Why It’s Important To Keep The Lights On

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.

22 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Duke Coxdukeco1 says:

    to comment on this excellent diary…but, at the moment I’m just too damned angry.

    • marklane1351 says:

      The old man’s epitaph should read “He died for small government.” I am sure his widow takes comfort in the fact that he died because the city wanted to save money.    

  2. Froward69 says:

    You whooo Where are youuuuuu…

    it was a great idea as long as it did not get reported on eh?

    Street lights only for the wealthy?

    Goddamn chickenshit traitors!

  3. BlueCat says:

    Never fear.  You can experience the joys of libertarian paradise right here in Colorado Springs. Food poisoning in the restaurants, mugging on your way to the car, no functioning government to annoy you.  Send us a post card.

  4. Fewer services = drop in quality of life related to those services.

    The disappointing (though not to me surprising) part is the article about which street lights were left on.

    I doubt things will change until someone prominent is affected by the cuts.

  5. Rainidog says:

    to say I HATE GROVER NORQUIST!!!!  Other people will say they hate GWB or Cheney, or Limbaugh or Beck, or a whole host of other rightwing parasites, including many right here in CO.  Not me.  They raise my ire, I hate what they do, I poke fun at them.

    But Grover Norquist I truly hate and despise.  He has a bigger hand in making this state, other states, and to some extent the whole country the mess we’re living with today than a whole bunch of the other “conservative” toads put together.

    I HATE GROVER NORQUIST!! If I heard he drowned in his bathtub, I’d celebrate!

  6. The realistThe realist says:

    but I believe the drown-government-in-a-bathtub crowd would say that the lights should be on in the well-to-do part of town, while the rest of us mortals should suffer the consequences – of not being wealthy.  We know there is a growing divide in this country between the have’s and the have-not’s, and that the middle class is shrinking, or simply sliding down into the have-not’s.  It’s the belief system that some deserve comfort, convenience (plus police protection, health care, etc, etc), and some do not deserve it, that’s so worrisome.  We don’t have community – and we don’t have country – if we don’t believe that all residents deserve some basic protections.

    • Steve Harvey says:

      First, I don’t think many extreme libertarians (as I’ll call them) explicitly believe that some should be deprived of public services that others receive. I think there logic is more along the following parralel lines: 1) Government spending always diminishes aggregate econoomic growth (wrong), so the total wealth enjoyed by society is maximized by minimizing taxation and the role of government (wrong); and 2) the wealth people have belongs to them, according to some fundamental moral imperative completely oblivious to what property rights are and where they come from, and so those who have more wealth are entitled to it, whereas those who lack wealth are entitled only to what they have.

      The logic is wrong on every level, but I think I’ve come close to summarizing it.

      • Steve Harvey says:

        to what it would actually mean to their lives to be deprived of the services they now believe we should not subsidize. And, aside from a lack of understanding of the variable possibilities and less-than-natural reality of property rights, they also don’t get that the wealth that people acquire, aside from questions about how congruent their actual in-put to its production and their share of what is produced is, is dependent on a material and social institutional infrastructure that we share and maintain through shared investment.

        Basically, they just don’t get it at all.

      • VoyageurVoyageur says:

        I can sum up the Norquist philosophy in four words:

        “I’ve got mine, Jack!”

        • Steve Harvey says:

          There are certainly some whose philosophy is summed up in those words.

          I’ve always kind of shied away from what I call “the good-guy/bad-buy fallacy.” It’s not that there are no good guys and bad guys, it’s just that we tend to identify too much in those terms, to perceive too many people as reducible to those categories. Whenver possible, I look for alternative explanations, for why people who think of themselves as “good guys” adopt a perspective that makes you and I inclined to identify them as “bad guys.”

          How many people would admit, even to themselves, that their philosophy is summed up in those four words? Some. But a lot will tell you, in all earnestness, why their perspective is right, why it is moral and functional and in accord with some higher ideal to which they adhere. I couldn’t agree with you more that they are completely full of shit when they do so, but how many know that they’re full of shit when they do so?

          Regarding those who don’t know that they’re full of shit, there is no ultimate arbiter; they are just as sure that you and I are full of shit. So all we can do is to try to draw them into an arena where reason and evidence are allowed to take effect, where the strength of arguments and not just their emotional appeal matters.

          And to do that, you have to try to avoid the good-guy/bad-guy fallacy as much as possible….

          Obviously, though, my strategy has its flaws, since all I’ve really managed to do, for the most part, is piss off everyone on every side of every issue….

        • The realistThe realist says:

          instead it is the “I’ve got mine, Jack!” crowd vs. the rest of us who see not only that there is value in doing some things collectively (not only for safety, national defense, highways, but also to assist the least among us), but that we must require all members of our society to participate in some way in these collective efforts.  That’s why taxes are good, not bad.  Taxes – through the services they provide – help ensure a (somewhat) civil, orderly and stable society.  

          So, I’m fine with people complaining bitterly about taxes.  But I’m not fine with drowning government in a bathtub.

          • Steve Harvey says:

            The truth is, I don’t really understand how that crowd rationalizes its position. I know most of them believe it’s a principled position, but I don’t get how they convince themselves of that.

  7. caroman says:

    It seems like this week’s common thread is an ever increasing list of places we need to boycott: Colorado Springs, Arizona, Alabama.  It’s the most effective way we can stick it to these Bozos.

    I hated being in the Springs for the Dem state convention in 2008.  My daughter and I had a very nasty encounter with a Vietnam vet conventioneer who said he hoped someone would shoot Obama.  

    I hope the CO Dems learned their lesson and never again support the CO Springs economy.

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