Colorado Springs Begging for Our Tax Dollars — Tea Party No-New-Taxes Policy a Failure in Light of Waldo Canyon Fire
I’ve written extensively over the years about how Colorado Springs — a Tea Party haven — has slashed its budget (turning off street lights, deputizing cabbies as “police officers,” letting the grass in parks die, etc.) because of its obsessive adherence to the Tea Party way of governance, i.e., no new taxes.
I hate to kick the second largest city in the state when it’s down, but now they’re begging for help from the federal government (meaning they want our tax dollars) because of the Waldo Canyon fire and frankly, that ticks me off. You get what you pay for folks, now live with it. Or at the very least, learn from this please.
Wildfire Tests Police Force in Colorado Anti-Tax Movement’s Home
As Colorado Springs battles a rash of burglaries after a wildfire that still licks at its boundaries, it does so with fewer police and firefighters.
The city where the Waldo Canyon fire destroyed 346 homes and forced more than 34,000 residents to evacuate turned off one-third of its streetlights two years ago, halted park maintenance and cut services to close a $28 million budget gap after sales-tax revenue plummeted and voters rejected a property-tax increase.
The municipality, at 416,000 the state’s second-largest, auctioned both its police helicopters and shrank public-safety ranks through attrition by about 8 percent; it has 50 fewer police and 39 fewer firefighters than five years ago. More than 180 National Guard troops have been mobilized to secure the city after the state’s most destructive fire. At least 32 evacuated homes were burglarized and dozens of evacuees’ cars were broken into, said Police Chief Pete Carey.
“It has impacted the response,” said Karin White, a 54- year-old accountant, who returned home June 28 to a looted and vandalized house, with a treasured, century-old family heirloom smashed.
“They did above and beyond what they could do with the resources they had,” she said. “If there were more officers, there could have been more manpower in the evacuated areas.”
Colorado Springs, which depends on sales tax for about half of its revenue, was hit harder than most. The city — the birthplace 20 years ago of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which later passed statewide and has been pushed around the country to restrict government spending — became a high-profile example of cost-cutting. The law restricts government spending to the previous year’s revenue, adjusted only for population growth and inflation.
The city, home of the evangelical Christian group Focus on the Family, is known for being conservative and libertarian. It “was the Tea Party before the Tea Party was cool,” Dunn said.
Six of the nine candidates in last year’s nonpartisan mayoral election, including the victor, Mayor Steve Bach, signed the no-tax pledge pushed by Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette.
Richard Skorman, one candidate who didn’t, was flooded with angry e-mails after saying in a debate why he opposed such a pledge. What, he asked, if the city got hit by a major wildfire?
And here we are.
The city has been aggressive in applying for federal grants, too, which have funded wildfire mitigation efforts, said Bret Waters, emergency management director.
Dunn notes that the city, where there is strong anti- federal government sentiment, is now turning to the U.S. for assistance. Before visiting Colorado on June 29, President Barack Obama declared the state a disaster area, which frees aid for communities affected by the wildfires.
“Ironically, Colorado Springs is going to rely heavily on federal funds for rebuilding,” Dunn said. “But it won’t cover everything.”
It isn’t “ironic.” It’s totally predictable.