Columns » Outsider


The blue season


You probably missed 'em -- they were stuffed in your mailbox along with a menu from your neighborhood Chinese restaurant, a coupon shopper, and the Bed Bath & Beyond catalog.

One of 'em was from El Paso County, an unwieldy 16-page tabloid, pages and pages of small-print legalese titled "Notice of Election to Increase Taxes/To Increase Debt/On a Citizen Petition/On a Referred Measure."

The other came from Denver -- it was another "Notice of Election to Increase Taxes on a Citizen Petition," an "Analysis of the 2004 Ballot Proposals" by the Legislative Council of the Colorado General Assembly. This one's a compact little booklet, also stuffed with legalese, and weighing in at an impressive 80 pages.

Both publications were created, printed and mailed to every household in El Paso County and/or the state of Colorado by the county and the state. And who paid for the creation, the printing and the postage? You and I -- who else?

Yup, thanks to the wonders of Doug Bruce-authored legislation, the county and state are compelled to mail 90 pages of turgidly uninformative prose to all of us hapless taxpayers. One wonders just how much dough has been thus squandered -- probably enough to build a bridge, or widen a street, or buy a few dozen police cruisers ... but wouldn't you much rather have some nice recyclable paper in your mailbox?

I know ... you tossed 'em, as any sane person would, but someone has to read 'em. It's a thankless job, but it's my beat, because (drumroll ) ... I'm the Political Columnist! So let's look for some real info!

How 'bout El Paso County Question 1A, the proposed Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority. Let's get right to the fun part: the summaries of written comments for and against the proposal, which, thanks to Bruce, must be included in the mailing. I'm particularly fond of this section because, back in the year '93, I conspired with former mayor Mary Lou Makepeace to defeat the intent and purpose of the law.

As then-council members, we strongly supported the proposed issuance of $100 million-plus in airport revenue bonds to build a new terminal. It occurred to me to file nonsensical written statements in opposition (remember, I was in favor): Airplanes are dangerous! People should travel less, not more! Trains, not planes! Mary Lou was delighted by the scheme.

The next day was firestorm time. Somehow, I got most of the blame (Mary Lou was always the more agile politician). The Gazette went berserk -- the entire editorial page, much to my delight, had but a single theme: "Hazlehurst is a bad man." But it blew over, the bonds were approved, and life went on.

You would have thought that subsequent would-be manipulators might have learned from my experience, and left well enough alone. But alas, even the Dark Lord of Springs campaigns, the engaging-yet-sinister Bob Gardner, made the mistake of filing patently offensive fake-opposed statements against The Resource Exchange's proposal to increase funding for mentally retarded citizens two years ago. Gardner was, of course, working for The Resource Exchange's campaign -- the ensuing publicity didn't help his cause, to put it mildly.

So what kind of pro-con statements do we have this year? Thoughtful, serious, informative and civic-minded, no doubt of it!

Pro: "The RTA is the right thing now" -- now there's some sophisticated analysis! Or how about this? "Colorado Springs has experienced an increase ... in road rage."

Con: "These scams will continue until citizens shout "NO!" to public taxation for private profit!" Huh? And "This measure will not make our roads safer. Congestion ... reduces the number of high speed accidents."

So aren't you sorry you threw away your copy? And don't you wish the feds had their own version of the Blue Book? Supporters of George W. Bush could say: "He's as tough as a rock -- and not as dumb!" Supporters of John Kerry could say: "He killed the enemy with his bare hands -- and he's not as weird as he looks!" It'd make voting so much simpler, so much more reasoned and courteous.

And big kudos to the Dougster for finding and mandating a truly absurd way to spend taxpayer dollars. You da Man, Mr. Bruce -- just keep those cards and letters coming to each and every one of us!


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