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West side's pot of gold

City Sage



City for Champions. It has a fine, wholesome ring to it, right? Unfortunately, it also comes with a hefty price tag — $250 million, or much more if you include the interest payments on debt that will be issued to fund it.

Still, it's an ambitious proposal that should be complemented by another transformative initiative, which could vault the west side into a new era of prosperity. Goodbye, cracked sidewalks and deep potholes. Hello, streets paved with gold! Goodbye, dilapidated bungalows. Hello, renovated Victorians!

Let me present ... City for Gamblers!

City for Champions (C4C) will celebrate health, athleticism, expensive nonprofit venues and family tourism. City for Gamblers (C4G) will return Old Colorado City to its historic roots, a place where card sharks, con artists, grifters and scoundrels made money off swarms of suckers escaping, if only for a few hours, the dreary confines of General Palmer's strait-laced little city. Here's C4G's blueprint:

Step 1: Reincorporate the historic municipality of Colorado City, drawing boundaries that include every raffish, down-at-the-heels neighborhood on the historic west side. Hey, this is a time of disintermediation, of escaping the tyranny of the larger polity. Folks in the northeast plains would like to form their own state, while Aurora might become the City and County of Aurora (as Broomfield has done).

Step 2: Secede! Escape the smothering embrace of our no-fun neighbors who run Colorado Springs. We're easygoing, non-judgmental folks (disclosure: I live in Old Colorado City) who want to live well and enjoy life, like our Manitou Springs neighbors. Once we have our own city, we can set our course.

Step 3: Create a casino district. Preferably, it would be located on the north side of U.S. Highway 24 between 21st and 31st streets, taking care to protect the residential neighborhoods.

Step 4: Ask voters statewide, as required, to permit historic Colorado City to join Cripple Creek, Black Hawk and Central City in casino gambling.

And why not? Like the three existing gambling towns, Colorado City was once a boomtown, bordered by gold mills, populated by miners and fueled by the careless bounty of newly minted millionaires. But then the boom ended, the town fell into decay and disrepair, and it was swallowed up by its despised neighbor.

If the initiative is approved, Katie bar the door! Imagine a half-dozen casinos lighting up the night along U.S. 24, sending their seductive messages to unwary travelers. Imagine joyful geezers, no longer forced to trek into the mountains, gambling away their Social Security checks right here! Imagine the jobs! Imagine the tax revenues flowing into the coffers of our new city!

But what's in it for us? The distribution of gambling revenues is complex, to say the least. During the last fiscal year, recipients of tens of millions of dollars included the state general fund, the local government gaming impact fund, Colorado's travel and tourism promotion fund, the State Historical Fund and the cities of Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek.

Some city grant money would be available to owners of historic properties to repair and renovate their moldering dumps, since a chunk of money dedicated to the State Historical Fund passes through to the gaming towns. Our new city wouldn't have budget problems. Parks would be immaculate, property taxes rebated and sales-tax rates well below those of our neighbors.

But suppose the state's wretched voters refused to allow gambling in Colorado City? No problem — the city could acquire land along Fountain Creek where the casinos would be built, and return it to the Utes, whose ancestors lived there for centuries until exiled by government fiat. Tribal lands, thereby eligible for an Indian casino — and exempt from any vote!

I can hear you chuckling now. "He's out of his mind." "Far-fetched." "Impractical." "Never happen." But let's do the math.

C4C: Taxpayers and do-gooders fund iconic buildings in a blighted industrial district and hope that good things will happen.

C4G: Private investors fund gaudy buildings in a blighted industrial district, money rolls in, jobs are created and property values go through the roof.

Tell me — which makes more sense?

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