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Need a license? Drive to Kansas 

According to Census 2000 figures, El Paso County's population is 519,772, of which, approximately 80 percent is of age to drive.

So let's do the math. If all licenses will now be valid for 10 years, this means that in any given year, we can expect 41,600 of them to be up for renewal, or approximately 3,467 per month.

If you take the average month to have 166 working hours available, this means that approximately 21 people per hour will be seeking to renew their drivers' licenses -- but where?

By the end of this month, the options will be these: the main office on Austin Bluffs Parkway at Academy Boulevard, or express renewal at the Chapel Hills Mall. The auxiliary offices in Widefield and near the West Side on Arcturus Drive at 8th Street will be closed!

And why will they be closed? Because, I am told, the State of Colorado has not got sufficient funds available to keep them open. Once upon a time, not so long ago, the state had a budget surplus. And, of course, once upon a time not so much earlier, we did not suffer under the so-called "Taxpayers Bill of Rights" (TABOR).

Now, thanks to Gov. Bill Owens and the state Legislature, and Mr. Doug Bruce and his supporters, our southernmost El Paso County residents will drive halfway to Castle Rock to obtain a plasticized card permitting them to drive home again. The most transient portion of our population, soldiers and airmen stationed at Fort Carson, and Peterson and Schriever Air Force Bases, will probably be affected the most, but anyone not living in convenient proximity to the northeastern most part of our city will be negatively impacted by these closures.

Mismanagement of the state budget? Kowtowing to base elements of society for political gain? While I can't say these are the only causes of this situation, they clearly are significant contributors.

When I recently renewed my license, at the soon-to-be-closed Arcturus office, I drew #92 -- and #71 was being served at the time. It was approximately an hour until I left. There were several people ahead of me who were obtaining identification cards only, not drivers' licenses, and from some overheard conversations, a like number behind me were also there for that purpose.

When I left, there were more people in the office than when I arrived. The three clerks were efficient, so far as I could tell, and kept things moving at what appeared to be as fast a pace as possible.

According to the recorded message one hears upon calling the main office, if you are not served by closing time (no matter how long you have been waiting), you must come back the next day. This in itself does not seem unreasonable (after all, the state obviously has no funds available to pay overtime wages!), but think of the result when this is the location for renewing licenses.

If today there are 20 people (or even 15) at satellite offices in any given hour, how many will there be in the single open office during a typical hour next month? Will there be room enough for enough clerks to make the process run as well as it now does? Can we depend on our fellow citizens to plan their schedules well enough to keep people from having to drive to the office on more than one day?

It is not difficult to visualize someone driving from, say, Fountain, arriving at 2 in the afternoon, thinking they had sufficient time to take care of business, and finding 60 people ahead of them in line -- oops! -- see you tomorrow morning.

But perhaps this is the kind of problem it will take for the citizens of El Paso County to wake up to the fact that their elected government officials (and legislation) at all levels, not just the county commissioner that represents them, has interests and agendas at heart that are not necessarily those of the voters who did the electing.

James A. Delavan is an environmental scientist and political independent who serves on the board of the Organization of Westside Neighbors.

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