Refusing to Pay for Street Lights.

When I became a reporter for the daily newspaper in Stamford, Connecticut, one of the controversies we were covering concerned garbage collection. Residents were upset about service cutbacks -- so much so that one of them sued. You might think garbage collectors were limiting days for pickup, or limiting the amount of trash each household could leave on the corner. But no. The controversy was that trash collectors were no longer going into people's backyards to cart their trash cans all the way to the truck. That's right. These residents were up in arms that they now had to cart the bins across their yards themselves.

The longer I covered the town, the more this turned into a sore spot for me. Residents constantly complained about how high their taxes were yet seemed unable to comprehend the very high level of service the city provided. Aren't the nice sidewalks, big parks, and good schools the reasons they moved to the suburbs? I was reminded of that when I read that Colorado Springs and its tax-averse citizens are about to see what taxes actually pay for:

More than a third of the streetlights in Colorado Springs will go dark Monday. The police helicopters are for sale on the Internet. The city is dumping firefighting jobs, a vice team, burglary investigators, beat cops — dozens of police and fire positions will go unfilled.

The parks department removed trash cans last week, replacing them with signs urging users to pack out their own litter.

Neighbors are encouraged to bring their own lawn mowers to local green spaces, because parks workers will mow them only once every two weeks. If that.

Water cutbacks mean most parks will be dead, brown turf by July; the flower and fertilizer budget is zero.

Colorado requires a referendum to raise taxes, and the voters of Colorado Springs recently rejected a proposed property tax increase that would have helped cover a budget gap, after the recession lowered sales tax revenue by $22 million since 2007. So now, voters will see how good individuals are at protecting the common good.

As Thomas Levenson writes over at The Inverse Square, anti-tax acolytes never seem to comprehend that the things paid for by all of us together, through taxes, "include a bunch of stuff essential for a sound economy and any chance of achieving what is commonly thought of as the American way of life."

-- Monica Potts

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