Columns » Public Eye

Toppling King Kong


Douglas Bruce is long known for his outrageous stunts calling fellow politicians corrupt socialists, threatening to drop his pants in City Council meetings, printing up business cards identifying his occupation as "terrorist."

Pre-election, during his blitz to promote his latest efforts to obliterate government, Bruce went to KKTV Channel 11 for an on-air debate with Mayor Lionel Rivera. He wrote down in the guest book that the reason for his visit was "to destroy Colorado Springs."

But Bruce, the anti-tax activist best known as the author of Colorado's 1992 Taxpayer Bill of Rights, who also gets paid $63,200 a year to be an elected county commissioner, failed to deliver again. Instead, he chalked up three more losses.

The Bruce-supported statewide Amendment 38, an effort to install government by plebiscite, was crushed by a 38 percent margin. Colorado Springs proposals 200 and 201 also went down in flames. The measures would have eliminated property taxes, whacked the city's 2-cent sales tax in half, and restricted the city's ability to borrow money, which would have undoubtedly resulted in a massive slashing of city services.

As Colorado Springs City Councilor Jerry Heimlicher notes, Bruce has not convinced Colorado voters to approve a single one of his proposals since his TABOR amendment passed in 1992. Last year, it should be noted, voters passed Referendum C to suspend TABOR tax rebates for five years. And this year, efforts to install TABOR-esque laws in three other states Oregon, Nebraska and Maine also failed.

Other local defeats for Bruce are visible in a taxpayer-approved citywide tax for open space and trails, a regional public transportation system, and a proposal for more public safety personnel. Even after voters OK'd those measures, Bruce unsuccessfully sued to stop them wasting, Heimlicher notes, unmeasured taxpayer resources in the court battles.

Yet as in elections past, Bruce, who routinely refuses interview requests from this reporter, has continued his predictable assaults on other elected officials. After all, this is the man who, back in 1992, after then-Gov. Roy Romer likened TABOR to government terrorism, printed up business cards reading "Douglas Bruce: Terrorist."

In another famous exchange in the middle of a city council meeting in the mid-1990s, then-Colorado Springs Mayor Bob Isaac challenged Bruce to a fistfight, to see if he really was "a man." Bruce offered to drop his pants right then and there to prove himself.

"He's called the City Council swindlers, crooks, pond scum, said we should be arrested and should be put in jail that we're hiding facts from the people," Heimlicher notes. "He's called the city manager a bully and an antagonist, and says the city is desperate."

But this year, local officials were downright bold in their ripostes to Bruce's infamous blasts.In a highly publicized pushback, Colorado Springs City Manager Lorne Kramer derided Bruce: "He really believes that he's smarter than you, he's smarter than me, he's smarter than the elected people that you have put into office and he is smarter than everyone else," he was quoted in the daily newspaper.

Even County Attorney Bill Louis who is appointed by the five-member board of commissioners that includes Bruce took the podium several weeks ago to denigrate one of his bosses. During a discussion about Amendment 38 (which Bruce's fellow commissioners formally opposed) the county attorney, who said he was speaking as a private citizen, called Bruce a "narcissist," a "sociopath," a "bully" and a "crackpot enabler" whose guerilla tactics threatened democracy.

Bruce, never one to shy away from a name-calling match, taunted Louis right back, asking whether the county attorney was calling him a gorilla. And in response to Kramer, Bruce compared the city manager to Joseph Stalin and complained that he (Bruce) was unfairly being portrayed as the antichrist.

Heimlicher and other city leaders increasingly wonder how much more the city and county, and its reputation as a contentious community, can take.

"In the beginning, he believed it was all about taxes, but now it's all about the crusader," Heimlicher says. "He's hung up on his own ego and personality he's actually an anarchist when you come right down to it. An anarchist who shows contempt for the public."

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