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 theprimary 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.)