Advice from a pro

Distasteful as it may seem, we're already in full-bore campaign mode, with scores of candidates for offices high and low scurrying around looking for problems to solve.

They're sort of cute, aren't they? So sincere, so thoughtful, so full of energy, so selflessly concerned with the welfare of the communities they're aching to serve ... you almost want to exit reality for a while and believe what they say.

Candidates, candidates, candidates -- let me repeat the simplest of political truths. If you can just keep from making things worse, and refrain from embezzling public funds, you'll have surpassed expectations. And as for all the problems you're promising to fix, let's have a quick reality check.

Nationally, can't we stop pretending that we're at "the hinge of history," as Thomas Friedman breathlessly described in the New York Times a couple of months ago, and just admit that we're slogging along as best we can? Iraq, Afghanistan, al Qaeda, the Palestinians, North Korea -- these are not the components of some world-historical struggle for the triumph of liberal democracy, but part of our national job description.

Ruling the world sounds cool, until you realize that you have to do all the work while everybody else takes it easy. If the world's a rock concert, we're the security guys throwing out the drunks and confiscating weapons. Not much fun, but somebody's gotta do it; remember Altamont? And of course nobody likes us; what do you mean, we can't have our very own nukes?!!?

So we're not at war -- in wars such as Korea and Vietnam, more American soldiers died in a week or two than have died during the whole Iraqi conflict. We're at work, dealing with a messy, always dangerous world that is unlikely to become sunny, prosperous and universally democratic anytime soon.

So don't expect any differences in foreign policy come next January, although the Dems would probably be less inclined to invade whatever random country might irritate us than would their Republican counterparts.

Domestically, although neither party can make things better, the GOPsters have a declared agenda of making things worse, and you can trust 'em to put it in place. Drill the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, accelerate logging in the national forests, make permanent the tax cuts for the rich, make the EPA even more toothless, expand the PATRIOT Act, enact "Leave No Breast Bared" legislation ... (OK, I made that one up).

Here in Colorado, elected officials are in full "Twister" mode, trying to portray themselves as responsible, taxophobic, small-government conservatives, while simultaneously promoting all sorts of revenue enhancement schemes.

Here's the problem: Most of us think that state and local taxes are more than high enough, and we won't vote to raise 'em. But lots of the power people, seeing a big-time fiscal crisis down the road, want to stabilize (i.e., raise) government revenues. So welcome, elected officials and elected official wanna-bes, to a classic double bind.

Things may really get bad if government revenues don't improve, and it'll be your fault. But nobody wants to give government more money; if you push for it, you'll take the fall, win or lose. You know where you are, don't you? You're in the Hotel California, prisoners of your own device. "You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave."

Here in the heart of Colorado Springs, we can indeed check out, if we really want to. As I first suggested some years ago, let's join historic Colorado Springs (everything built prior to, say, 1962), to old Broadmoor, Manitou Springs and the West Side as far north as Garden of the Gods Road and simply form our own city.

Maybe we just annex to Manitou -- we'd have a beautiful little city of 100,000 or so, with parks, museums, historic neighborhoods and a lively arts scene. We'd be a little like Santa Fe, a little like Boulder, a little like Pueblo. We could cut taxes and utility rates right off the bat -- with a stable population, we wouldn't have to finance new water supplies or pay for a $30 million separated-grade intersection at Woodmen and Academy. Let the new, shiny, 100-percent suburban Colorado Springs pay for that stuff -- and it shouldn't be a problem, what with all the sales tax revenue from the big-box stores and all the developers eagerly paying their fair share of infrastructure costs.

Could we actually do this? Legally, there are avenues. Politically, sure. Let's create a liberal enclave at Ground Zero of the American right ... just as likely as a nude duet featuring Madonna and George W. at next year's Super Bowl.

Maybe Madonna could just reach over and strip off his flight suit ...



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