Dallas/Fort Worth. Minneapolis/St. Paul. San Francisco/Oakland. Denver/Colorado Springs.
Being a “second city” is not a position that we chose, but an accident of geography, politics and business development.
Second cities, like obnoxious little brothers, get short shrift compared to their siblings. And unlike younger brothers, they never quite grow up.
The big mean city next door gets first crack at everything — jobs, development, airline passengers, professional sports teams, high-rise buildings, creative young professionals, art museums and even state tax revenue.
We get the leftovers.
We get triple-A baseball teams; 12-story buildings; a quiet, convenient, mostly unused airport; not-so-young, not-so-creative professionals; and jobs at Wal-Mart and Wendy’s — or at least it seems that way.
But given local voters’ decisions during the past 20 years, it seems that a majority are content to remain a second city.
Consider the following votes:
1989: Local residents reject a proposed downtown sports arena, which would have been financed by a new sales tax.
1991: A one half cent sales tax for capital improvements is phased out, and a Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights provision is added to the City Charter.
1992: The statewide TABOR initiative passes by a 2-1 margin in the Springs.
1997: The Trails, Open Spaces and Parks initiative, which included a new one-tenth of a cent sales tax, passes comfortably.
1999: A $100 million bond issue to finance the Springs Community Improvements Program, a civic effort to identify, review and prioritize capital improvement needs, passes comfortably.
2001: A four-tenths of a cent sales tax to fund public safety passes easily.
2004: A dedicated 1 percent sales tax to fund the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority passes countywide.
2007: The TOPs tax is extended for another 15 years.
2009: Voters reject issue 1A, which would have extended an expiring property tax and used the money for economic development.
2009: Seven months later, voters reject Issue 2C, which would have increased property taxes by 10 mills. Voters also approve ordinance 300, which has the effect of terminating the stormwater enterprise and bans most payments from enterprises to the city.
Occam’s razor would suggest an economic connection.
The local economy was in the tank between 1989 and 1992, and tanked again during 2008. During good economic times, the voters are expansive and generous. But when the economy goes south, taxpayers turn their backs.
By approving TOPs, the PSST, the PPRTA and SCIP, the majority of voters agreed to create or preserve programs with tangible, long-term benefits to every resident of Colorado Springs. By deliberately shrinking the size, flexibility, span of control and revenue collection/retention by local government, voters have put the city on a very short leash and hobbled efforts to spur economic development.
But our elected officials don’t like being on the leash. They want to do what they want to do — and if that means mortgaging city assets to keep the U.S. Olympic Committee in town, or sticking property owners with a de facto property tax and calling it a stormwater fee, they’ll do it.
The voters, like exasperated dog trainers, don’t appreciate such behavior — and they don’t reward it.
So, here’s our advice to City Council: don’t chew the furniture, stop woofing at passers-by, don’t pull on the leash, don’t nip at other dogs, and stop jumping the fence and rampaging through the neighborhood.
Otherwise, we’ll have to bring back the meanest, toughest, most effective dog trainer in Colorado: Douglas Bruce.
Sit! Stay!! He means it …