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Colorado Springs' turn to wake up 

Just a few days until the election, and we're hearing the usual hyperbole: "We are at a critical juncture." This time, the hyperbole is accurate.

Passing a tax to fix city streets seems like a no-brainer, but our city's antic conservatives are hardly predictable. In an era when self-described conservatives are anti-government radicals and liberals are cautious defenders of the status quo, our voters may not know what they like, but they seem to know what they don't like — taxes.

Remember last November, when county voters rejected the proposed stormwater fee? Polls predicted that the issue would pass, but it went down anyway.

Issue 2C is supported by every city elected official, save Councilor Helen Collins. The business community is on board, the traditional leadership class is united, the Gazette's editorial page is part of the amen chorus and polls say Springs residents are eager to fill the potholes.

Will it pass? I think so, but I'm not much of a prognosticator. I've never understood why people swallow the belligerent, aggrieved rhetoric of the radical right. It's Doug Bruce's native tongue — fake outrage married to nonsensical factoids. Our community has embraced him and his positions, more often than not.

Even if people don't much like Bruce and his BFF/alleged co-conspirator Collins, los dos pendejos create uncertainty and give taxophobes an excuse to vote no. If 2C fails, the long-term consequences will be severe. Such consequences go well beyond lumpier streets and deeper potholes.

Mayor John Suthers has done a superb job of selling his plan. He's united our fractious City Council, silenced or outmaneuvered those who might have gone off the reservation, and moved swiftly to reap the fruits of his smashing victory in the mayoral race.

If Suthers can't bring the city to its senses, who can? Who would even want to try? We'll become our worst nightmare: rundown, aging, insolvent, angry and stupid. Investment will dry up, those who can leave will and the rest of us will be stuck. It won't happen overnight. But it'll happen.

To better understand why our city is in such a fix, consider the rich kids up north.

In the 1960s, Boulder was a shabby little town surrounding the University of Colorado. Young people migrated there, attracted by a laid-back lifestyle and cheap Victorian fixer-uppers. They took over city government, voted for an open-space tax in 1965 and put Boulder on course to become what it is today — the Marin County of the Rockies.

In the early 1980s, Denver was a mess, its economy in tatters, downtown office buildings vacant and politicians clueless. Residents tossed the establishment to the curb, voted in a young Hispanic lawyer, and Mayor Federico Peña laid the foundation for today's grand metropolis. DIA, the Denver Convention Center, the Scientific and Cultural Facilities Tax, LoDo, Coors Field — change begat change and the city was reborn.

Restless voters in both cities remade sclerotic city governments, choosing leaders with far-reaching, positive visions of their city's future.

By contrast, Colorado Springs embraced Bruce's cramped negativity. In 1991, local voters approved two Bruce-initiated measures. One phased out a half-cent sales tax dedicated to capital improvements, while the other embedded a complex, highly restrictive mini-Taxpayer's Bill of Rights in the City Charter.

Our mantra since then has been not to do, but to prevent; to stagnate, not innovate; to get older, not bolder. Sports arenas and convention centers? Bah! Humbug! Let other cities engage in such follies, not us!

We're all Dougie's bitches. He hobbled us, bridled us and tied us up. His vision is that of a slumlord: a faded city peopled by poor folks living in rundown apartment buildings paying exorbitant rents ... to him.

But now we can run free and cast off the shackles of serfdom. It's our choice: Do we want to be led by the felonious Mr. Bruce, or our estimable Mayor Suthers? The long future of the city is in our hands.

For a quarter-century we've been lab rats, clueless victims of a failed experiment in governance. As our Front Range neighbors have prospered, we've lagged behind. Without the vast federal payrolls that buttress our economy, we'd go bust.

Two words of advice for Colorado Springs voters: Wake up!

  • "We are at a critical juncture." This time, the hyperbole is accurate.

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