Sunday, December 02, 2012

The "Small Government" Approach

A couple of years ago, my adopted hometown of Colorado Springs was in a hurtbox.  I remember reading about it at the time, here's what it was like:
More than a third of the city’s 24,512 streetlights went dark. Some 393 trash cans were removed from 128 neighbourhood parks. Public drinking fountains ran dry and park bathrooms were locked. Buses stopped running at 6:15 p.m. and pools shuttered. Irrigation at city parks was ramped down, yielding thirsty, yellowing, brittle grass. Roads deteriorated into a Swiss cheese of potholes and crumbling curbs.

This was Colorado Springs circa spring 2010. The mountain town was still reeling from the recession, its coffers hit by a steep decline in the sales tax revenues it depends on so heavily.
How did they handle such a crisis? Raise taxes? Screw the rich? Kill the kulaks? Not quite:
Actually, residents voted down onerous tax hikes that would have been spent on politician-preferred priorities in favor of paying for or providing their own services.

When the lamps illuminating Ralph Kelly’s street were switched off, he and his neighbours together paid the city about $100 to “adopt” a streetlight and reignite a shared bulb. There was also an “adopt a trash can” program, where the city supplied the bin but residents hauled the garbage to privately run participating dumpsters.

The phenomenon extended beyond people's immediate neighborhoods, too.
[W]hen the government shut off the landmark fountain in America the Beautiful Park three years ago, non-profits and residents banded together to raise $25,000 to keep it flowing. When the city considered closing the innercity’s Westside Community Center, the Woodland Valley Chapel offered to manage it with only limited municipal support. That partnership, and others like it, continues to this day.

When the police force was slashed and Chief Pete Carey “needed to get innovative,” as he put it in an interview, volunteers became community service officers. They cost 60% less than police officers and can respond to non-injury traffic accidents or even burglaries so long as the thief has left the scene.
A local businessman also formed the City Committee to pore over the municipal books. Not surprisingly, committee members found that spending was nonsensical and wasteful and had Colorado Springs on the road to near-term insolvency...

Colorado Springs, now recovering, has apparently maintained many of the cost-saving practices it adopted from necessity. The city has also tightened its budgeting practices, including adopting zero-based budgeting, under which budgets have to be freshly justified every year instead of being based on the previous year's numbers.
It looks to me like they suffered a short period of  "bad", they're now on track for a much longer road of "good".  They haven't shackled themselves with higher taxes, they've trimmed their government, and they're getting the services they want their city to provide.

We on the right would call that a success.  What do people on the left call it?


Ellen K said...

Those on the Left would be immediately opposed to letting a church, any church, run a public facility. This is the big problem. While we should be entertaining solutions from all corners, the Left thinks every problem's solution ends in government control. And the bigger government control becomes, the more fraud occurs. This is true at every single level.

Bill said...

Yes! Let's get Darren's lazy out out of that teaching job and let community volunteers teach it. I'm sure that would work fine. Fires? Hell anyone can point a hose! Who really needs trained medical care, most of those whiners just need a band-aid!

Darren said...

Wow, Bill, genius answer. Where did I suggest, or did Colorado Springs implement, replacing teachers, firefighters, or medical personnel?