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Civic Pride in Colorado Springs

April 13, 2010

First it was Diane Sawyer and ABC news who, on February 2nd, reported on Colorado Springs’ Extreme Budget Cut. She highlighted the news that the city was selling a police helicopter and turning off 1/3 of the street lights. The next day on the radio I heard a city spokesman say he’d had three calls–two asking that their street lights be turned off.

Today, the Wall Street Journal wrote about Taking Small Government to the Extreme–highlighting mostly Colorado Springs. (Do I sense a word pattern here?) The WSJ article is actually pretty well-balanced, quoting those on both sides of the issue and highlighting the efforts of volunteers to fill the gaps. On the plus side, the US Olympic Committee is donating $250,000 over two years for sports programs, volunteers are picking up the trash at local parks and a church has stepped forward to run of four community centers whose funding will be cut.

What is so extreme about all this? In my own small community of 130 households, the Home Owners Association already maintains a community park bigger than many of the city parks. We’re not unique. It only seems extreme because we’ve become accustomed to letting government do it for us. Richard Skorman, well-known city liberal, worries “If people are not contributing their part, there needs to be a broad community-wide solution.”

That’s what the socialist left would prefer: a government-mandated solution keyed to their ideals of “social justice” and what is “fair.” The tragedy of the commons is the result: no-one has pride of ownership, no one has a stake in the government-provided solution, costs go up and quality goes down.

Far better is the Springs’ move toward getting the citizens involved again. We actually have quite a history of it: from General Palmer, Colorado Springs’ founder, who donated the land for some of the city’s oldest parks to citizen volunteers who, each summer for as long as I can remember, plant flowers in the medians of downtown streets.

That is not “extreme”–it’s civic pride and it was a strength of the Roman Republic, as the Founders knew well. It is time we revived it in America.


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