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Extending Bruce's vacation


Douglas Bruce returned from a six-week vacation to the Ukraine, and the first thing the elected official did was all but promise to sue the county that he helps oversee.

Yes, it was, after all, too much to hope that the Grouchster would do a little sightseeing, get a little ... tan and come back relaxed and ready to set policy.

Instead, Bruce all but accused his four colleagues of torching the Constitution in his absence, with a scheme to increase the sales tax without voter approval. Bruce said he already had lined up a plaintiff who was similarly outraged at the thought of what Bruce described as "voluntary servitude" that is, having to collect taxes without being compensated.

After he got done huffing and puffing, Commissioners Wayne Williams and Sallie Clark explained: There is no plan to increase the sales tax, much less without voter approval. Rather, the county, short on cash, plans to temporarily reduce fees that business owners currently get to keep for collecting and handing over county sales taxes. It is perfectly legal, Clark pointed out, and hardly revolutionary.

"It would be unfortunate if one of our commissioners put forth a lawsuit against the county for something that is lawful, and spent additional taxpayer money having to defend something that is lawful," Clark noted. "That would be a waste of money in of itself.

"I'm not real excited about reducing [the vendor fee], but the money has to come from somewhere," continued Clark, who owns a bed & breakfast and herself would be affected. "As a business owner, I want to know the roads are paved and the parks are open and [visitors] have a nice community and a safe community to come to. As a business owner, I feel it is something I need to contribute."

There's other political news Bruce missed while on hiatus from his $63,200-a-year, tax-paid gig. Worth highlighting:

His good friend, U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, got blindsided over the Pion Canyon expansion plan (see page 14), then bounced back with a pitch to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts.

"Artists are free to express themselves as they choose, but the American taxpayer does not need to pay for it," Lamborn said. "Freedom of speech does not guarantee government funding. Private endowment not only provides artists with more creative freedom, but it also ensures that taxpayers are not forced to fund projects that they may find objectionable."

Lamborn's anti-NEA amendment lost "only" 335-97. (As an aside, perhaps if the congressman is interested in ensuring taxpayers don't fund projects they find objectionable, he would support de-funding the war in Iraq next time it comes up for a vote.)

Anyway, back at home, county commissioners spent time figuring out how to whack another $7.5 million in county services. When they're done, some $20 million will have been cut over four years. As commission Chairman Dennis Hisey put it to the Gazette last month, "We're to the point where we're cutting bone."

Also in Bruce's absence, commissioners had the opportunity to take out his likely challenger in a re-election campaign next year. And, no surprise, they didn't. While tweaking the commissioner district lines, they left the home address of Amy Lathen an announced candidate for Bruce's seat inside a mere rock's throw from the district boundaries.

Which brings us to the "ascendancy of the lawmakers." It's a game that has become popular as the result of Colorado's term-limits law, and this particular round of musical chairs involves state Sen. Ron May, who is term-limited next year. State Rep. Bill Cadman, also term-limited, has expressed great interest in taking May's place, which would leave Cadman's seat open.

Guess who lives in that district? Douglas Bruce.

It would be far easier for Bruce to abandon his seat on the commission and pursue his dream to be a boil on the butt of the Legislature and not have to face a popular Republican challenger like Lathen.

Just think: Bruce would only have to show up four months a year, the amount of time the Legislature is in session.

That means he'd have eight months to take vacations. Which means we'd all have eight months of vacation a year from Douglas Bruce.

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