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Democrazy in Action

By Henry Schwaller
Opinion | February 3, 2010

HAYS, Kan. - Have you ever wondered what your community would look like if it were financially bankrupt - and voters wouldn't approve a tax increase of any kind? Well, residents of Colorado Springs can tell you what it's like.

According to the Denver Post:

More than a third of the streetlights in Colorado Springs will go dark Monday. The police helicopters are for sale on the Internet. The city is dumping firefighting jobs, a vice team, burglary investigators, beat cops -- dozens of police and fire positions will go unfilled.

The parks department removed trash cans last week, replacing them with signs urging users to pack out their own litter.

Neighbors are encouraged to bring their own lawn mowers to local green spaces, because parks workers will mow them only once every two weeks. If that.

Water cutbacks mean most parks will be dead, brown turf by July; the flower and fertilizer budget is zero.

City recreation centers, indoor and outdoor pools, and a handful of museums will close for good March 31 unless they find private funding to stay open. Buses no longer run on evenings and weekends. The city won't pay for any street paving, relying instead on a regional authority that can meet only about 10 percent of the need.

How did this happen? Colorado Springs is a vibrant, growing city and home to military bases and the U.S. Air Force Academy. Unfortunately, the recession hit the Springs hard, and sales tax collections - the primary source of city revenue - dropped dramatically.

When asked to vote on a property tax increase to offset the losses, "voters ... said an emphatic no" because most Springs residents "don't trust city government to wisely spend a general tax increase and don't believe the current cuts are the only way to balance a budget."

My suggestion? Pray that these folks don't move here.


4 Comments

Some cities and towns hold their residents hostage by - first, not managing tax dollars wisely and overspending and not being frugal - then, next, by continually raising taxes beyond the point that the citizens are comfortable with or beyond which the less fortunate can afford.

Here's how the officials of those cities and towns then turn their wrath on the citizens and hold them hostage - rather than reducing the costs of the fluff, the waste, the unseen unnecessary expenditures and the more opaquely hidden unnecessary expenditures, the officials choose to reduce obvious and more noticeable services in order to hurt the citizens and punish them for not voting for tax increases.

I say to the Colorado Springs residents - stand your ground. Vote those officials out; the elections are not that far away. Don't blink. Your city officials are playing hardball with their voters rather than doing the hard job of eliminating waste and unnecessary bureaucratic expenditures first.

Don't move to Henry's location! Stand your ground in Colorado Springs!


Lucy,

I agree that there are instances when cities have been mismanaged (Detroit, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Philadelphia) but that isn't the case here. The extent of the cost cutting demonstrates how serious the budget shortfall is - and how few options (i.e., "savings") are left. The business versus government example provided in the article is bogus. Government is not a business, as government has to serve all people, regardless of ability to pay for services. Comparing salaries at The BroAdmoor to the city is bogus, too, as the duties and responsibilities of managers may not be the same at both organizations.

Please do not be fooled by the rhetoric of those who say all government is bad. It's just not true.


Henry, I can't speak to how Colorado Springs city government is managing it's money, however, I have observed city, county and school boards in Kansas that are not trimming fat well in this economy.

Local governments have a grave responsibility in these economic times. Obviously, cities and school boards have to pay their bills.

Yet, as our local governments consider across-the-board tax increases, it's so important for our leaders to remember that many of our neighbors and friends are barely hanging on in this economy. Even a $100 increase in property tax or an annual $100 increase in tax on groceries could send some families into foreclosure and homelessness, beginning downward spiral decline.

It's hard for many of us to realize what even just one dollar may mean to many of these families that have been hit so hard in recent years. Each month, many more American families are barely covering their bills, if they even are able to cover them.

As you know, our local governments need to be very very careful before they raise any taxes that would cause middle class and lower class home owners or families to pay more at the grocery store or in their monthly escrow payments. If letting grass turn brown in some city parks means that 100 marginal families get to remain in their homes - I vote for the latter!

(But of course, I know nothing about Colorado Springs, so I'm not taking sides on that one.)

And, Henry, I'm so glad you are writing! This is such a delight to have you here!


Interesting piece Henry. Welcome to KFP. I look forward to your future pieces too.


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