A false choice: Boulder versus Colorado Springs

The Peoples Republic of Boulder

We have two communities here in Colorado on opposite sides of the narrow American political spectrum – one affectionately referred to as “The Peoples Republic” of Boulder, and the other Colorado Springs, kind of local gubbmint-is-evil Somalia.

The Denver Post calls Boulder “the most self-satisfied community in America,” and it does have a lot to teach us. Back in the 1960′s, residents of that city saw the future as Denver swallowed up surrounding communities, now only distinguished by freeway signs – Lakewood, Aurora, Superior, Littleton are now part of Denver proper. Boulder government convinced the public to issue bonds for the purpose of buying up surrounding countryside, not to develop, but to leave in its natural state. The result over the succeeding decades was a green zone around the city, with Boulder an island.

It’s an odd city, as every action as an equal and opposite reaction. Indeed it is surrounded by hiking trails and is not part of Denver. Within this enclave is a privileged community with beautiful parks, well-kept streets and thousands of storefronts (and no Wal-Mart). Each morning there is a huge flow of traffic, not to Denver, but into Boulder from the outlying communities. People of ordinary income, unless they have been residents for decades and own their properties, cannot afford to live there. Sixties-style ranch-style homes go for $300,000 plus, and newer developments are usually townhouses with maximization of very little space- maybe a thousand square feet with a storage unit somewhere out-of-town.

The city is the home of the University of Colorado, with 30,000 plus students, and so is heavily dependent on that facility for economic well being. The student population lends to the liberal atmosphere – it’s a fun town, with breweries, brew-pubs, pizza joints, ritzy malls and theaters and restaurants to satisfy every taste. But it is not utopia – you have to be wealthy, or a student, to really take it in.

Here is a link from today’s Denver Post on our neighbor to the south:

Colorado Springs is also heavily dependent on government institutions for its well-being. Fully one-third of its jobs are government-related, with the Air Force Academy the

The Randian Republic of Colorado Springs

primary reason for the town’s existence. A majority of the population have bought into the Randian taxation-is-evil mantra, and so have cut, cut cut in recent years. There is a non-ending debate about the inefficiency of government services. Public officials there ought to be up for sainthood, as they operate within the hubris of idiocy. Nothing they do will satisfy the residents that they are not worthless leaches.

Colorado Springs now turns off most of its street lights at night, and the sod on its park will deteriorate in the coming months because they cannot afford to water it. Museums and swimming pools have been shut down, buses do not run on evenings and weekends. The city no longer fills its pot holes and does no paving, hoping the state wills step in and take care of busier streets. Police and fire have been drastically cut.

Imagine a woman waiting for a bus on a dark street on the way to work some evening, with a car of thugs harassing her … neither the bus or police will show up.

The idea is that the vaunted private sector will step in and fill these gaps. It hasn’t, of course, and won’t. Government services are such because they do not offer opportunity for private profit – high volume low revenue services are the job of government. The private sector isn’t very good at those things.

Here’s the ultimate in hubris:

Community business leaders have jumped into the budget debate, some questioning city spending on what they see as “Ferrari”-level benefits for employees and high salaries in middle management. Broadmoor luxury resort chief executive Steve Bartolin wrote an open letter asking why the city spends $89,000 per employee, when his enterprise has a similar number of workers and spends only $24,000 on each.

That pretty well sums it up. (Street lights leading to the Broadmoor, of course, are on every night.)

About Mark Tokarski

Mostly retired CPA living the life here in Colorado. Formerly Montana, 59 years, which is why so much of this blog is devoted to Montana issues.
This entry was posted in Economics, Taxes. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to A false choice: Boulder versus Colorado Springs

  1. ladybug says:

    Zoomies are taxpayer funded too. Smaller government could begin in C. Springs by eliminating the Air Force. With drones doing more of the work killing civilians and imposing fear and chaos these days, what is it we really need from the Air Force? Nukes? Air shows? Boeing contracts, jobs? Redundant spending in the defense budget begins in Colorado?

  2. Lizard says:

    i lived in Colorado Springs for 9 months back in 2000. it’s a creepy place. did you know Tesla set up shop for awhile in the Springs?

  3. Strangely –

    Boulder in 2009 had 5 murders and around 100,000 people. Colorado Springs had 15 murders and around 400,000 people. (2009 was the most recent date for which I could find stats for Colorado Springs; 2010 was a slightly better year for Boulder). Thus, the murder rates are comparable between the two towns, despite the fact that Boulder seems much more pleasant, and I’ve heard from others that Colorado Springs is a very strange place. And to be fair, rape and robbery rates are lower in Boulder. Perhaps all that suggests is that murder is harder to suppress with security spending than other crimes.

  4. yuli says:

    so …where in Colorado?! wow i was debating on this two exact cities…and you have confirmed what Ive tried to kind of ignore…. =/ don’t know how i found this blog, but I’m glad i did.i want mountains and lakes and nature and KIND people…….I’m still in Houston …help. !

  5. Ess says:

    Oh, c’mon now ladies and gentlemen, tell me something GOOD about Boulder or Colorado Springs. After all, I plan to live in one of those places someday soon (or, somewhere in CO) and need to know….;~}

    By the way, ladybug, to answer your query as to why we need the airforce? Why, to fly WWIII, of course!

    All kidding aside, when(ever) any of those government facilities closes down, all they’ll need to do is fork it over to privateers for a small profit who will then set up yet another “maximum security holding facility” (as there are now such private enterprises set up to turn a profit in Montana, Idaho, and elsewhere…why not some old airforce some day. O.k, i’m half kidding and wishing I were fully kidding.

    Now, WHAT is good about Boulder and/or other parts of CO???

    • I lived in Boulder for a year. I loved the college atmosphere – beautiful coeds walking down every street, great restaurants and pizza joints, and miles of trails surrounding the town. I highly recommend it but it is pricey.

      CSpr I don’t know about. Driven through and it is pretty. That’s all I got.

  6. Mike says:

    So, are there any down-to-earth towns in Colorado? Like a place where a man might do some hiking with nice people or join an ultimate frisbee league with nice people, without being asked to drink political kool-aid? I can do that stuff in the Tampa Bay area and this place is an overcrowded cesspool. Is it easier to find a few nice, down-to-earth people in an overcrowded cesspool than in an ideological -topia? I, too, have been looking at Colorado and am curious.

    • Hi Mike – I don’t know what you mean by “down to earth.” People are people, the same wherever you go. That said, I’ve been to Florida, and found the traffic (Miami) to be angry and aggressive. It’s not like that in Denver. You’re probably right that there are just too many people. Phoenix is like that too.

      We live in a small town (Aspen Park) near Denver on the 285 Corridor. It’s relaxed here, and everyone seems friendly. And yet, we are close to Denver, so we have speakers and concerts (Red Rocks is amazing) and pro ball – I don’t do football but do like baseball, and it’s fun here.

      But look everywhere. We’re from Montana – red neck but sparsely populated. Wyoming is virtually unoccupied. Utah is Mormonish but incredibly beautiful. Arizona, away from Phoenix, is not at all what we expected – delightful. And New Mexico … give it all a look.

      And good luck.

      • Brian says:

        Hey Mike,
        Just wanted to post that I enjoyed reading your detailed and thoughtful responses to the comments in this article. I am a student from New Orleans considering moving up to Colorado for graduate school in Bioengineering at UC Boulder and came upon this link. Do you have any advice for a 21-year-old planning on living in the Rockies?

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  9. Nicole says:

    Well I feel it’s easier to be a cynic than an optimist these days. Apparently, even in the sunshine filled lands of Colorado. Look on the bright side. I visited there in June and LOVED IT! Including Denver!

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