Monday, February 01, 2010

Heightening the Contradictions:

I used to think that it was possible to "heighten the contradictions" but stories like this have convinced me that we can't. There is no amount of pain and suffering on the part of ordinary people that can make a dent in the master narrative of our country, since Reagan, that "government is the problem, not the solution." Eschaton links us to this story about the end of tax 'n spend governing in Colorado Springs. I've put in italics the two most astounding parts. On the one hand, a luxury hotel owner whose business is going to suffer from cutbacks in city management and tourism spending bitches that the city can't be run entirely on the backs of "seasonal" labor at 24,000 dollars a worker. On the other hand, although the populace are convinced that the government is pissing away their money their actual Mayor and City Council are, in fact, "seasonal" or part time laborers earning a mere 6,250 dollars a year. That's right: $6,250--plus an extra $250 for the Mayor.

• Turning out the lights, literally, is one of the high-profile trims aggravating some residents. The city-run Colorado Springs Utilities will shut down 8,000 to 10,000 of more than 24,000 streetlights, to save $1.2 million in energy and bulb replacement.
Hansen, the criminal-justice student, grows especially exasperated when recalling a scary incident a few years ago as she waited for a bus. She said a carload of drunken men approached her until the police helicopter that had been trailing them turned a spotlight on the men and chased them off. Now the helicopter is gone, and the streetlight she was waiting under is threatened as well.
"I don't know a person in this city who doesn't think that's just the stupidest thing on the planet," Hansen said. "Colorado Springs leaders put patches on problems and hope that will handle it."
Employee pay criticized
Community business leaders have jumped into the budget debate, some questioning city spending on what they see as "Ferrari"-level benefits for employees and high salaries in middle management. Broadmoor luxury resort chief executive Steve Bartolin wrote an open letter asking why the city spends $89,000 per employee, when his enterprise has a similar number of workers and spends only $24,000 on each.
Businessman Fowler, saying he is now speaking for the task force Bartolin supports, said the city should study the Broadmoor's use of seasonal employees and realistic manager pay.
"I don't know if people are convinced that the water needed to be turned off in the parks, or the trash cans need to come out, or the lights need to go off," Fowler said. "I think we'll have a big turnover in City Council a year from April. Until we get a new group in there, people aren't really going to believe much of anything."
Mayor and council are part-time jobs in Colorado Springs, points out Mayor Rivera, that pay $6,250 a year ($250 extra for the mayor). "We have jobs, we pay taxes, we use services, just like they do," Rivera said, acknowledging there is a "level of distrust" of public officials at many levels.
Rivera said he welcomes help from Bartolin, the private task force and any other source volunteering to rethink government. He is slightly encouraged, for now, that his monthly sales-tax reports are just ahead of budget predictions.
Officials across the city know their phone lines will light up as parks go brown, trash gathers in the weeds, and streets and alleys go dark.
"There's a lot of anger, a lot of frustration about how governments spend their money," Rivera said. "It's not unique to Colorado Springs."

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