Environment

Nobody Could Have Predicted

Not surprisingly, it turns out that refusing to raise taxes and firing your police and firefighting force instead is not a recipe for success now that we live in the new normal of record-breaking heat waves, drought, and wild fires.

Bloomberg has an excellent report on the fiscal situation of the areas hit hardest by the past month's wild fires in Colorado, and it's not very encouraging if you're someone who believes raising taxes is a fate worse than death.

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. [...]

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. [...]

Six of the nine candidates in last year’s nonpartisan mayoral election, including the victor, Mayor Steve Bach, signed a pledge to oppose any tax increases.

It's worth pointing out that a significant portion of the homes burned to the ground by this wave of wild fires were not the homes of the poor. Many of them were hillside palaces which were undoubtedly home to those who voted against raising their own property taxes. Property taxes which may have saved their homes from the fire or their personal belongings from looters.

If it weren't for the collateral damage caused by their own shortsightedness, I would have no sympathy, but they weren't the only ones effected by the worst wild fires in the state's history, and on any other given day they are not the ones suffering from the city's lack of revenue.

The Bloomberg report also adds

“Forget the fire,” said the mayor, whose office has an easel with a chart depicting Colorado Springs’s financial status, after a briefing on the blaze June 30. “At our current cost curve, we’ll be insolvent in eight years.”

Bach said the financial situation “certainly has affected our ability to take care of other things like parks and keeping the streetlights on.”

Now let me ask you...

...do those look like the homes of people who can't afford to pay 3% more in taxes to keep the street lights on and firefighters ready for the big one?

Americans want all the benefits of civilized society but don't want to pay for any of it.

(photo via Denver Post)

  • stephenl

    If I’m an insurance company, there’s no way in Hell that I would pay out any claims these people would make for damages. By refusing to pay for police and fire protection, they refused to do the minimum to make sure their proerty was safe and secure. Let them rebuild their McMansions on their own fucking dime.

  • trgahan

    The sad truth is: Yes, many of those people likely can’t afford a 3% tax increase. Most of them are not truly wealthy; they just make enough to cover the monthly expense. The truly rich live in Boulder, Vale, Aspen, Jackson Hole, etc.
    The Intermountain West’s dirty little secret is providing cheap land and housing (compared to the rest of the nation) through cheap property taxes. So people come here and max out their purchasing power getting as much as they can. The idea passes on to local governments as well. As long as there are 100’s of new housing starts and a 1,000 new residence a month, you can get by just by sales taxes alone. But once those two factors slow (not even stop, just slow) it all quickly falls apart.
    In addition, local municipalities are to blame by allowing such sprawl in known fire zones (yes, this year is bad, but they build in areas that are known to burn first and worst for over a century). It is the west’s equivalent of someone moving to coastal North Carolina and being shocked when a hurricane destroys their house.

  • Lazarus Durden

    I had a brief stint managing a night club. It was probably the worst job I ever had. It’s pretty much sleazy business 101. I was encouraged by the owners to cut labor costs by essentially committing time card fraud which I refused to do, which was one of the reasons I was let go. I saw one owner ask an employee if they wouldn’t mind not being paid overtime. “I know you’ve worked 60 hours this week, but that’s gonna kill my budget. I can pay you ten hours of overtime, and ten straight.” And the employee took it, and I don’t blame him. Why? Because TN is a Right to Work state and if you don’t you’re fired in a couple of days for something else. So it’s take your overtime you’ve earned as severance basically.

    In any event one aspect of my job was to implement their idea of cost cutting. One instance was to have the security staff take out trash during the night. One person would rotate from the next section over and cover that area while I, the floor manager, would cover the open section. The owners’ reasoning was “Well we hire security in the event something happens, but most of the time it doesn’t so it’s cost effective to have them do other jobs in between.” Sounds prudent doesn’t it?

    Well when a club that has a 400 person capacity is full up moving around isn’t easy, and then add alcohol and rednecks into the mix fights break out. In fact even at a full complement of security when you’re at capacity you’re short. Getting to the man in the next section is very difficult. It’s the reason you hire big guys, not just for the intimidation factor, but so they can push through a crowd to get somewhere in a hurry.

    The problem is you can’t plan a fight. They happen in an instant. Sometimes you can see them about to break off, and sometimes you can’t. As a bouncer you have to have your head on a swivel. It’s why you’re taught to never look at someone when they’re talking to you. You listen and turn your ear to them but you’re always looking at the floor. So when one person is taking out trash at peek hours, which that’s when the most trash is produced, when most of the fights happen you’re constantly one person short on an already inadequate contingent of people.

    It’s that same “cost effective” mentality that lead places like Colorado Springs to cut their police and fire. “Well we don’t have a fire now. We’re just paying them to sit on their ass.” And when you have a big one break out you’re basically fucked. So awesome! You saved 3% in taxes at the cost of your home. Government shouldn’t be run like a business.

  • nathkatun7

    I hope all these people who talk big about freedom, and being self-sufficient individuals who do not need government, now realize that individual homeowners can’t fight wild fires on their own. Sometimes it takes a tragedy like this one to wake people up. While it may be legitimate to criticize the excesses of government bureaucracies, it’s idiotic to demonize all government services. Moreover, it’s false to assert that in a civilized society an individual can be totally self sufficient without any help from his community.

    • bphoon

      As has been said elsewhere in this forum–I think about Ron Paul supporters–let ’em have their government-less utopia where it’s everyone for himself. They’d be killed and eaten within three days, tops.

    • MrDHalen

      Exactly!!!

      This is why I call them Cardboard Citizens, because they brag about how great AMERICA is, but don’t want to help pay to make AMERICA great!!!

  • majii

    I have zero sympathy for these folks because it’s not as if they couldn’t afford to pay the slight increase in taxes. They consciously chose NOT to do it, thinking that they’d never have an emergency situation that would affect them. If the citizens of Colorado Springs are so tight and greedy to hang onto as much of their money as they can, they deserve to have the town shutdown in 8 years. Some of these people will be the first ones to talk about personal responsibility but refused to take responsibility to keep the street lights on, enough law enforcement personnel to protect their property, and enough firefighters to save their homes and lives. I’m sick of them wanting something for nothing. I hope they have good property insurance. This isn’t the only sign of an incompetent government that’s happening. Many people in West Virginia are in shelters because of flooding and there is a severe food shortage. These people don’t believe that climate change is real, and they keep electing politicians to run their states that cut social programs and emergency services. You can talk and talk to these tightwads until you run out of breath, and sometimes the only way to get people to realize the error of their ways is by forced enrollment in the School of Hard Knocks.

  • villemar

    Any form of government larger that than Mogadishu’s is a Stalinist boot on the face, forever. Living in an anarchistic dystopian hellscape on fire is the only way to be truly free. Norquist Akbar! Norquist Akbar!

  • bphoon

    Colorado Springs is, in many ways, ground zero of the far right, fanatical, evangelistic wing of the Republican Party. Home to Focus on the Family among others, it is possibly one of the most conservative cities in the western US.

    I hope they’re happy…

  • agrazingmoose

    Wasn’t Malkin making a big fuss because the federal government wasn’t helping enough?

    This is a deliberate effort to force the rest of the country to cover their losses.

  • MrDHalen

    Cardboard Citizens get cardboard services.