Colorado Springs is turning into the poster child of urban misery as the cash-strapped city government turns off streetlights, closes pools and community centers, eliminates bus service and pulls trash cans from dozens of neighborhood parks that will probably turn brown this summer.
Media from as close as Denver and as far as Canada have focused on the city’s conservative, anti-tax climate and held up Colorado Springs as a city in crisis.
It got worse today.
Blaming budget cutbacks, the city government announced the elimination of a 10-year-old program designed to calm traffic in neighborhoods.
The Neighborhood Traffic Management Program used speed humps and other traffic calming measures to stop motorists from using residential streets to avoid busier thoroughfares, which can lead to speeding, accidents and other traffic-related programs.
“Six traffic calming construction projects have been canceled due to the lack of funds to construct these projects and the lack of staff to oversee their construction,” city spokeswoman Kristin Bennett said in a news release.
“Approximately 35 existing neighborhood applications for traffic calming assistance will no longer be progressed through the program,” she said.
In addition, “the city will no longer be accepting applications from neighborhoods for traffic calming assistance,” she said.
The end of the neighborhood traffic program is the latest in a series of budget cutbacks that have thrust Colorado Springs into the national spotlight.
The city, which let go of nearly 200 employees through layoffs and an early retirement program, isn’t filling public safety jobs. The city put the two police helicopters up for sale. It turned off between 8,000 and 10,000 streetlights to save $1.2 million. The City Clerk’s office and the Parks Department cut their office hours. The list goes on and on.
The cuts haven’t gone unnoticed.
ABC News, for example, recently featured the city in a report about “extreme” budget cuts.
“Residents are being asked to bring their own lawnmowers if they want the lawns trimmed in the park,” anchor Diane Sawyer said in the broadcast. “But there may not be much to trim. Water is being cut off to the parks, too.”
Days later, the National Post in Canada reported that Colorado Springs “no longer offers basic services that people expect from their local government.”
The exposure is far from over.
CNN is working on a story about Colorado Springs’ budget cuts, too.
“I’ve been surprised by how harsh it is, frankly,” CNN journalist Jim Spellman said.
Spellman said his report will include the community impacts, whether other governments should be taking the same path as Colorado Springs “and whether these kinds of drastic cuts are worth it.”
Spellman, who moved to Denver from Washington, DC, said it was hard for him to say whether the quality of life here is better or worse than on the East Coast.
“I’m probably not the guy to ask,” he said. “The guy to ask is the guy in the tent under the highway.”