The Denver Post has a very interesting piece on Colorado Springs, a so-called “Conservative Bastion“. It’s a lengthy read, but very interesting. For example:
More than a third of the streetlights in Colorado Springs will go dark Monday. The police helicopters are for sale on the Internet. The city is dumping firefighting jobs, a vice team, burglary investigators, beat cops — dozens of police and fire positions will go unfilled.
The parks department removed trash cans last week, replacing them with signs urging users to pack out their own litter.
Neighbors are encouraged to bring their own lawn mowers to local green spaces, because parks workers will mow them only once every two weeks. If that.
Water cutbacks mean most parks will be dead, brown turf by July; the flower and fertilizer budget is zero.
City recreation centers, indoor and outdoor pools, and a handful of museums will close for good March 31 unless they find private funding to stay open. Buses no longer run on evenings and weekends. The city won’t pay for any street paving, relying instead on a regional authority that can meet only about 10 percent of the need.
The article goes on to make the point that many folks, not just in Colorado’s second-largest city, are flat exhausted with what appears to be severe ineptitude and idiocy on the part of government officials. They’re not necessarily wrong. In Justin’s fantasy land, the Mayor would have all his department heads say precisely how much they need to do their job with an emphasis on looking ahead. I imagine the conversation going something like this:
Mayor: “Ok, what do we need to get done?”
Public Works: “It costs us $X per street light per day, so, for 365 days we need $Y.”
Police Chief: “It costs $X per cop per day, so I need $Y to cover us for the year. And, we have 10 old cars on their last few miles, so we should replace those 10 this year. We can do 5 more next year.”
Fire Chief: “It costs us $X per fireman per day, so I need $Y to cover us for the year.”
This is not that hard. At the end of the day, you add up your total and figure out your tax rates to meet that demand.
What people want at the local level is really, really straightforward. Plow the streets, fix the holes, plug the leaks and protect the people. And only hire just enough people to get the jobs done. So, you don’t get to hire an executive assistant to the assistant deputy mayor. And, while we’re at it, you don’t get to spend $800 per chair for meeting rooms and you don’t get to spend money on things no one really uses – especially when they’re better alternatives nearby. For example, someone in the comments says:
These cuts are not major quality of life issues. For example, they are talking about closing an indoor wave pool. I have been at it twice now, where my 2 kids and I were the only people enjoying it. Four lifeguards were watching us and the city was wasting a lot of energy running it. We prefer the YMCA pools — they are cheaper and nicer.
City government has no business running these kinds of things – not when you’re scaling back on police and firemen when you may really need them to have adequate coverage.
It’s hard to say what’s really happening in Colorado Springs. I think you can get away with turning off every other streetlight and closing a few water parks and not watering the grass (seriously – they live near a desert, why are they watering grass?). The citizens may have very good reason to doubt their government’s ability to spend money wisely. Until we start seeing our Mayors at rummage sales and flea markets, that opinion likely won’t change much.