Trash talking with city budget

Filed under: Opinion | Tags:,

Colorado Springs residents are beginning to realize that the city’s draconian budget cuts will affect even the most mundane and useful city services.

The ubiquitous trash cans along trails and in neighborhood parks will soon be removed.

The city noted in a press release, “The 2010 general fund budget for parks maintenance was reduced by $3,816,676 from the original 2009 budget (or 64 percent) and 27 parks maintenance positions were eliminated.” And although the direct costs associated with the program are relatively slight, a decimated work force won’t have the time to put in new bags and cart off the trash.

We can also look forward to the closure of most of the city’s community centers, to the end of Rock ledge Ranch as a working re-creation of a 19th century farm and to dried out, unkempt and perhaps trash-strewn parks. The Pioneers Museum is on life support, and will likely be completely defunded next year, when city forecasts call for cutting millions more from an already bare-bones budget.

It’s easy to blame city officials for this slow-moving train wreck. Mayor  Lionel Rivera and the city council both created the notoriously generous retention package for the United States Olympic Committee and bungled its execution. Shrouding their actions in secrecy and evasive misstatements, they signed on to a three-way deal with the USOC and a developer who has since been indicted on 33 counts of theft, fraud, conspiracy, and violations of the Colorado Organized Crime Control act. It has been clear to the most charitable of observers that, by their actions, they utterly forfeited the public’s trust in city government.

That is why angry and exasperated voters sent the city a stern message in last November’s election, both turning down a tax increase and approving an opaque measure sponsored by anti-tax gadfly Douglas Bruce.

But that scarcely matters. We’ve had enough of finding fault — now it’s time to fix the problems.

The city is a complex, multi-faceted enterprise. It can be argued that this enterprise has been fatally damaged during the past two decades — but not by elected and appointed officials. By approving the Bruce-written, mini-Tabor amendment to the city charter during 1991, local voters set in motion the process that has culminated in today’s meltdown.

We need to find solutions, and one thing is certain: There are no magic formulas, no hidden bank accounts and no untapped and painless funding sources. Absent adequate tax revenue, many traditional city services will never be restored.

City residents have a choice. They can listen to taxophobes who reflexively oppose both tax increases and TABOR modifications, or they can decide that our city is worth preserving, enhancing, and improving.

And we have a suggestion. Visit Rock ledge Ranch, the museum, the community centers and a few neighborhood parks this summer. It might be interesting. As Yogi Berra once said, “you can observe a lot by just watching.”

And consider yet another Berra-ism.

“You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.”