During Monday’s “budget markup session,” City Council members couldn’t stop using three apparently interchangeable phrases.
They promised to concentrate upon providing “essential city services,” “vital city functions” and “core city services.”
In the view of every one of our nine elected officials, public safety comes first. And after public safety comes yet more public safety, and if there’s any money left after providing for public safety — well, let’s provide even more public safety!
Those of us who took high school physics might remember Newton’s first law of motion: “An object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an external force.”
Our geezer-heavy City Council tends to confirm Newton’s 17th century hypothesis, at least as far as “objects at rest” are concerned.
A possible corollary of the first law might read: “Inaction disguised as action tends toward oblivion” — or maybe we should invoke the second law of thermodynamics, which says that any process in a system increases the total entropy of the universe.
More simply, that means you can’t heat up your coffee by dropping an ice cube in it.
Prosperity injects energy into governmental systems in the form of money, and propels bodies at rest into motion. Those dais-occupying bodies remain at rest, torpid and unresponsive, when the money flows diminish.
How do we know that the present level of funding and allocation of resources into public safety is appropriate?
The short answer: we don’t. Present funding levels are both a product of fearful political calculation and more-or-less informed guesswork.
Would the city be safer if we increased the number of uniformed officers by 20 percent? Would it be more unsafe if we decreased the number by an equal amount? Or would it be about the same?
We don’t know — and our elected officials can’t afford the former, and are afraid to try the latter. They know that public safety is the first responsibility of any government, and that it’s better to have too much than to provide too little.
If we reduce the number of firefighters on a truck from four to three, would we risk catastrophe? We don’t know — but we do know that major fires often require that every available unit be deployed, and it’s logical to assume that fewer firefighters means slower, less efficient fire suppression.
Translated, that means people could die who might otherwise live.
So what’s the magic number?
I don’t know, and neither do you, and neither does council. So, absent the dollar-denominated energy that might allow us to move forward, we make draconian cuts in everything but public safety — and we even cut it as well.
Energy leaks from the system — parks go unmaintained, buildings are closed, streetlights go out and the city’s entropy increases.
Sadly, council had little choice. The voters didn’t just drop an ice cube into the city’s coffee, they dropped the city into a vat of liquid nitrogen. Yeah, voters were mad because of the U.S. Olympic Committee headquarters deal, and yup, this isn’t a good time for new taxes — but what were they thinking??!!
By their decision, a majority of city voters “X”ed-out the park system, closed the Pioneers Museum, closed community centers and swimming pools, ditched most recreational programs and eliminated scores of important programs, positions and people.
What’s done is done. In a fire, you try to save what’s most important to you.
It’s too late to come together as a community. The majority of the community has sent the rest of us a message, and that message is clear and unmistakable.
You and I might care about the museum or Rock Ledge Ranch, but the majority of Colorado Springs residents don’t. They might say they do, but they don’t care enough to ante up a few bucks to save them.
Last Sunday, I paid a visit to the Pioneers Museum. It had been a few months since I was last there, and I’d forgotten just how magnificent it is, and how beautifully it presents the history of this city.
Whatever I can do to save it from the fire that has swept across the city, I’ll do. That means giving money, raising money and helping out wherever I can. I’m late to the party, I know, and others have been fighting the fire for a long time. I hope that I, and hundreds — thousands — of others who feel as I do haven’t waited too long.
And as for the voters, just accept the fact that they’ve gone nuts. Like a virus-generated botnet controlled by Douglas Bruce, the zombies are loose.
You might think that it’s just an evening in early November, but it’s the “Night of the Living Dead.” They keep coming back in a bloodthirsty lust for human flesh! They won’t stay dead!! They’re coming to get you … again!!! It pits the dead against the living in a struggle for survival!!!!
Welcome to Colorado Springs.
John Hazlehurst can be reached at email@example.com or 227-5861.