There has been a great deal of attention paid to the upcoming ballot question on the “municipalization” issue and how it will impact Pueblo.
While this is a critical issue for Pueblo voters, it raises a far more important concern for the citizens of Pueblo. That is, whom do we want in charge of Pueblo resources?
First, a thumbnail sketch of my perception of Pueblo history on resource development may be helpful. There will be many among us who will rally around the flag and speak of the many accomplishments of economic development in Pueblo.
They are generally the expected folks ― the chambers of commerce, the Pueblo Economic Development Corp., the Urban Renewal Authority, the arts center, Colorado State University-Pueblo, Pueblo Community College and The Pueblo Chieftain.
Even so, there is a concern by many ordinary citizens that Pueblo never has realized the kind of economic development over the last 50 to 100 years or so that like-sized cities in Colorado have realized over those years.
It would be hard to dispute these economic facts when comparing, over the years, Pueblo to Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, Grand Junction or Durango, for example. The news sources could and should do the research and a long-term analysis comparing Pueblo to these other cities.
As a native Coloradoan, 20-year resident of Pueblo and native of Florence, I will give you my take on the issues.
Pueblo has a long history of electing officials with marginal skills and then those officials favor family members for leadership positions in government, both city and county. Moreover, those elected officials favor such family members for positions in nonprofit groups.
Also, that history often discloses too close a working relationship with business interests. Further, this practice does not enabling highly qualified individuals for leadership roles in Pueblo.
The result is quite simple: My perception is that Pueblo ends up with people who are not the best leaders with the best qualifications to lead Pueblo.
It is fair game to argue that this goes on in every city and local government. However, in Pueblo, it seems to be more pronounced and the results seem more far reaching.
Meaning, when our organizational leaders seek to compete in economic development with other cities and counties, the perception is Pueblo finishes last or is not competitive at all. Why is that? Is this also the case in other areas as well? Say, our schools, hospitals, police force and social service groups?
You be the judge. There are plenty of indices to obtain answers to these questions.
So, back to the voting issue at hand: Whether Pueblo will take control of its own utilities.
Several good arguments have been presented on both sides of the issue by The Pueblo Chieftain and other online sources. We should be grateful for their journalism in reporting both sides.
First, it was reported on the local TV network and documented by a Chieftain reporter on April 2 that the City Council refused a vote to disclose who contributed $700,000 to this Black Hills ballot issue. What the heck? Why not?
This is an open government issue, even before considering the issue itself. Why are those elected officials afraid of disclosing this information? This is terribly troubling. Might it be the close working relationship with the business interest above?
Second, let’s turn to the merits of the argument itself. For me, this is a no-brainer. Here is the question: Either Pueblo is going to be in control of its own community and resources or it is not. If citizens want to continue to be beholden to Black Hills Energy, then the issue of controlling Pueblo resources is out of your hands.
To support this vote, you only need to admit you will remain at the mercy of Black Hills, changing future rates and its historical abuse of the most needy in our community. On the other hand, if you want to control your own destiny on this issue, you only need to reclaim your role and vote “yes” for municipal control by Pueblo and it energy resources.
The interesting point about this issue is that it reveals why Pueblo has been less competitive with other cities in Colorado. It is time to reclaim the leadership for Pueblo and take charge of our own future. Not just in energy, but also in economic development.
Alvin Rivera is a Pueblo civic and political activist.