Leadership response to tragedy sets the tone for an organization. In the case of the City of Colorado Springs, Mayor John Suthers’ response to tragedy has been nonexistent, which has created a void in the creative psyche of his city and its people. Imagine this: a U.S. Army officer survives Afghanistan, then gets killed in his home city. Two weekends ago at 2 AM between Saturday and Sunday, that happened: an Army Captain named Dan Lehmann was shot and killed in the downtown area of Colorado Springs. He was NOT shot in a “bad part of town,” as they found his body steps from restaurants and banks, just blocks away from the Westside neighborhood.

Rip Red Tape does not align itself with any sect, denomination, politics, organization, or institution. This is a post about leadership, not politics. Colorado Springs’ Mayor John Suthers gets a D+ rating for leadership response to tragedy, and here’s why:

Whatever the cause, the known fact is that the homeless population in Colorado Springs has risen drastically under his reign. Again, we know that the causes are multi-fold: blame marijuana, blame rising housing prices, friendly citizens, charities, etc…None of that is the point here. The point is that our city’s leader has said very little regarding the downward trend in citizen safety…And what’s more, Colorado Springs is now officially a dangerous city to live in–we can ask Captain Lehmann’s family or refer to the facts and statistics, which show Colorado Springs in the bottom 10% America’s safest cities, according to Neighborhood Scout. A Colorado Springs resident has a 1 in 201 chance of being the victim of armed burglary, rape, assault, and/or murder. 1 in 201. Should we have to roll those dice every day?

So what’s our solution at Rip Red Tape? Let the steps below serve as a guide:

1) Address the problem. I reached out to the Mayor four days ago because I had not seen any statements regarding the three homicides in one week in his city. “Why hasn’t this leader addressed the obvious problem?” I ask myself. And then I asked him via E-mail. Still no response…still no response from a team of tax-funded public relations “professionals,” and still no statement from the Mayor…Ignoring the problem makes it worse.

2) Fix it. Sad day in America when we elect public servants who do not serve. If the overt rise in crime, homelessness, and general riff-raff in the city of Colorado Springs continues to get worse, our public servants must do something to combat the trend…As a city, we haven’t done anything to fix it, because we haven’t even addressed it…and that falls on our leadership.

3) Strive to be the best. If you’re the leader of an organization and you don’t want to make your organization be the best it can be, you need to be fired. When I contacted the Mayor’s office back in May of this year regarding the rise in my city’s crime and homelessness, his Senior Office Specialist Laurie Landers replied that Colorado Springs’ numbers “are actually average in comparison to other similarly populated areas across the country.” Imagine this: we put a leader in position to keep us just above water, and to be satisfied with being “average.” In my experience, there’s a difference between playing not to lose and playing to win. The former tends to lose, and if we’re not playing to win, we don’t have a good leader.

Colorado Springs exhibits a textbook example of failed leadership response to obvious, harmful, and potentially fatal problems which will persist until at least addressed.

(Photo Credit: Colorado Springs Independent)


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