Colorado Springs has a bit of an unwarranted image problem. Voters here have held the line on taxes and those who would raise them often talk about how low our local rates are when compared to other Front Range cities. Some critics — those who think great communities require large and well-funded governments — consider our region’s limited-government politics as something that holds us back.
A bit of poking around by Gazette reporter Bob Stephens, who mostly covers county government, found that politicians and government employees in other regions are starting to view metro Colorado Springs as a model to emulate.
Voters here said “no” in 2008 to a murky request for a new “public safety” taxes that politicians tried to sell with threats of uninspected restaurant food, soaring crime and swimming pools turning to bilge. Voters said “no” and none of the horribles came to pass.
Voters said “no” to a tax for politicians who swore they would somehow cause economic development. They said “no” to a 2009 request to triple property taxes.
When asked to fund sensible and specific investments, voters of this region often say “yes.” They did so last month when the county sheriff asked for a modest sales tax increase to pay for specific needs. At the same time, voters extended a tax for the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority by a whopping 79.5 percent. This should tell politicians something important: Give us good, transparent, honest and useful governance and we may be happy to fund it.
In his research, Stephens found that politicians throughout Colorado and the country view our PPRTA and its funding base with envy.
“I hope to get something here one day like that,” said Tim Brennan, executive director of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission in Massachusetts.
Others expressed similar sentiments.
“We’re very envious of what you guys have done there,” said Jim McKenzie, executive director of an intergovernmental organization that serves 28 governments in a six-county region surrounding Little Rock, Ark.
“We were the envy of everyone at the table,” said Colorado Springs Councilwoman Brandi Williams, who recently attended a meeting of the state’s transportation advisory committee.
Suddenly, we are leading edge. We have refused to let politicians squander our money. As a result, we have the means to invest in that which matters — such as roads, bridges and law enforcement.