It's always an edifying spectacle when a politician, given the choice between pandering to his constituents and doing the right thing, actually decides to do the right thing.
You've gotta admire County Commissioner Tom Huffman, who, by voting to approve Scott Coleman's new topless bar, the so-called Appaloosa Gentleman's Club, saved the county a lot of aggravation and a bundle of bucks. Had the Commissioners denied Coleman's application, he would have sued, he would have won, and he would have opened his establishment anyway.
Commissioners Jeri Howells and Duncan Bremer voted to deny Coleman's application, no doubt scoring points with the Republican Right for their willingness to shovel taxpayer dollars into the pockets of Coleman's lawyers.
Alas, the club's gonna open anyway, forcing our overworked sheriff and his deputies to make multiple visits to this den of iniquity every week. After all, someone has to protect us from the customers (mostly middle-aged guys in suits) and the employees (bored, half-naked young women).
Pity our intrepid peace officers. Thanks to our feckless elected officials, not only do they have to deal with concealed weapons, they now have to go stare at unconcealed breasts.
Meanwhile, the SCIP-01 campaign is beginning to spend some big bucks, notably by repeated airings of a TV commercial that, for sheer smarmy inaccuracy, belongs in our local Advertising Hall of Shame.
Maybe you've seen it. A little girl plunges into a pool and remains underwater for what seems like a very long time. She finally surfaces, gulps air, and a deep, fake-sincere voice says, "Police and Fire response time today: 11 minutes. By 2006, 15 minutes. Will they come in time for you?" (portentous, disquieting music). The message, of course, is that if you don't vote for new taxes right now, it'll be your fault when innocent, flaxen-haired children drown (in Prospect Lake? In suburban swimming pools? In the Uncle Wilber Fountain?).
It's hard to believe that these kinds of patent untruths will actually sell a tax increase. After all, if response times slipped so dramatically, Council would actually make some hard choices and divert funds to public safety from less crucial areas. Sadly, lies work.
Remember the little girl with the daisy, which morphed into a mushroom cloud, proof that Barry Goldwater would get us into a nuclear war? And who could forget Willie Horton, the paroled con who went on a crime spree, proof that Dukakis was soft on crime? So dry off that little girl. She'll be fine, if you'll just vote for new taxes!
Let's consider some of the piquant side effects should the SCIP tax increase be approved.
For starters, by widening the differential between city and county rates to a full three percent, it'll encourage urban sprawl. Why? Because if you build a house that incorporates $100K in taxable building materials in its construction, it'll cost you three grand less in taxes outside the city limits.
Obviously, there are a lot of other factors in play, but it's one of the immutable laws of capitalism that economic activity flows to low-tax environments. And once our combined municipal tax rate (city, county, state) reaches 6.9 percent, it's hard to imagine that the voters would sit still for any more increases.
That means no zoo tax, no cultural facilities tax, no increase in the bed and car tax. And as we drift gently into recession, it might become very difficult indeed to persuade the taxpayers to renew and extend the TOPS tax.
But the most interesting consequences will be political. Right now, our City Council, led by Linda Barley, Mary Lou Makepeace, Jim Null, Richard Skorman and Ted Eastburn, is farther to the left than any Council in living memory. That's to be expected. Historically, the city moves to the left in good times and back to the right when the cheese starts to harden.
If, as seems likely, we get a fresh bunch of no-nonsense conservatives into office two years hence, what will they do with all this new money? They'll do what conservatives like Ronny May have always done: build roads.
Goodbye, Constitution Avenue; hello, east-west expressway. Goodbye, Woodmen Road; hello, north beltway. Goodbye, Confluence Park kayak run; hello, Monument Valley Park six-lane flyover.
And who knows? Maybe the conservatives are right. Maybe government should stick to the fundamentals, like public safety and transportation, and leave everything else to the private sector. After all, who need parks and zoos and kayak runs and quiet neighborhoods when you've got a modern network of superhighways ready to whisk you to the Appaloosa Gentleman's Club?