In the expansive spirit of this, our "Best of" issue, let's look beyond our bloated boundaries (Motto: Greater Colorado Springs! From the Kansas line to the Continental Divide! Watch us grow!), and see how we compare with our neighbors.
When it comes to categories that begin with "lowest" and "least," we lead the pack. We have the lowest sales-tax rate, at 2.1 percent, of any substantial city in Colorado. Fees associated with development -- tap fees, drainage fees, park-dedication fees, etc., etc. -- are lower than those of any comparable city in the state. Our property taxes are extraordinarily low when compared to national norms, since Colorado relies on statewide sales and income taxes to help fund public schools.
Our city is, I suspect, the least regulated municipality of any size hereabouts. Owners of historic properties can demolish them without so much as a by-your-leave (Hello, First Presbyterian Church?); billboards flourish like crocuses after a spring rain; big-box retailers spring up next to single-family homes; and new subdivisions, nasty and generic, might just as well have been designed by Martians, so little do they pay heed to their surroundings.
As far as public support for the arts, we're the leading tightwads, and it shows. The Fine Arts Center is 75 years old and was a spectacular place for a city of 30,000 souls. It's still a fine little museum, but it's sadly inadequate for today's sprawling metropolis of sheetrock and sod. Compare the FAC with the Sangre de Cristo in Pueblo, with the Arvada Center, or with the Denver Art Museum. All of those cities have made large investments in their art facilities; by contrast, we propose to reduce our city subsidy from a pittance (75 grand, or about 20 cents apiece) to a joke (10 grand -- that's 3 cents per citizen). Granted, the city still supports the Pioneers Museum, but that's simply because they own it, and they're stuck with it.
By a number of objective measures, our legislative delegation, as well as our representatives in Congress, have been wonderfully ineffective. Does our road system seem inadequate? Would it surprise you to know that, among major metropolitan areas nationwide, the Pikes Peak region has the fewest miles of interstate highway per capita? Or that, over the last 20 years, El Paso County, with around 14 percent of the state's population, has only gotten about 8 percent of state transportation construction funds? Way to bring home the pork, guys and gals!
What about "highest" and "most"? Well, we certainly have the highest percentage of elected Republicans of any city in the land: an unbeatable 100 percent! Where Republicans are concerned, we rule (unless you're talking pro-choice Republicans!). We also have the greatest number of national headquarters of religious non-profits of any city in the land. And thanks to them, and to Focus on the Family's Dr. Dobson and his relentless homophobia, we also have one of the feistiest, most articulate and most visible gay communities in the country.
In developer Steve Schuck, we have the best politician who never got elected to anything, and in The Gazette, we've got the most inept competition that any upstart weekly could ever wish for.
And the publisher of the Indy, John Weiss, who puts up with the flak that this column generates withgood humor and useful suggestions, must be the most patient and tolerant person in Colorado.
Hey John, how about a small raise...?