I was flying home to the Springs, so I was in a good mood, but that didn’t last long.
The woman who sat next to me yanked out a nail file and launched into a meth-induced flurry of filing that could have reduced the bars of a jail cell to cinders. Nail debris rose like a mushroom cloud.
I thought: I’m a reasonable guy, I can talk her down. But I’m wary. Polite discourse seems as rare as airline meals. If I pointed out that we were in a cramped metal tube unsuitable for the disposing of fingernail shavings, she might go all town-hall on me.
My silence in the face of her too-public act of personal grooming is similar to my defense against the radioactive rhetoric that passes for politics, both nationally and locally.
I really want to sit and reason with my Colorado Springs neighbors about the logic of the city’s ballot measure 2C, which would gradually raise property taxes, but I want to avoid the hysteria.
Another airline analogy: You always hear that carry-on items must be no larger than a certain size.
But people routinely violate that rule, and there is no punishment. I constantly watch red-faced passengers strain to cram suitcases the size of mattresses into the overhead compartments. Flight attendants, trained to be agreeable, rarely enforce the rule; in fact, they often assist in the cramming.
The same thing happens when the debate gets going over the tax increase.
Proponents swear, too often in the loudest possible voices, that if voters don’t pass the higher tax, the city will risk collapse, residents’ safety and comfort will be imperiled.
But will that really happen? Do scare tactics work? Does anyone think the city absolutely needs that tax increase?
Well, yes. I do. And I am supporting it, but not without wondering whether the pro-tax forces are exaggerating the consequences of a “no” outcome.
Opponents, whose volume too often matches that of the proponents, swear they cannot afford more taxes, not in this upside-down, underwater economy, and although I wish they would reduce the decibels, I understand their howls of protest.
Three years ago, the average Springs resident was employed, chipping away at a mortgage, living well, paying taxes; today, jobs are evaporating, many mortgages are unmanageable and a higher property tax will nudge some responsible people closer to foreclosure.
That, I understand; but I cannot accept the idea that every tax increase is part of some fiendish plot to turn this city into Berkeley or Boulder. Taxes are not evil. They are a price we pay for a good place to live.
People should share a vision of that good place, debate reasonably and seek accommodation that is neither perfect nor extreme. Just as I couldn’t find another seat on a packed airplane, the people who live here want only a good place, but they differ on how to sustain it.
I should have taken the chance and tried to reason with the fanatic filer. I won’t make that mistake again.
With more than seven weeks until the Nov. 3 election, we have time to discuss, at moderate volume and in polite, merit-based arguments, whether higher taxes are needed for this good place.
Let us agree not to turn every exchange of ideas into yet another mushroom cloud.
Lon Matejczyk is publisher of the Colorado Springs Business Journal. He can be reached at Lon.Matejczyk@csbj.com or 329-5202.