Ever since Colorado Springs -- the anti-tax Mecca of the west -- refused to raise taxes to fill its $28 million budget shortfall and instead began cutting services, conservatives and liberals alike have been tuning in to see just how well a city with bare-bones government services could survive. Thus far, one-third of the street lights are off and buses no longer run nights and weekends; public pools, parks, bathrooms, and community centers are closed, and overextended cops log crimes over the phone.
But the city does have a few lifelines. One, as Monica noted earlier this year, is the number of residents employed by federal contractor Lockheed Martin, siphoning federal money into the city.
The other is the sale of medical marijuana. Colorado Springs is benefitting from what Colorado denizens are calling the "Green Rush." Dispensaries are popping up like daisies; as of December, the state was receiving 900 applications for medical marijuana cards each day. The surge has prompted the county of El Paso, where Colorado Springs is located, to put a measure on the Nov. 2 ballot that would ban the dispensaries in parts of the county not incorporated into cities like Colorado Springs. If the initiative passes, that could push more business into the city from unincorporated parts of the county.
One reason the recession hit Colorado Springs so severely is their reliance on sales tax for revenue, and the boom in marijuana sales is helping to turn that around. Sales hit a record high in August, bringing $56,991 into the city, nearly $325,000 for the year thus far and three times the revenue in 2009. Of course, if the marijuana were to actually save the city, it would have to generate about 60 times the revenue it will in 2010.
-- Pema Levy