Interstate-25 toll lanes, Strawberry Fields, national monuments, the disappearance of geezer-friendly downtown bars and 1917 law enforcement — what do these have in common? Not much, but they’re all worth considering.
It’s interesting that the proposal to toll the two additional lanes to be added to the notorious I-25 gap between Monument and Castle Rock only surfaced after the November election. Would El Paso County voters have approved allocating $16 million in sorely needed local infrastructure funds to this state highway project if they had known they’d have to pay a road maintenance fee to use the new lanes? The amount of the toll hasn’t been determined, but if it’s anything like the E-470 toll from I-25 south of Denver to Peña Boulevard, it’ll be at least $5 each way. For daily Denver commuters, that could be an annual hit of around $3,000 – but too bad, folks! Imagine those high salaries that desperate Denver companies are offering Springs residents, and be thankful for your good fortune!
Meanwhile, Pam Zubeck’s Colorado Springs Independent story about the inadequacy/inaccuracy of the city’s appraisal of Strawberry Fields has made waves, and then some. As you may remember, Strawberry Fields is the section of North Cheyenne Cañon Park that the city traded to The Broadmoor hotel in exchange for several undeveloped properties and a few trail easements. Given that a lawsuit challenging the exchange is scheduled to be heard early next year, Zubeck’s story may have quite an impact.
In the last few months, five geezer-friendly bars have closed their doors for good.
But while we’re worrying about a few hundred acres of mostly undevelopable mountain terrain, President Donald Trump has clipped a million acres off a couple of national monuments in Utah, hoping to please irredentist Utahans, infuriate environmentalists and Democrats, and persuade 83-year-old Sen. Orrin Hatch to run for another term in 2018. Hatch was first elected to the Senate in 1977. It is supposed that President Trump wants Hatch to run to keep 70-year-old Trump-denigrator Mitt Romney from getting the seat. National politics — ain’t they wonderful?
But if the geezers are in control in Washington, their writ doesn’t extend to downtown Colorado Springs. In the last few months, five geezer-friendly bars have closed their doors for good — the Blue Star, Nosh, Southside Johnny’s, the Ritz and Old Chicago. All five featured comfortable booths, moderate prices and traditional menus — not to mention Friday night bands at Southside’s. What’s an elderly party animal to do, now that he/she is demographically irrelevant? Luckily, we oldsters have Tony’s, the Navajo Hogan, Benny’s and Thunder & Buttons — so we can still avoid community tables, hard metal chairs, 30 beers on tap and locally sourced food. Order of fries and a Pabst Blue Ribbon — who could ask for more?
And finally, the Gazette recently offered a summary of the Colorado Springs police blotter for November 1917. It’s an interesting look at the way law enforcement worked in those days. There were no arrests for murder, two for begging, four for concealed weapons, one for “slackers,” 34 for vagrancy, six for drunkenness, 17 for obstructing the street, and a couple of dozen more for other offenses. Vagrancy and begging accounted for more than half the arrests. Contemporary records show that such offenses were typically punished by a few nights in jail, with offenders released on the condition that they leave town immediately. Did such long-discredited policing practices make downtown safer and more pleasant than the Colorado Springs of 2017? There’s no way of knowing, but it’s an interesting historical tidbit, reminding us that just as we send our stormwater runoff to Pueblo today, we once shooed out the poor and put ’em on the road to the Steel City.
Did Pueblo officials complain to their Colorado Springs counterparts about the vagrant onslaught, or did they welcome new workers for the town’s bustling railroad yards and steel mills? It’s likely that many “vagrants” got jobs, raised families, participated in public life — and maybe their descendants are among Pueblo’s political elite.
The past is always with us.