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.

- Advertisement -

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.


  1. Regarding your editorial about the property tax increase being proposed by the City Worth Fighting For Committee, I believe hot debates are what is needed today.

    It is also imperative in the November election that everything is done to preserve the tools of democracy, i.e. town meetings, League of Women Voters, yard signs, debates, newspaper editorials and fair media coverage of all points of view. Democracy implies inclusion even if one side may break the rules and is more vocal than the other.

    More importantly, the 2C campaign is not about taxes. It’s about apathy. I recently lived in a large North American city where fewer than 30% of voters cast ballots on city-wide issues. With so few voting, apathy rules. This is how municipalities get into trouble in the first place. It can be said with some legitimacy that apathy — not those elected — has created the present local financial crisis.

    In Colorado Springs there are people who still care about this city and are willing to meet with citizens to talk about the many problems facing people as well as the solutions. Each side in this debate will argue their beliefs. This is an inclusive process because a person’s right to participate is guaranteed by every law on the books. But it is only a right if people use it.

  2. Agreed Michael, apathy is a real problem, along with people getting educated on the issues. Joe six-pack probably doesn’t read the CSBJ and is limited in his views on the bigger picture. The more people that can help educate the voters the better.

  3. Lon, the lack of public discussion is a problem. We are left to sift through and translate the spin put on by local media and the proponents of various proposals.

    One thing I fear, and wish we would discuss, is what happened with ref C at the state level? I really thought that money would go to health care for seniors & children and for education. I felt that I had been duped when the state emptied the funds for health care and education for other projects and then used ref C money to fund health care and education at a lower amount than previously funded.

    I am upset that Colorado Springs mortaged our buildings to put us in debt for 23million and counting dollars to USOC. We have to pay for USOC while our police, fire, parks and etecetera are cut. Sorry, I just don’t understand that kind of Math. At my house, we don’t splurge for goodies until the necessities are paid for.

    I think we need 2c money, but I’m afraid the city will pull the bait and switch like the state did. Right now, I don’t trust our city council or manager.

    Thanks for reading my post.

  4. Terry, it is a strange state of affairs our fair city finds itself in and the state for that matter. I do trust our city manager she is working with the cards she was dealt and has to answer to council. She is smart. Doing what she has to do.

  5. I completely agree we need open, rational dialog about these issues. Far too often, we Americans reach for the hammer when entering into political discussions. This isn’t about Republican or Democratic lines. It’s not even about how well City-Counsel has used what funds they have already. (Although you’ve got to admit it factors in. Can anyone say USOC?)

    What really needs discussion is whether the city truly needs an extra $43 million per year in-perpetuity; as in, forever… 2C, as it’s written gives no oversight or end-date for this money. If the city survives the recession, as we all expect it to do with-or-without this money, will they “need” the funds or will they squander it like they’ve done for years?

    I don’t trust city-counsel. I’m sure they can take back that “higher-education” money they received from the last 3 tax increases.

    … Oh wait, we bribed the USOC with that…

Comments are closed.