The Outsider 

For those of us who go to the supermarket, it has been a summer full of petition-signing opportunities. Rein in sprawl! Close the gun show loophole! Cut taxes! You remember; you probably signed most of 'em.

And, having signed, you probably felt a certain righteous satisfaction. You had done your part to rationalize urban planning statewide, or to prevent gun violence, or to stop greedy bureaucrats from grabbing our hard-earned tax dollars. And you took the first step toward creating the Colorado of our dreams.

Imagine it: bucolic vistas unmarred by development, peopled by peace-loving folk with nary an armed criminal in sight, and blessed with lean, efficient government whose tax bite is scarcely noticeable.

Ah, how delicious it would be to live in such a prelapsarian society, untroubled by ruthless developers, crazed gunmen and overpaid bureaucrats!

Fine and dandy, but, with the possible exception of the third, it ain't a-gonna happen.

The only fact that you need remember about handguns is this: there are about 80 million of the little darlings in private hands in our great land. They are cheap, portable, easily concealed and virtually indestructible.

Absent national legislation outlawing their possession (and massive enforcement of such legislation), gun crime will always be with us. Making it slightly more difficult for unqualified buyers to obtain weapons at a gun show won't do any harm, but does anybody seriously believe that closing the loophole'll make the slightest difference in statewide gun crime stats?

And as for the developers, greedy or not, the smart growth initiative will curb them not at all, at least along the Front Range. Sure, cities and counties may have to come up with so-called Urban Growth Boundaries, but nobody will notice the difference.

You see, in the last 20 years or so, local governments have been busy. You may see vacant prairie, or forested hillsides, but that's just an illusion. The fate of the Front Range has been determined over the last two decades, by hundreds of obscure ordinances; annexations, rezonings, preliminary development plans, and the like.

No neighborhood activists were there to trouble the land speculators, developers, planning commissioners, and City Council members as they quietly changed the legal status of tens of thousands of acres of vacant land surrounding our cities. Reversing these decisions would be politically problematical as well as prohibitively expensive, so it won't happen.

Besides, do we really want to contain sprawl? As Pike Oliver, who created the Banning-Lewis Ranch Master Plan in the '80s once succinctly remarked: "The market does not oppose suburbanization."

Some of us may be ready to trade in the house, the lawn, and the two-car garage for a cool downtown loft, but lots of us are perfectly happy in the 'burbs.

And although Denver Planning Director Jennifer Moulton rightfully crows over Denver's creation of 3,500 downtown housing units in the past 10 years, she doesn't mention the number of such units built in the metro suburbs in the same period: 80,000!!!

But thanks to the Dougster's Taxcut 2000 initiative, we may actually be well on the way to getting rid of government, and all of its attendant nuisances; officious cops, overzealous firefighters, irritating highway construction, unresponsive public schools and the like.

You've got to give Doug credit; what seems like a populist measure to give working folk a modest tax break is a neutron bomb aimed at every government in the state.

What is advertised as an insignificant $25 tax cut which would affect several categories of taxation actually escalates indefinitely: $25 in year one, $50 in year two, $75 in year three, and so on forever. You don't have to have a degree in finance to realize that a tax such as the city property tax, which is less than $150 for most residences, will disappear pretty quickly.

If Taxcut 2000 passes (and it probably will), get ready for some truly minimalist government.

And if you can only vote for one initiative, vote for Doug's! After all, with an underfunded, Wyoming-style government, we'll have an economy like that of our northern neighbor, and all of our problems will be solved.

Developers will flee, sprawl will disappear and gun shows won't be much of a problem absent folks with ready cash to buy the guns.

And as for Doug, don't worry about him. After all, even if the state has to scrimp on a few non-essentials, there'll always be enough in the till to pay a newly elected state senator.


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