smoking ordinance for and near Soda Springs park.
Then, and after all of that, when a resident pointed out the Triangle was near the park (and its stage), city officials such as Benson simply - and in figurative literalness - moved
their rhetorical claims (crime, smoking, loitering) away from the
Triangle and towards Soda Springs park. Clearly, city officials are more
interested in escaping public scrutiny of their claims and actions by
constantly shifting lines in political dirt to suit their whims.
Benson claims there is damage to the stage but the Bulletin
did not print any evidence or at least seem interested in asking for
such proof from Benson. Instead, there’s only the implication that
because certain people loiter in the park and the stage, there is damage to the stage.
Benson, “I don’t care if it’s a juvenile or an adult, they shouldn’t be
damaging our property. We have to put something in place that deters
that kind of behavior.” And what is the damage, Mr. Benson? What kind of people are doing the damage? What behavior by what people doing what damage to the stage? Again, the Bulletin doesn’t seem interested in asking for details.
serves little purpose to explore the dark, seedy side of Benson’s view,
other than to ostracize a class of people for their supposed and
alleged behavior. But the Bulletin’s story does raise an issue that has been altogether ignored: the too-cozy relationship between city officials and the Bulletin.
Rather than ask for evidence or details, or present an alternative view to Benson’s, the Bulletin simply passed the political baton from Benson to Roger Miller, another city official,
who simply repeated other city officials’ previous implications and
generalized statements and claims. Miller is the city’s Chamber of
Commerce operating chief.
what did Miller have to say about the stage? “From a personal
standpoint, I’m getting tired of cleaning up.” Cleaning up what? When do
you clean the stage, Mr. Miller? The story doesn’t say, and not
surprisingly, Miller didn’t offer any specifics to support his claim.
sidewalks in town are cleaned daily by a crew of city employees. They
are paid to clean vomit off sidewalks, sweep cigarette butts off the
curbs, pick-up trash, and otherwise beautify the downtown area. And yet,
for some strange reason, the Bulletin makes no reference as to whether or not the same crews do (or do not) clean the stage in Soda Springs park.
If city employees do clean the stage, then that is what they’re paid to do, and Miller’s claim is pointless and moot. If they are not cleaning the stage, then that warrants consideration as a possible solution to an untidy stage before proposing inane ordinances based on generalized claims and little or no evidence or facts.
other city parks have dog waste dispensers that seem to be ignored by
certain people, probably city officials. Will the city council create an
ordinance that prohibits the public from using those parks without a
permit issued by city government?
a time of witnessing heart-warming tales of compassion and caring by
communities affected by the Waldo Canyon Fire, it is disheartening to
see city officials openly and blatantly declare they “do not care” about
the people who live in our city. It is obvious that Benson, and even
Miller, do not seem genuinely concerned about Manitou Springs and prefer
to continue targeting classes of people they find undesirable.
And the Bulletin? It needs to stop serving city government and become its biggest skeptic.