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Well, well, well. It really seems as if Council is poised to do the right thing and end the city's decades-long subsidy of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb.

Like formerly unrepentant sinners diagnosed with a terminal disease, our peerless elected leaders seem to have suddenly gotten that old-time religion and are casting off their merry ways of yore. No more pretending that it's fine and dandy for the city to be in the automobile racing business (although, given the number of businesses that the city is in, why not?).

No, it's time to be good little boys and girls and do some responsible governance.

What, do you suppose, led to this sudden about-face? Could it be that Council is trying to clear the decks for the April elections, when we'll be asked to approve a hefty tax increase, as well as an equally hefty bond issue? If so, it's a pretty good strategy: Snatch 30 Gs from the feeble grip of the nearly defunct Hill Climb, and hopefully the voters will reward the newly thrifty Council with several hundred million big ones.

The Hill Climb may no longer get a few morsels from the public trough, but the mighty oinkers who have long feasted there will continue undisturbed.

The promotional arm of the visitor industry (a.k.a. the Convention and Visitors Bureau) will take home $3 million or so, and the Colorado Springs Symphony and the Fine Arts Center will still get a modest stipend.

So Council's sudden parsimony is somewhat illusory: save 30 Gs, spend $3 million. Kind of like an addicted gambler going to Vegas and giving up the nickel slots so he can play the $100 machines.

Meanwhile, led by the ridiculously solvent real estate industry, the state's business community is spending vast sums to defeat citizen-initiated Amendments 21 and 24.

The Doug Bruce--authored Amendment 21 is the neutron bomb of all tax cuts. If passed, it'll simply hollow out local governments, which will quickly lose much (and, in some cases, all) of their tax revenue. Kind of a giant political tapeworm, munching cheerfully away at representative government.

And sprawl-limiting Amendment 24 -- well, we all know from the bilious attack ads that the real estate industry has funded that its effects would be disastrous! Why, it'd (choke! gasp!) make house prices go up so fast that we'd all have to sell out to millionaire Boulder liberals and move somewhere else. Also, the economy would collapse, even as housing prices skyrocket. Does this scenario sound just a little absurd?

Anyway, I'll vote for 24 and against 21, but I suspect that they'll both be defeated. Machiavelli explained why.

Change, he wrote in The Prince, is difficult to accomplish because those who stand to be injured by any new policy know exactly how they might be damaged and will vigorously oppose it.

Those who might benefit, on the other hand, are only weakly supportive, since their benefits are merely prospective, and therefore uncertain. And that'll doom Amendment 24 -- fervent, concentrated opposition versus widespread, lackadaisical support.

And finally, a few words about Bush and Gore and Nader.

Nader's message is clearly the most compelling; he's asking us to get off our butts and make the decisions that are now made by the BizGov oligarchy. Given that Colorado's a lock for Bush, Dems might as well vote for Nader; after all, only electoral votes count.

As for Al Gore, his candidacy eerily mirrors that of another Veep: Nixon in 1960. Like his predecessor, a champion debater, Gore may lose the election to a charming, aristocratic lightweight with better makeup and snappier quips.

And as for George W., if elected he'll clearly be the stupidest man to hold that august office since Warren G. Harding. It's not a pleasant prospect; as Al's distant relation Gore Vidal noted, the chief magistrate of the greatest empire the world has ever seen ought not to be an inconsequential person.

There is, however, a solution. Not only does Colorado Springs developer and former gubernatorial candidate Steve Schuck share Bush's ideological bent, he also sports some real brains.

Surely, local GOP political operative extraordinaire Sarah Jack can figure out how to pull a last-minute candidate switch -- we'd save the country from W., and without Steve's leadership the local real estate moguls wouldn't be able to fend off the next iteration of Amendment 24.

Far-fetched? Less so than the notion that City Council might stop subsidizing the tourist industry, or that we'll all become real estate millionaires thanks to Amendment 24, or that a water fountain resembling a giant, multicolored condom would be erected in Acacia Park.

-- johnhazlehurst@aol.com

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