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

Just a man who likes to read, argue, and occasionally be surprised.
This entry was posted in Economics, Taxes. Bookmark the permalink.

27 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. !


    • It’s a false choice between them – this state has many desirable communities. The eastern half of the state is much like Nebraska, and should be avoided.


    • Boise. Start there. If you like smaller towns… I lived in Moscow, Idaho, for 10 years, wonderful little mountain town. There still out there just maybe not in Colo. Washington & Oregon and def. Montana are never out of question. Road trip, anyone???


    • Pat McClure says:

      Lakes are a little hard to come by in Colorado, although there are a couple in Denver, and some big reservoirs. The mountains are quite a distance but can be seen from Denver, and the foothills are about 30 miles away. Fort Collins is nice and friendly, though becoming a sprawling suburb-metropolis, and there are lakes nearby, foothills close by, mountains farther away. It’s so much drier than Houston your skin will crack for a while–almost no humidity except after the occasional summer afternoon shower. The summers are only extra hot for a couple of weeks, the winters only bitter cold that long–the snow doesn’t linger and the skies are mostly clear, but it’s nothing like Houston.


  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?


    • Pat McClure says:

      Fort Collins. Durango, maybe Grand Junction on the western slope


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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!


  10. Bill says:

    I just moved to Colorado Springs it’s nice. There is defiantly a weird vibe. When I tell people that I just moved here they say, “Why??” It is pretty dark at night, I live in the middle of the city and wonder where the people are. There are supposed to be like 440,000 people around here somewhere…
    It is absolutely diverse though!! That I like a lot. The people I have seen seem to be from everywhere. An even mix of White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, and people from everywhere in the US. People are fit and active, there are some cute spots, but it’s no Boulder. No one seems to stay out late, like people here tuck in between 8-10pm.
    I live in the “bad” part and its nice and expensive. There is a strangeness, like creepy almost, but I still can’t figure that one out. The weather is something else for sure. I came here on a whim and I feel like the place has a kind of pull. Some locals say this is true.
    It’s not a pot city, if you are coming for the Mary J, you will find this to be one of the cities that does not permit recreational stores. You will have to drive to Pueblo or Denver.
    This place has an interesting mix of folks which might be a huge understatement. It’s true there are giant pot holes everywhere, like really big. It’s very transient,most people I’ve talked to just got here. Good luck, it is beautiful, but creepy.


  11. Starkiss2323 says:

    This conversation has been very interesting. My husband and I are going to move to one of or close to these areas. He will be working for the FAA in Denver. Between Denver and Colorado Springs, what are the nice towns to live in? Any advice?
    Thank you!!!


  12. Kyle says:

    Everything has gone to pot ever since instead of accepting defeat the Republicthrugs decided to throw tantrums and make themselves look silly so as a result a lot of Liberals went the other extreme and looked silly as well.

    You can’t carry a bible in public in some places. You can’t say Merry Christmas because of the Christ word in it that would spew bad images and in some schools you have the food inspector police taken away kids sack lunches and you have to ONLY eat school official food.

    Kinda like the state prison but no locked doors/steel bars. Actually I take it back. Prisons once your sorted through and categorized get better treatment due to the prison commissary and often friends/family send inmates monthly checks to their trust funds so they can buy stuff for twice the price as in our world at the said commissary.

    Do students get that treatment? Nope? If your in high school you have to pay for each individual thing unless you are smart like me and set up a monthly account. 🙂


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