Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What's wrong with Colorado Springs?

Last week, I listened to a segment of "Colorado Matters" on Colorado Public Radio that featured the budget director from Colorado Springs. She said that tax revenues were so low that the city couldn't afford to maintain its parks or turn on its streetlights at night. This wasn't due to the current sad state of the economy; it was due to tax cuts approved by voters.

To keep things from going completely to hell, volunteers have been stepping in to cut the grass in the parks, and some neighborhoods have paid to have their streetlights turned back on. According to the budget director, this was a point of pride for many citizens, that they were actively engaged in keeping their community running.

My immediate reaction was, "Are you freakin' kidding me?! This is not a community! This is every man for himself!" The whole idea behind taxes is that we're all paying our fair share to support the services that benefit all of us, that make us a community instead of a bunch of selfish, small-minded individuals.

Extrapolating to the nation as a whole, this is what makes me so angry about the Tea Party, where Tea stands for "taxed enough already." I happen to think that income taxes are a reasonable price to pay for living in a free society, even though I take very little advantage of the services those taxes support. To think otherwise is to believe that you and your kind deserve some kind of special deal, maybe because you think you're working harder than the slackers who are milking the system. The truth is that, with few exceptions, people are doing the best they can. The sooner you understand this, the sooner you will realize that we are all in this life together. There are no winners, no losers. We all die in the end. Wouldn't you rather reach the end of your life knowing that you contributed what was needed to help your fellow man and support your community?

1 comment:

Jack P. Savage said...


Living in Colorado Springs, I have a somewhat different perspective of this story. It does not suprise me that the show you watched with the budget director left you with the impression you have. As a voter, here's my impression of what happened. Now, I'm no fan of the "tea party", and I have a fairly liberal point of view.

Last election, the city decided that they would like to collect more tax money from the citizens than they had been collecting even though the need for revenue has not changed. The city warned that without this extra revenue, it would no longer "be able" to produce services such as police and fire protection. Essentially, this was just a threat meant to scare the public into opening their wallets. The public read it correctly and said,"no thank you." The city officials threw hissy fits and took punitive action by cutting parks and rec, and turning off some street lights. Coincidently, these measures have been most harsh in the less affluent areas of town and those areas that have a higher population of non-white people. Upper-middle class neighborhoods have been largely unaffected.

The thing about Colorado Springs city government is it is run very much like a business with success measured in annual growth and revenue just like a business. The biggest difference is that they have no need to produce anything, and they have a complete monopoly. Everyone knows that if you can get a job with the city, you will make alot more than you would doing the same job for a private company.

As voters, we stood up to the city and said, "If you can't get it done with the money we're already giving you, then you're doing it wrong."

Now, 18 months later, it is clear that the biggest financial problem the city had was not a lack of revenue, but poor financial management. The reports of darkened streets and unkempt parks are largely unfounded. I spend my days in my job driving around the city and visiting homes and business places all over town. Not one single person has mention being personally affected by any "cuts". The only thing I have seen is some of the grass in the smaller parks is a little browner, (why do we pour such a precious resourse on the ground, anyway?) and every other light on some secondary roads are off at night. Most of them were dramatically overlit anyway. The horrible crime wave that was predicted has not occurred.