Columns » Outsider




First, let's brag. It's awards show-time, not only for actors and entertainers, but for journalists as well.

We at the Independent are immensely proud of our editor, Kathryn Eastburn, and our news editor, Cara DeGette, who both recently won first-place prizes in a major national competition. The Education Writers of America awarded Kathryn first prize in the feature writing category for her story, "Ms. Holland's Opus," published in the Independent on March 9, 2000.

And Cara's story on the mess over in Harrison School District 2 (titled "Rotten to the Core" and published on May 25, 2000) won her a first-place prize for investigative reporting.

The Independent competed against daily and weekly newspapers all over the country with circulations of 100,000 or less. By taking home two firsts, the Independent topped every other competitor in its class; only the Los Angeles Times -- with three firsts -- did better overall. Just to gloat a wee bit more, readers should note that the Times is a slightly larger newspaper with a slightly larger editorial staff. The Times has about 1,000 employees in its editorial department; the Independent has six.

The only other Colorado newspaper that picked up top honors in the prestigious competition was the Denver Post, which won second place for Best News Feature Package. This is Kathryn's second consecutive first-place award from the Education Writers; she won in the same category last year.

Kathryn and Cara are about as talented a duo as you'll find in any newspaper in the country. For an amateur like your columnist, it's kind of like finding yourself in a pickup basketball game with Magic and Michael; do your best, don't drop the ball, and hope they don't laugh too loud.

Meanwhile, clicking on a couple of polls on the Netscape home page, I found that 63 percent of the participants approved of George W.'s tax cut and a full 83 percent didn't want Napster shut down. Sounded good to me: lower taxes and free music.

And why not? Those polled were simply voicing one of the fundamental beliefs of the American people -- the belief that someone else should pay for it, whatever it is. And that's a belief that's particularly strong right here in River City. Let's examine our history.

General Palmer and the Perkins family gave us most of our park system. The Jewetts gave us a municipal golf course. The Feds built the Air Force Academy so we could have soccer fields, a rec center, and 10,000 acres of free open space. And the Creator of All gave us a place of unmatched natural beauty, Pikes Peak (which, of course, we've screwed up).

And what have we done with our gifts? Have we received them gratefully and added to our magnificent patrimony? For the most part, we haven't. Like ungrateful heirs, we've whined and complained. In '91, we voted to cut our municipal sales tax rate by 20 percent, making it (according to the political establishment) unsustainably low.

Since then, we added back a little for trails, open space and parks, via the TOPS sales tax, and passed a handful of school bond issues. And on April 3, we'll either accept or reject a proposed 45 percent increase to the same tax that we cut a decade ago.

Except for at-large candidate Tim Pleasant, all of the Council hopefuls, incumbents and challengers alike, support the tax increase. It's strangely disorienting; it's as if they were running for office in a sensible, moderate city like Fort Collins or Pueblo.

Folks, this is Colorado Springs! Home of Doug Bruce, represented in the Legislature by anti-tax troglodytes such as the brothers Doug (Dean and Lamborn) and freshman Dave Schultheis! So, in a sense, the results of this April's election will tell us how much we've changed since '91.

Are we still Doug Bruce's city, firmly behind that good ol' right-wing religion of guns for all and taxes for none? Or are we Mary Lou Makepeace's city, ready at last to pay our own way, keep guns out of the parks, and even provide fat subsidies for developers?

Subsidies? Well, because more than 80% of the transportation/drainage projects to be funded by the new tax are in areas of the city that were developed after 1965, it's clear that the city has allowed developers to get away with constructing inadequate infrastructure for over 30 years.

Too bad. But maybe it's time to step up to the pump and pay for the incompetence and venality of departed politicians and developers. As for me, time to download a little Metallica before they shut Napster down.


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