Still more work to be done
As our elected representatives closed the session last night with a celebratory toast, I reflected on the tumultuous four months that have ended. It is much easier to write about action than to have been on the field, so I have to hand it to our legislators who did their best to represent their constituents. That being said, there are things to like, to dislike, and much still left undone to prepare Colorado for the future.
First - I love that our citizens require we balance our budget and live within our means. This requirement and the discipline imposed by TABOR keeps our budget under control and certainly makes our legislative sessions more interesting.
After years of inaction and with our infrastructure problem approaching critical, legislators were able to reach a deal allocating $1.8 billion for transportation spending. However, this came at the cost of a potential $350 million expansion of the budget. Republicans should be lauded for striking a deal that kept that figure from being even larger and Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg should be applauded for his efforts to prevent cuts to hospitals that would have fallen disproportionately on rural Coloradans. But we still don't have a long-term plan for our infrastructure.
It was also disappointing that five years later, we still don't have a definition of what "open and public" marijuana consumption means. To me, open and public means that neighbors and passersby can see others consuming the product. I respect that people should be able to do what they want on their property. That is fair, unless of course, it impinges on the rights of others.
Our legislators did a lot of good this session, but many of the biggest issues - a long term plan for our roads and water systems, a plan to improve our educational outcomes, addressing our drug problem and reigning in our health care costs need more work.
Give gas tax a chance
A front page article in Friday's Gazette informs us that the Governor may call a special session of the General Assembly with transportation tops on the list of further needs after the legislature's failure to come to an agreement on a sales tax increase for transportation. We have an admirable history in this country of funding roads with gasoline taxes, both federal and state. Unfortunately with the last state gasoline tax increase in 1991 and the last federal one in 1993, inflation of road construction and maintenance costs along with improving vehicle mileage has left our highways woefully underfunded.
Only 14 of our 50 states have a lower gasoline tax than Colorado's 22 cents. Gasoline taxes are the fairest way for funding our highways as those who use them more, causing more congestion and wear, pay more. So far this year five states have increased their gasoline taxes with South Carolina just overriding the governor's veto to pass an increase of two cents per gallon each year for the next six years. Since 2013, 22 states have increased their gasoline taxes. The General Assembly should refer a measure to the ballot. With TABOR, we voters would have to approve an increase. If we don't, then we get the kind of roads we deserve.
Motorists also have many demands
Kumbaya Wes Prichard. Now let's get real. As an avid motorist, and non-cyclist, who probably puts more mileage on my vehicle and pays more gasoline taxes in one month than most cyclists pay in a year, if ever, please observe the following. Motorists already pay for "sharrow" stencils, bike lanes, road improvements and bike trails (along with the maintenance thereof) so you may enjoy the natural beauty and cherish the outdoor experience of Colorado, on two wheels.
Now let's explore your "vision" more closely. I truly believe that the average citizen in Colorado, not just the Springs, would be more than happy to "co-exist" with bikes if the non-motorized community would only follow the existing traffic rules, pay their fair share in the costs to fulfill their demands, and cooperate, so all of us may share the roads together, safely!
Gimme, gimme, gimme. Most non-cyclists are fed up with hearing this, and sick of efforts to lobby for support without involving all of us in the dialogue. What is "your" community willing to give in return? Willing to mandate novice bike riders to pay for safety education and pass a written and skills test to get a permit to operate on public streets? Institute a mandatory probationary period before gaining full privileges to ride? Register and pay for bike registration fees? Require visible stickers/plates to ID violators? Pay for annual operator renewal fees? Carry separate liability and medical insurance in the event that the share-the-road concept goes awry? Demand that law enforcement officials enforce cycling rules and issue tickets for violations? Hold cyclists accountable and demand that fellow cyclists follow the traffic rules.
Please re-read your own letter. "Bike Master Plan," "the vision," "get more people comfortable with riding bikes," "robust cycling infrastructure," "motorists should not expect to have a monopoly on our city streets in the future." I am quite sure that most of the attendees at the "meeting" were cyclists. That may change. Arise motorists! Speak up for your rights!
In conclusion Mr. Prichard, one form will lose when you demand to win. Try supporting the ideas that have been put forth and the motoring community may agree that this shouldn't be a "zero sum game."
Troubling response resonates
Last year as a middle school substitute teacher, I asked the class, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Many were sports minded dreamers, but one answer resonates now at Mother's Day, with his non-joking answer, "I want to be a cop, so I can arrest my mother."