Ultimate civic power is the citizen's vote
This spring, we will elect six Colorado Springs City Council members. They will surely include a mix of incumbents and newcomers wishing to serve with Mayor John Suthers and help guide our city from the public sector side of things. The pay isn't good, just $6,250 per year, but the impacts can be significant and are hugely important to our business community, families, military and more. City Council decisions affect us, and we should all take notice.
I often hear people question why so much money is raised by candidates running for an office that pays so little. There is no correlation between the two. The money is raised because for a person - especially if they aren't an incumbent - to run a competitive race for office, they have to spend money to get their name and their message out to the voters.
Mailers, newspaper ads, billboards, radio, television, websites, printed handouts, etc. . all cost real money to share a candidate's message with the public.
Then there are all the wild theories about special interest groups with undue influence. Indeed, there are dozens of special interest groups in town. They're everywhere. People naturally coalesce around shared interests and seek to advocate for them.
Think about just some of the groups that get involved. The Colorado Springs Utilities Employees Political Action Group, the Green Coalition, the Police Protective Association, the Sierra Club, the Housing and Building Association, the Independence Center, Citizens Project, the Pikes Peak Association of Realtors, the Trails and Open Space Coalition, the Professional Firefighters Association, Colorado Springs Forward, the Council of Neighbors and Organizations, the Colorado Education Association, the marijuana industry, the Fellowship Program at El Pomar, Colorado Springs Leadership Institute. They care about who is in leadership and they take action in various ways, including activities that you would expect from groups of people who share mutual interests. They might interview candidates, make endorsements, contribute funds, sponsor debates, form issue committees, ask about policies, recruit people to run, disseminate information, wave on street corners, etc. This has been going on since the dawn of our republic and will surely continue well into the future.
Before any special interest group gets all the blame or all the credit for supporting issues and candidates relevant to their own interests, industry or their vision of the community, I trust that everyone will remember how the process really works. It starts with a single individual making the decision to run for public office and ends, ultimately, with a vote of the people.
Citizens look at what each candidate believes in, their voting record, what they've done within the community and then vote for those who most closely represent their own interests.
Thomas Jefferson, principal author of the Declaration of Independence and our third president, once said, "Should things go wrong at any time, the people will set them to rights by the peaceable exercise of their elective rights."
Regardless of what may be portrayed in the media, the ultimate power and influence is not with any special interest group but instead rests with individuals through their right to vote.
This is as it should be.
Phil Lane is the owner of Culebra Properties.