May I say that it's a privilege to live in a town as wonderfully schizophrenic as Colorado Springs?

On the one hand, our intrepid City Council, partnering as always with our public-spirited private sector, hopes to turn the derelict southwest core of the city into the Athens of the West. Not surprisingly, they'd like all of us to give them a boost by voting for a big tax increase come April.

On the other hand, the equally intrepid Doug Bruce, scourge of the tax and spend crowd, is both promoting his new tax cut, and running for the state senate.

At the Dougster's suggestion, I pulled up his Web sites: taxcut2000.com and douglasbruce.com.

As you might expect from the old terrorist, they're competently put together, combative, and reasonably informative. On the tax cut site, Doug furnishes the text of his proposed constitutional amendment, which would establish escalating tax cuts of $25 annually in four categories of state taxation.

It's written in the same murky lawyerese that characterized Doug's successful TABOR amendment of 1992. I, like everyone else at the time, didn't understand TABOR, and I well remember Doug's gloating little speech a few days after it passed when he told the governing class how to interpret all of its obscure verbiage.

I don't understand this one either, and Doug says that it's crystal clear, just a modest little tax cut....

Will it pass? Given that the entire Colorado political establishment is solidly against it, from the governor on down, and given that torrents of special interest money will finance a slickly professional campaign aimed at defeating it, you've got to like Doug's chances.

He'll need to put together an odd coalition of taxophobes, anti-development liberals and environmentalists, and ordinary people who are mildly suspicious of government and wouldn't mind having a few more dollars to spend.

Despite his running for political office, the Dougster's at his best when he's fighting the power structure. And, everybody likes to see the big shots take it on the chin every once in a while.

On his campaign site (douglasbruce.com), Doug shows that he's learned a thing or two from America's uberpolitician, Bill Clinton.

Doug's campaign biography, for instance, is worthy of the great one himself. Inconvenient or embarrassing facts from the past are not explained away; they're simply omitted.

We don't get to read about Doug's past political history, as a Democratic candidate for the California State Assembly, or about his long battle with the IRS when he had the chutzpah to claim his live-in girlfriend and her dog as a tax exemption. And although he refers proudly to his history of fixing up derelict rental properties, he somehow forgets to mention his brief stay in the Denver slammer in connection with some of those very properties.

There's a picture of Doug on the site, in which he essays the obligatory politician's smile. Unfortunately, he looks just like Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs -- "I ate his liver with fava beans and a nice Chianti ... mmmm!"

Yes, it's more than wonderful to make fun of Doug, but he'll have the last laugh. My guess is that he'll win his primary and cruise home in November to a seat in the senate. There he'll cackle gleefully as the legislature tries to deal with the consequences of his tax cut.

Meanwhile, I spent Memorial Day in Boulder, running the Boulder Bolder with 40,000 mostly skinny folks. I marveled once again at the consequences of 30 years of progressive municipal government. By any measure, Boulder's investment in public amenities -- bike paths, trails, open space, parks, municipal buildings, etc, etc. -- is remarkable, and it makes for an extraordinarily pleasant city.

Colorado Springs, by contrast, is not just a day late and a dollar short; we're half a century late, and about a billion dollars short.

Through sheer incompetence, we've probably blown our chance to make Red Rock Canyon into one of the crown jewels of our park system.

And through sheer stupidity, we've managed to have a municipal government that is both profligate ($2.5 million handed over annually to the visitor industry) and underfunded (roads deteriorating, police response times up).

So what do we do about it?

It's simple: we embrace our schizophrenia. Vote for the Dougster's tax cut, and elect him to the senate. And come April, give our favorite liberal warhorse, the old gray mayor herself, a brand new tax for her 60th birthday.

It may sound crazy, and it is, but that's why they have a secret ballot. Doug, Mary Lou: You can count on my vote!

-- johnhazlehurst@aol.com


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