Four years ago, Money magazine ranked Colorado Springs one of the 10 best places to live in America, and Number One among large cities. Now the joke is that the last person to leave will have to turn out the lights.
Oops, never mind – the lights already have been turned out.
Facing a huge drop in sales tax revenue because of the Great Recession, the government of the city of about 370,000 asked the voters to approve a tripling of the property tax rate this fall. The voters said no.
Consequently, the city is cutting back or cutting out many basic services – including shutting off more than a third of the streetlights.
“The police helicopters are for sale on the Internet,” said a story in the Denver Post. “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.”
Many residents of Colorado Springs, a city noted for its hard-line conservative, anti-tax attitude, claim the cuts aren’t really necessary. (Conservatives are always convinced, despite all evidence to the contrary, that the government – city, state or local – has vast reserves of money stored in secret subterranean vaults somewhere.)
But others are alarmed.
“How are people supposed to live? We're not a 'Mayberry R.F.D.' anymore,” said Addy Hansen, a criminal justice student. “We're the second-largest city, and growing, in Colorado. We're in trouble. We're in big trouble.”
Those who think the solution to every problem is to shrink government and cut taxes should take a look at Colorado Springs and remember that the absence of government isn’t paradise – it’s Afghanistan.