Colorado Springs! My ol' hometown! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Our culture, our businesspeople, our preachers, our politicians, our philanthropists, our local big shots... It is, as Gen. Schwartzkopf might have put it, a target-rich environment.

Good to hear, for example, that our putatively nonpartisan City Council members (i.e., Sallie Clark, Charles Wingate and Lionel Rivera) were much in evidence at the latest Republican-a-thon, a picnic organized by a GOP women's group. According to a highly placed informant, they told the assembled faithful that all would be well in River City if we could just elect another conservative Republican to City Council.

Guess that means that they don't have the votes to give Jim Mullen the boot. Oh well, I guess they'll just have to wait until Tim Pleasant can run again in '03.

Still, it's hard to understand how all the conservative Republicans on Council, and on the County Commission, differ from liberal Democrats. After all, you can always tell a right-wing GOPster:

Goes to warehouse-like church (5 percent)

Wears drab, largely unfashionable clothes (5 percent)

Owns handgun, dreams of using it (5 percent)

Listens to Rush (5 percent)

Didn't look at naked pictures of Dr. Laura on Internet (5 percent)

Thinks folks who parade around family-planning clinics every Saturday morning are great Americans (5 percent)

Thinks Hillary is a lesbian who murdered Vince Foster (5 percent)

Likes Low Taxes!! (65 percent)

Seems to me that our representatives, however they may score on the first seven characteristics, would get a big zero on the all-important eighth. If this is, as all indexes seem to tell us, the most conservative city in America, then why are the pols so eager for new taxes?

Remember April? Those tax-lovin' fools on the old Council tried the classic Great White Shark ploy. Vote for these new taxes right now, or the Great White will eat our city, crime will soar, roads will crumble, property values will collapse, prosperity will vanish and it'll be your fault!

As you may recall, it didn't work; the so-called SCIP tax, a 42 percent hike in the city sales tax, failed by a 60-40 margin. Well, that was then, this is now. Having elected a troika of staunch conservatives to Council, it looks as if they've abandoned the Great White ploy.

In its place, we've got the Teddy Kennedy piranha strategy. You make lots of small threats, lots of big promises, support lots of programs and devise tricky little ways to fund them. So instead of threatening the voters with the end of the world as we know it, you pretend to offer them a harmless little series of choices, none of which would seriously impact their wallets.

Come November, we'll have to navigate our way through three separate (but equal) proposed city sales tax hikes, as well as a property tax hike, which the ever-helpful County Commissioner Ed Jones has mid-wifed. No Great Whites here; just friendly little piranhas taking tiny little bites out of your wallet -- a penny here, a penny there; a small price to pay for a world-class city!

You've got a choice: Vote for one, vote for all! It's the kind of ballot you'd expect in Democratic strongholds like Boston, Madison or Denver.

Anyway, I'm still puzzled; after all, if Republicans are no longer the party of low taxes, what do they stand for, anyway? Heed me, Republican friends: High taxes are a gateway drug! Pretty soon, you'll be wearing fancy clothes, drinking chocolate martinis, cavorting with interns and reading the New York Times!

But change as you may, you'll never play in the same tax-raisin' league as Hizzoner, Denver Mayor Wellington Webb. Touting his proposed tax to build a new jail, Webb told voters that it'd only cost 'em $5 a year in new taxes; une somme drisoire, as the Frenchies might say.

Trouble is, the mayor neglected to mention that the jail tax was piggybacked on an existing levy that was due to expire, so that the real cost to taxpayers would amount to $111 annually -- up ever so slightly from $5. Confronted with this inconvenient fact, the mayor's flack stuck to the $5 figure, sure that Denver's Democratic legions would swallow the fib.

In the next few months, we're going to have, right here in River City, a piquant spectacle indeed; a bunch of dowdy Republicans making the creamed chicken rounds, telling Rotarians and such that they should vote to raise taxes.

And if their listeners are skeptical, let me suggest Eddie Murphy's classic line: "Who you gonna believe: me or yo' lyin' eyes?"


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