Saving El Paso County 

The dynamic, look-to-the-future voters of El Paso County ("We Like Ike") rejected a proposed 1-percent sales tax hike in the Nov. 4 election. Now we know why: Seems the ballot was too long and complicated, and we got tired.

From actual Denver polling expert Floyd Ciruli, speaking to Gazette reporter Pam Zubeck about last week's state ballot: "It was incredible 18 (statewide) ballot issues. And then everything else. Fatigue sets in, and a lot of people begin to drop off at the bottom."

In other words we, the proud people of El Paso County, are now officially so fat and lazy and out of shape that we are not in good enough physical condition to vote.

The point here, if indeed I was trying to make one and I am not, is that the county is broke and doesn't have much of a contingency plan. As I understand it, the only current revenue-generating plan involves Sheriff Terry Maketa renting out inmates from the overcrowded jail for events such as birthday parties, where prisoners can be force-fed candy and then used as piatas.

(Footnote: That was just a stupid joke and in no way implies that inmates should be mistreated, including being used as piatas or in other traditional children's party games such as the one involving actual sharp thumbtacks called Pin the Tail on the Itchy Meth Dealer.)

Seriously, I have a solution. (The last time I suggested a solution to an actual civic problem was in the winter of 2001 and, well, let's just say former Utilities CEO Phil Tollefson didn't much care for the idea of being set on fire to generate heat so we "wouldn't have to use so much expensive coal.")

My idea comes from Barack Obama's philosophy, which I will now summarize: When our grandfathers were John McCain's age, we wouldn't even let them hold the TV remote controls.

No, the actual philosophy I cite is that of volunteerism, giving of ourselves and our time, of rising to meet the needs of our fellow citizens both in our own communities and, as Sarah Palin put it so eloquently, in distant places such as the country of Africa.

I asked County Commissioner Sallie Clark, who was re-elected last Tuesday, how the people of El Paso County could shoulder more of the burden. She hung up on me, in part because I once wrote a column pointing out she has relatively big feet. Clark is a terrific person, really, and after three more calls she said she'd give me another chance.

"There are so many ways people can help," she said, talking at great length about trail-building in county parks, organizing records in the sheriff's department, serving on community boards and dozens of other things we can do.

She didn't cover everything. Some of us should put a load of sand on the passenger seats of our cars this winter and, when it snows, we can throw the sand out the window, one handful at a time, onto our roadways. (Note: I called the county transportation folks to run this idea by them. They say that's the system they use now.)

Here are more of my own brilliant ideas:

No. 1: State Rep. Doug Bruce has been a longtime owner of rentals in Colorado Springs, most with leaky roofs (although Doug prefers the conservation-minded term "drip irrigation"). He'll have spare time in January after being thrown out of office by, well, us. At the same time, the county health folks don't have money for restaurant inspections to look for things such as animal droppings. There are details to work out, of course ... but if there's one guy who knows what rat poop looks like, it's Doug Bruce.

No. 2: District Attorney John Newsome is also about to have free time. He was defeated after being videotaped drinking a huge amount of beer and then driving his county-owned vehicle. Anyway, the county needs volunteers to drive seniors on errands: to medical and dental appointments, the pharmacy and even the supermarket. I say we give ex-DA Newsome another chance and let him drive one of these vans.

Call me a dreamer, but I think the old folks will figure out how to lift their walkers over his cooler.



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