Let's just review how crazy we are, here at the foot of Pikes Peak, and all up and down the Front Range.
Every poll taken for the last several years, here, in Denver, everywhere in Colorado, shows that growth, and its attendant problems (pollution, traffic, vanishing open space, school crowding, etc., etc.), leads the list of citizen concerns.
A recent Denver Post story, citing the usual sober and serious sources, estimated that Colorado's population would increase by 60 percent in the next 50 years.
The City of Aurora, having paid a million bucks apiece to half a dozen farmers in southeastern Colorado, now owns all the water rights appurtenant to the Rocky Ford Ditch. Result: no more water for agriculture, no more of those wonderful Rocky Ford cantaloupes.
And have you driven our expensively widened, six- to eight-lane stretch of I-25 lately? It's a perfect example of the adage that traffic expands to fill the laneage available.
Clearly, an overwhelming majority of Coloradans, not to mention Springs residents, would prefer cantaloupes to sprawl, open space to ranchettes, clear night skies to urban glare. But that's not what we're gonna get. We're gonna get more sprawl, more congestion, less open space, less wildlife and more orange streetlights.
Well, you can't keep the money out, and you can't physically prevent people from moving to Colorado. As an old-timer, I may see our state as marred and despoiled; a newcomer sees pristine wilderness and spacious vistas.
What we can do is to remove artificial incentives to growth, by the simple process of electing politicians who will de-fund such incentives. And this is where the nuttiness comes in, since most such incentives are viewed as natural and normal functions of government, at least by our peerless elected officials.
Should government fund the promotional arms of local industries? Should the City write an annual check for $3 million or so to the Pikes Peak Association of Realtors? After all, by maintaining liquidity in the local real-estate market, and efficiently matching buyer with sellers, realtors perform an essential service to the entire community. Shouldn't we help 'em out a bit with some tax dollars?
Sounds absurd, doesn't it? As far as I know, the free-enterprisin' folks over at the PPAR would never even think of asking for a government handout; they're perfectly willing, as most businesses, to allow the market to determine what compensation they get for their services.
That's why the City's continuing policy of funding the visitor industry's trade association (the Convention & Visitor's Bureau) is so odd. The City hands over $3 million annually to the CVB, representing the bulk of the proceeds of taxes collected on automobile and hotel room rentals.
The rationale: increasing the numbers of tourists/visitors is a public benefit so overwhelming that government ought to support private businesses that profit thereby. It might be argued, of course, that this is just using tax money to fuel the fires of growth, and that taxes collected from visitors ought to be used both to mitigate the impact of tourists, and improve the visitor experience. In other words, spend the dough on roads and parks!
Alas, the iron law of local politics states, very simply, that any organization, group, or project that currently receives government funding will continue to receive such funds indefinitely. Of course, the law's corollary states that such funds, once budgeted, will increase at 2.7 times the rate of inflation, without exception.
That's why the CVB's tax-funded budget has grown from a little over $1 million to just short of $3 million in the last dozen years. And if you think that our three rambunctious Council newcomers are ready to clamp down on these kinds of private-industry porkathons, you've got another thing coming.
Charles Wingate, Sallie Clark and Margaret Radford are good conservatives, which means that they're all for CVB subsidies (good for business), and skeptical about city-funded museums/symphonies/arts centers (frills!).
In the end, nothing will change; after all, nothing so infuriates a voter as removing his favorite organization's snout from the public trough.
And finally, our heartfelt sympathy goes to the family of Chandler Bruning, who died last week on the Peak. Car racing is a dangerous business, but his death ought not to obscure the fact that the Pikes Peak Hill Climb has had an exemplary safety record for the 70-plus years of its existence.
His death is a reminder that life is sad and unfair -- a lesson that is learned, in far milder form, by any student of local politics...
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