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City budget cuts weakening community, pride of place

Wed, May 20, 2009

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We’d kind of gotten used to our government-financed fireworks display, hadn’t we?  The symphony, then the philharmonic.  The 1812 Overture.  Tens of thousands of folks coming together in the only celebratory, city-wide event of the year.  The event that, for the last thirty years, has defined and celebrated our community and our nation.

Absent a “deus ex machina”, a great-hearted philanthropist willing to pony up a hundred grand or so to fund the event, the fabulous fourth at Memorial Park may be gone forever.  It’ll be recreated at Fort Carson, according to news reports, and will no longer be a true community event.

It’ll be a perfectly nice fireworks display – and that’s about it.  No more picnicking in the park, no more walking/riding a bike to Memorial Park, no more fire in the sky, arching high over the heart of the city.

Tens of thousands gathered in the park – and tens of thousands more watched from backyards, decks, and roofs throughout the city’s core. 

City Council’s decision is understandable. Like medics on the battlefield, they’re engaged in a kind of urban triage.  This year, the cops will still be lurking to catch speeders, the ghetto bird (aka the police helicopter) will be keeping west side residents awake, and some potholes will be filled.  Those programs survive-but no more fabulous fourth, no more water to keep the parks green, and the city auditorium will decay for yet another year.

Why are we in such a fix?  Is it TABOR, the recession, or just government inefficiency?  Or some combination of all three? 

At this point, it doesn’t much matter.  There isn’t enough money, cuts have to be made, and council has the unenviable job of making those cuts. 

But I guess I look at things differently.  It seems to me that the cumulative impact of these cuts will lessen our sense of community, our belief in ourselves and our pride of place. 

A city that can’t water its parks and continue an event that has delighted its residents for 30 years is, sad to say, not much of a city.

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12 Comments For This Post

  1. es Says:

    I am darn-near devastated by no fireworks display – and perturbed by the closure of restrooms in city parks. What, exactly, is a parent of a barely toilet trained three year old supposed to do with a child that needs to “go”?

  2. amanwhosees Says:

    John wrote: “Why are we in such a fix? Is it TABOR, the recession, or just government inefficiency? Or some combination of all three?”
    I say all three, but ultimately I blame local voters. They continue to elect inefficient leaders, and cling to TABOR and an inefficient sales tax revenue base, which together hamstring government budgets. It’s sad, but Springs voters are getting exactly what they vote and pay for. That said, I do believe in this community, and I do hope this is a wake-up call.

  3. Shirley Beckland Says:

    I’m not a big fan of fireworks. Never have been. But I think it’s deplorable that the city finds yet one more way to stick it to citizens for not increasing taxes. First they take the fun out of fountains, and now fireworks? While I agree these things could be perceived as lavish in these difficult economic times, what about the way they try to scare us by no longer testing for and treating West Nile hotbeds and restaurant kitchens. SO OBVIOUS! I hope the city and county are thinking outside the box to find new ways to save money. No business is operating BAU anymore, and I hope the same is true with our government. I hate to think our elected officials could really be so obtuse. Tear it down and start over again!

  4. es Says:

    It’s a little odd that Ms. Beckland complains about the lack of city services – while complaining that the city wants to raise taxes. Services cost money – nothing is free. The poor quality of our city’s governing body, it’s “council” (quotation marks are very intentional) indicates what you get when you’re not willing to compensate for services rendered.

  5. Shelley R. Quartiero Says:

    Thank you for your insight John. Wish more could see that the plight of Colorado Springs is not because of some ranchers down south wanting to keep their own land.

  6. Shirley Beckland Says:

    ES, I understand that services require tax money. My point is that the city seems to cut out those things which might tug on the heartstrings most, or have the worst PR associated with them, almost as a punishment to citizens for not approving tax increases. I hope they are looking at ways to cut that might be more transparent to us, like salaries, or duplication, or red tape red tape red tape that could be cut and streamlined.

  7. Old Farm Says:

    John Hazlehurst wrote:
    “Why are we in such a fix? Is it TABOR, the recession, or just government inefficiency? Or some combination of all three?”

    Ultimately, the cause probably lies with all three areas. I am a strong supporter of Tabor, but it may be time to take a look at adjusting it, owing to how it works during a time like this. Maybe it needs to be adjusted to account for extreme times like these – but I’d support that only if Doug Bruce, its author, initiated it.
    This is a serious recession, and many areas of our economy and society are being affected. To spend funds on a display of fireworks (made in China) costing thousands of dollars at this time, with the budget contstraints the city faces would be unwise. I think we can all agree that there are better uses for the money today.
    Government inefficiency, especially as perceived by the citizens of Colorado Springs/El Paso County (often with good reason) is another factor that must be addressed. Spending by governments at all levels never seems to allow for a “rainy day”. Even when the economy in Colorado Springs was white-hot in the 1990′s,
    the local government spent every bit of the funds it collected, some of which did not constitute the core functions of government.
    What people need to remember is that this decision is temporary. When the overall economy improves, there will be funds to support these types of functions. Until then,
    stay home with your family and enjoy the holiday together.

  8. Phoebe Says:

    Here’s what I think needs to happen:

    – We need to take ourselves seriously and change the city government such that we have a full-time mayor. Enough with the part-time underpaid volunteer council business. There are plenty of issues that need attention, and he or she would be occupied full-time.

    – We need to take a second look at TABOR, whose consequences widl be Draconian when the recession ends. Here’s an excellent article about it:

    http://www.csindy.com/colorado/tabor-tyranny/Content?oid=1347928

    Colorado Springs has a lot going for it, but there’s plenty of room for improvement. Now is the time for us to get our acts together.

  9. es Says:

    In response to Old Farm.
    Yep. We can all stay home in our little castles and enjoy holidays with the family. We can all ignore the fact that we are a part of a city- and that the community connections that we build are a huge part of what keeps us safe. The Sumerians and Greeks didn’t build cities because they needed places to shop – they built them because they knew, thousands of years ago, that it is our place in the community that makes us human. And it is through celebrations and ceremonies that a diverse group of people becomes a true city.

  10. John Hazlehurst Says:

    Interesting how this seems to strike a nerve among all of us, regardless of the prism through which we may regard it. Whatever the cause, I think that the city’s inability and/or unwillingness to maintain/support its essential fabric, that whioch defines it as Colorado Springs and not, say, Gary, Indiana (no disrespect to Gary!), is deplorable.

  11. RG Says:

    Drive by Memorial Park on Pikes Peak Ave. The “grass” is so brown the fireworks would have probably burned the park down anyway. I wonder if the orginizers of that Spike Fest Volleyball tourney later this summer at Memorial Park knows how bad the park looks. At least they mostly use the sand pits.

  12. RJF Says:

    No doubt that TABOR combined with a terrible municipal tax policy predicated on Sales Tax has contributed to this downturn in the quality of life. Better jobs are needed with more economic diversity in the community. You can’t eat scenery!