Those ballots are arriving. Candidate debates are droning on. The problems of overcrowded classrooms and indigent teachers, traffic jams and exorbitant college debt continue.
It’s our chance to take a stand, demand action and vote for change.
Sure, you want better schools, easier commutes, cheaper health care, clean energy, no college debt.
Me, too. And I mean that in the most innocent pre-Harvey Weinstein way.
But I’ve got news for you. There will be no solutions – none – that come free.
Years ago, we bought into the convenient untruth that public services would continue even if we starved government into submission, and now here we are.
In Colorado, school children in 111 school districts, the largest number of any state in the nation, are on four-day schedules. Even with those and other kinds of severe austerity measures, it’s common to have 40 or more students in classrooms in Colorado where the roofs leak and air conditioning is a box fan in the window that the teacher bought with her own money.
Forecasts predict that travel delays due to heavy traffic in the Denver area will increase 72 percent in the next 20 years and the financial costs of getting nowhere will jump 87 percent.
The cost in aggravation, stress and deteriorating quality of life? Priceless.
Meanwhile, desperate tactics, such as negotiating disadvantageous public-private partnerships to build overdue infrastructure projects because the state can’t come up with the money, bring their own risks.
When U.S. 36 collapsed near Westminster in July, it was clear that the private partner that helped build the roadway would continue to collect toll revenues, but not so clear if it would bear any responsibility for the $20.4 million cost for repairs.
Given that experience, it may not be the most popular approach to public financing anymore even as the need for infrastructure expansion grows more urgent.
As for higher education, state funds covered 68 percent of the cost at public universities in 2000. In a dramatic reversal, students now pay 65 percent of those costs, with tuition at the flagship University of Colorado Boulder climbing to more than $12,500 per year.
It’s a fine mess.
So, just like voters have done in municipalities, fire districts and nearly all of the local public entities across the state, it’s time to de-Bruce the State of Colorado once and for all.
The latest de-Brucing measure, Proposition CC, is hardly a gravy train. Tax rates that rank Colorado 45th in the nation will remain unaffected.
Prop CC is merely one small step toward rational behavior. It’s a step away from being fiscally clueless.
Face it, sandbagging vital public services to send taxpayers an annual refund of $20 or $62 or even a couple hundred dollars (under pie-in-the-sky economic forecasts) is one of those idiotic Darwin Award-winning ideas that has backfired spectacularly.
Just ask the parents of kids in the 111 school districts on four-day schedules how far even $200 goes toward paying the cost of child care for one day every week during the school year.
Or how far it goes toward paying the average $30,000 student loan debt for the 57 percent of Colorado graduates who can’t possible save or earn fast enough to cover the cost of going to college.
Or if it’s reasonable compensation for all of us who will be looking forward to spending another 60 hours a year – on top of an already soul-sucking 83 hours – commuting to work.
Voters across the country have reached their limit with feckless leadership. We’re tired of sitting around watching problems get worse year after year. Crowds chanting “Do something” to the governor of Ohio speak for all of us on so many issues.
The same message should be ringing in our ears when we vote.
Quit pretending you’re powerless. You’re not. It’s your life.
Diane Carman is a Denver communications consultant.
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