Governments shutting down services

In my neck of the woods we would hear threats from time to time from the city about shutting down certain services if a tax increase was not passed, or an existing tax was not sustained. So far the threats have been empty, I think mainly because we’ve been better off in terms of the ratio of tax base to spending we have.

Well the crap has finally hit the fan in Colorado Springs, CO. It started shutting down many of its services on Monday. Some street lights have stopped operating. I guess they’re now four-way stops? This is kind of pathetic. You mean they’re unable to pay their electric bill? Maybe I’m being too harsh, and it’s just that they’re not able to be maintained. They’re selling their police helicopters to bring in some needed cash. They’re laying off some firefighters, police officers, and crime detectives. They’ve stopped mowing, watering, and picking up trash in their parks. For people who come to them, they’re going to have to BYOB (bring your own (trash) bags). They’ve shut down their road maintenance service, though a limited county-run road maintenance service is available. City recreation centers, city pools, and a few museums may close permanently at the end of next month, unless private buyers are found. Come to think of it, private companies could take over many of these services (I can imagine this for all but police services). They’d probably be able to do them for less than what the city was paying its employees. I’m surprised the city didn’t think of this. Glenn Beck recently interviewed a private company that runs state parks (the videos below are from watchglennbeck.com):

Some have criticized the voters of Colorado Springs, citing the fact that they voted down a tax increase to prevent this, but the opinion of the voters seemed to be that the city government was spending irresponsibly. John Stossel, now at Fox Business Network, wrote a brief article on this, saying that the main problem is the commitments that the city made to its unionized employees. It’s having to function like a bank rather than a city government. Glenn Beck got into some more examples of this across the country:

I know what Glenn’s talking about, in a sense. We don’t have the trouble with firing teachers here that he describes, but our local teachers union in the Boulder Valley School District has been raising hell since almost a year ago over the fact that our superintendent is not giving them the raises they want. They did a couple of work actions last year of questionable legality to make their point. The teachers union is tone deaf about the economy. Guess what, guys. That raise you were expecting has to come from us voters, and right now we’re not feeling so generous. What I’ve seen from some teachers is a callous disregard for the financial troubles of their constituents, as if we’re displaying a lack of gratitude. They say, “We have our struggles, too.” Well, maybe, but I hear that our teachers here have a spectacular pension program, better than what you’ll find just about anywhere in the private sector. And they have a “cadillac” health care plan. These haven’t been downgraded at all and they should be thankful for that. Many private sector workers have not been so lucky. When I’ve brought this up with teachers, one of the responses I’d get is, “Well that’s the much vaunted private sector for you. Why would people prefer that?” That wasn’t the point. The point is that’s where the money comes from to pay their salaries!! I swear, many government employees don’t understand this and it is baffling and frustrating to me that they don’t. I don’t mean to paint with a broad brush. I have seen some teachers and former teachers totally get it, and they’re for fiscal restraint. It’s just that some of them, the hundreds that walked out on students a couple times last year, seem to seriously believe that money grows on trees. It’s scary to think that they lack the math skills necessary to understand what’s happening. After all they’re just educating the kids!

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3 Responses to Governments shutting down services

  1. Patrick says:

    You know, as I was reading this I actually thought the story was gonna be good. But unfortunatly it took a turn for the worse. Please do some research next time before you write. Don’t believe everything written out there. What do I mean you say? Well let me educate you:

    1) Streetlights do not mean “stoplights”. Streetlights are those things that light up intersections and neighborhoods. We are shutting off 1/3 of those. Who is stupid enough to think there is a big cost savings in turning off traffic lights??

    2) John Stossel and Beck are quick to make all city employee’s villains in times of cities budget deficits. No one has made mention to the $90 million less the city has collected in revenues.

    3) Stossel’s comments, backed up by the rest of your article, states that the unionized workers are to blame. Well, I hate to tell you, Colorado Springs does not have a contract with the employees. We do not have collective bargaining nor do we have any sort of signed agreement. Oh man, can’t make the unions your scapgoat here, sorry.

    4) Your comments on teachers are downright offensive and irresponsible. I hold teachers in the highest respect and you should be ashamed. They are educating our future. What are you doing? You are showing how ignorant you are by not doing research and making comments on things you obviously do not know.

    Please, next time take the 5 extra minutes to do the research so you can write an informative article that actually tells the whole story

    Citizen of Colorado Springs

  2. PIBoulder says:

    @Patrick:

    Thanks for the heads up about streetlights. I will correct that in my post. As to my “ignorance”, I don’t recall covering the definition of “streetlight” in school. I guess I’m just the product of our spectacular educational system… Other than that your comments were not constructive.

    I am not a journalist. I am a commentator. I base what I say on what I pick up. You focused on Stossel and Beck. I also used the Denver Post as a source.

    Re: 2

    There’d be no reason to talk about city services being shut off if there wasn’t a budget shortfall. That goes without saying.

    Re: 3 – Colorado Springs does not have a contract with its employees

    I did some research yesterday and it looks as if there is a union in Colorado Springs for the police and firefighters, though for no other city employees. You’ll note I mention police and firefighters. Since you’re not in a union I wasn’t really talking about you.

    Since you know about the city’s tax receipts, you should also know about its required financial obligations. Quoting from the Denver Post article I referred to:

    “The deep recession bit into Colorado Springs sales-tax collections, while pension and health care costs for city employees continued to soar.”

    I guess Michael Booth is ignorant as well. This point was the main thrust of my criticism.

    Re: 4 – My comments about teachers

    I feel no shame for my comments. I did take a dig at some teachers out of frustration, but only because of the interactions I’ve had with them over the disconnect between the financial desires they have, and the tax base’s ability and willingness to deliver it to them. They claim they’re fighting the administrators, who always seem to be preferred for raises over them, but up here, they’ve occasionally stuck it to the kids in order to make the school district concede to their demands. THAT to me is irresponsible! It’s certainly unprofessional.

    I was not exaggerating my description of the arguments teachers have made. It comes from experience. I wish some of our teachers had a richer education than they’ve had. I can see some “empty spaces” in their thinking. I also noted that not all teachers have the view I complained about. It’s disappointing when I go out of my way to write something and readers ignore it because it gets in the way of them slapping me around.

    Let’s be frank here. It’s obvious you didn’t come here intending to have an honest discussion.

  3. […] the old world dies This is a follow-up to my post called “Governments shutting down services”. Hat tip to Tammy Bruce for this. She provided links to a couple articles on the decline of […]

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