I honestly couldn’t tell you the direction of Pueblo. I could not tell you where the city wants to go or what the city hopes to accomplish in the next five years. If there’s a grand plan I could not tell you where to find it or who is leading it.
I don’t even know if one exists. The only grand plans for Pueblo are for the Riverwalk and I-25. And by grand, it’s more spot redevelopment on the Riverwalk instead of a comprehensive approach to fixing the Historic Union and Main Street areas.
Pueblo exists in a vacuum of leaderlessness. I couldn’t name you the one person in charge of leading us out of this mediocrity in which we have been stuck. While many people have the influence to be the leader, there is not one person that has the authority to set our direction.
Our city is too big to be leaderless and too small to realize it.
We are at the mercy of passing fancies, both good and bad, but whichever way the wind blows so does Pueblo. When malls were the next big thing we built one. When an industrial park was the fad, we built one. When urban centers needed walking parks we built one. Renewable energy is hot so we bring in Vestas. When wind energy was the target of Congress’ scorn, we almost lose Vestas.
Pueblo is not dictating its future to anyone. We are no threat economically, or politically to any other entity. We are a threat socially but that’s because this town is ineffective to solve our poverty problem. We get pushed around.
Pueblo is susceptible to flashy presentations for snake oils and job growth.
What’s needed is that one sophisticated leader that gets it — less Pueblo and more, well, caring Pueblo. If you are from Pueblo, when I say he or she has to be less Pueblo, you know what I mean. For those of you who don’t know, being less Pueblo doesn’t mean you turn your back on the town; it means you don’t turn Pueblo into what 40 of your best friends’ pockets want.
To change we need a Mayor. The city manager system has gotten us this far but the unmet demands of the new world economy mean Pueblo has to change.
Pueblo’s mayor needs to be coalition builder. The town is fractured and a mayor should be the person to bring parties to the table and get them to think about the long term.
Our mayor needs to get Districts 60 and 70, PCC and CSU-Pueblo working with PEDCO, the Chambers of Commerce and business leaders to focus on 21st century industry, not 19th century labor. Right now, they all want to reach this goal but there’s no one who can hold them responsible.
Then it’s the mayor’s job to be cheerleader-in-chief to attract these 21st century jobs. If Colorado Springs gets a Wal-Mart Supercenter, our mayor gets Target to expand its facilities at the airport. If Boulder is the golden-boy of renewable energy, our mayor goes up there, figuratively punches the golden-boy in the teeth and attracts renewable energy firms here.
A good mayor would focus our arts and tourism towards one common goal, not a handful of small ideas. He or she should unite the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center and the Creative Corridor with the Pueblo Convention Center and other tourism organizations under the vision — working together you are stronger.
Our ideal mayor is not a strong, almost dictatorial mayor with council members acting like a royal court. If a new mayoral system is introduced it would need to be billed as a check to council. City Council can control the purse, be representatives of the citizens and keep a close eye on the mayor and city staff. The mayor would be tourist-in-chief, business recruiter, cheerleader, reconciliator, but most importantly leader and visionary.
There are drawbacks as the mayor would try to impart his or her will on the town. There’s no guarantee we would find an altruistic mayor to lead Pueblo. Frankly, we could end up with a career politician who is keen on the paycheck but not the office. No politician is ever going to do everything right, but what’s the alternative?
Who is leading right now? Who can go to Colorado Springs and fight for our water? And then go to San Francisco to entice a small tech start-up to relocate? Then visit Washington D.C., to tell a Senator ignoring us it would be a shame if Pueblo forgot the Senator’s name at election time. Then return home to put a shoulder around two fighting groups and have them focus on the problem not each other.
We used to be the center of the steel industry in the West; now, of what are we the center? If we want that to change, we can’t be at the mercy of who has the loudest idea this season. We need a humble, yet proud fighter to lift up this town, to rally behind our commonalities, and not let us get pushed around. It’s time Pueblo grows up, gets a true balanced mayoral system and we find our leader.