Two stories in today’s Colorado Springs Gazette illustrate how the area’s ideologically-driven experiment with “small government”, a story given regrettable national attention in recent months as the situation has deteriorated, has turned both farcical–and tragic.
City officials say they mistakenly left all the streetlights on around the Broadmoor resort and the affluent Old North End neighborhood despite darkening about a third in almost every other area of Colorado Springs to save money this year.
But Councilman Sean Paige said Monday that he has doubts that it was a mistake because of an e-mail written by Jim Thomas, a field engineering supervisor for Colorado Springs Utilities.
“We hoped to protect the Utility and the City Council by not turning off these lights while the homeowners are still paying for them on their taxes,” Thomas wrote April 20, referring to the Old North End’s ornamental streetlights…
Just an accident, we suppose, that the rich part of Colorado Springs kept their lights on–or not, because the neighborhood is still paying off an assessment for their extra-fancy streetlights, and nobody wanted to upset those wealthy residents? Which is it? Naturally, the “affluent” part of town is the part that can afford “ornamental” streetlight assessments to begin with–as notable for the conflicting excuses as the, you know, obvious appearances.
Meanwhile, in a less “affluent” part of Colorado Springs:
A 62-year-old man died after being shot Sunday night in a parking lot that has been dark since the city turned off the streetlight in a controversial money saving measure, a neighboring business owner said.
Gaspar Martinez, owner of Ruskin Liquor near Airport Road and Academy Boulevard, blamed growing violence in the area – and the city turning off the streetlight in front of the business – for the man’s death during an attempted robbery.
Martinez identified the victim as Esteban Garcia, the father of Saul Garcia, owner of El Ranchito, a market and taqueria at 3970 Airport Road in southeast Colorado Springs…
The area has become more dangerous, Martinez said, since he opened his business about 10 years ago. On April 12, an 18-year-old was shot and killed just blocks away in what investigators said appeared to be a gang-related shootout in the street.
Martinez said his worries have increased since the city shut off the streetlight in front of the small strip mall in which El Ranchito and Ruskin Liquor are located. Since then, he said, he’s noticed people gathering beneath the darkened light. “Being that it’s dark, people think they can do whatever they want,” Martinez said. “People who do crime are noticing it’s dark out there.”
So the wealthy residents of the Old North End, and the iconic Broadmoor Hotel loved by Republicans as a conference venue, kept their streetlights on–while elsewhere, the lights go out to the joy of criminals. And in a heartbreakingly predictable outcome, a man has now died under one of those darkened streetlights. And why did the lights have to go out? Because this city and parent county, the bastion of conservative ideology in the state and the birthplace of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, has rejected at the polls all attempts to raise revenue to pay for basic services. El Paso County can’t fund the health department–El Paso County had the highest incidence of foodborne illness in the state in 2008. Cause and effect, folks, as surely as what happens in a high-crime neighborhood when you turn off the streetlights. Real consequences. Real harm done.
Grover Norquist’s vision of a government “drowned in the bathtub” revealed. All these silly debates about “big government” versus “small government” are moot in the absence of a functioning government–that’s the lesson of today’s farce and tragedy in Colorado Springs.