For almost half a century, local businesses, elected officials, nonprofits, and concerned citizens have conceived, pushed, and sometimes implemented a variety of schemes to improve downtown-to make it what it once was, the vibrant center of our community, an exciting, fun place to be, full of lively shops, restaurants, residents, defined by broad boulevards and historic buildings.
Here’s what we’ve actually done.
During the 60′s and early 70′s, we tore down most of the major historic buildings that once defined downtown, and razed many square blocks of less distinguished buildings. So successful was this program that today, forty years later, the site once graced by the Burns Opera House and Out West Printing, as well as a dozen other buildings, is still a parking lot.
Then we further improved downtown by building a bunch of ill-conceived, badly designed “junk buildings”-the Colorado Square Building, the renovated building at the NW corner of Pikes Peak & Tejon, the Antlers, the Holly Sugar building.
So moribund did downtown then become that a couple of clever businessmen figured out that it was, in effect, like the deserted warehouse districts of similar cities-so they bought buildings in the heart of downtown for cheap, and turned much of central downtown on weekend nights into a giant, skanky, nightclub district, with rowdy patrons, public drunkenness, and frequent fights that taxed the resources of the P.D.
And during the last couple of years, we’ve made sure that downtown has at least one major headquarters industry: the homeless. The new Marian House, referred to by some of our frenchified wits as the “Palais des Clochards” (the Beggar’s Palace) nears completion, and the city also thoughtfully provides its patrons with the ‘DASH’ (downtown area shuttle), otherwise known as the Bum’s Bus.
The feral, homeless men who help define the street life of the Tejon Street corridor have, as anyone who works in or visits downtown knows, taken over the shuttle. That’s the reality-despite the lofty pretensions of folks who want to believe otherwise.
And now, so dismayed are the shuttle pushers by the imminent demise of the Bum’s Bus, thanks to the city’s financial crisis, that they propose to keep it in operation by collecting a few more dollars by anyone who may be unwise enough to visit downtown, and patronize local merchants. The parking meters, just like the rest of us, are scheduled to start work earlier, and finish later! Yup, they’re going to roll up their sleeves and collect those quarters between 8 AM and 10PM, six days a week, instead of their present lazy banker’s hours of 9AM to 6PM.
Just how stupid is this? To save a service that only adds to downtown’s scruffy disorder, the powers that be propose to stck downtown’s patrons with another fee. And, of course, lots more folks will be stuck with $20 parking tickets (just downtown’s way of saying ‘thanks for shopping with us’!), and…why go on?
Here’s a small bit of advice-which, we know, will be ignored. Hood all the meters and make the parking garages free for a month-and see what happens.
But then there wouldn’t be any money to run the Municipal Court, or pay for the parking garage expansions, or pay the salaries of the meter maids (and meter men), or pay for more plans to make downtown an exciting, vibrant place…
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