04 November 2010

We Get Letters

A read writes, in response to my post-election reflections, with some discussion of Colorado Springs. In that post, I said:

Republican support was overhwelmingly rural, non-resort (an attitude that is still a part of Grand Junction, despite its metropolitan area status), exurban, or coming from the Colorado Springs area with its ties to religious conservatism, the defense industry, and the correctional system. . . . There are policy disconnects in the geographic breakdown as well. . . . Colorado Springs, likewise, isn't particularly notable for its economic slump. Its core industries have not been lagging, and the city is in a growth phase.


The response makes the point that the economy isn't as good in Colorado Springs, or at least is not perceived to be as good, as I had portrayed it to be, and also makes an important point about the relationship between the local government's revenues and the faltering construction industry. Here is the response, restated below with some minor editing, which was authorized by the reader:

I thought I'd pass on a little perspective concerning the view of the recession from Colorado Springs, where I live and long for, at least, a two party system.

Colorado Springs does not fully recognize its economic advantages at present, nor the cushion that all that defense spending provides against the broad economic crisis. Poor conditions are relative, eye of the beholder to some extent.

Compared to the out of control boom of just a few years ago, economic activity in Colorado Springs is significantly reduced. Houses have lost some value, and sell very slowly. Construction, which was spread out all over the plains three years ago, building and selling middle class palaces as quickly as the contractors could get to them, came to an abrupt halt, apart from Lewis Ranch, a huge development tract on the east side, which had been annexed by the city, in one of the usual cozy development arrangements between city and private construction speculation. Lewis Ranch just filed for bankruptcy protection.

A good part of city revenues were based on licensing fees and taxes from construction sales (including some illegal funding of operating costs). No one asked questions as long as bills were being paid. The sharp contraction of construction has led to serious shortfalls in local government revenues, as in most of the US now. Services have been slashed. Fees have been increased. But not taxes.

The one bright spot for the local housing construction industry has been the current expansion of Fort Carson. There is new construction in the southern end of town, mostly of units for single soldiers and young families.

Of course, the hugely diminished construction activity means people in that industry are out of work, or doing something else, less well paid; people are spending more time between jobs; and, by the multiplier effect, there is significantly less money circulating in the economy. For Colorado Springs the problems are more those of dislocation and temporary disruption than the dismal prospects elsewhere in the country. Nevertheless, people here are less well off than they were 3 years ago, and less optimistic too.

Of course, the Republican majority here believes in small government, no regulation except in the area of personal morality and sex, cutting government spending, and minimal taxes; the usual catechism. The fact that Colorado Springs' economy is driven by a hugely disproportionate share of federal defense spending in the local economy seems to present no troubling contradictions. Of course, anything denoted as "national security" is sanctified. Ours not to reason why - it's a good and important military tradition. Just not, to me, a good citizen's tradition.

It must be as you say, people choose sides with their hearts not their heads; they find their comfort zone. Policy positions are a gloss or a belief system, not an analysis.

In any case, my point about Colorado Springs is that, in its way, it very much feels the recession. Which is a little different than what your blog's post suggests. Hope this is makes enough sense to shed a little light.


I appreciate the insight and always value what someone with first hand information about what is going on has to say.

I should also note that the two party system isn't entirely dead in Colorado Springs. Democrat John Morse (who holds the number two position of Majority Leader in the Colorado Senate) was elected to the state senate by a narrow margin to a second four year term from a district notable in central city Colorado Springs and and nearby Manitou Springs on Tuesday. His sucessful election and then re-election even in the face of a strong Republican tide this election cycle, has defeated conventional wisdom that Colorado Springs was monolithically Republican.

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