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Sean Paige

Sean Paige

Posted: June 16, 2010 01:11 PM

Time to Talk a Little Trash About Denver?

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Colorado Springs has heard a lot of trash talk from certain Denverites about our choice of budget cuts, but at least we can still get the garbage collected when things get tight. Unlike Denver, and a lot of supposedly "progressive" cities, we have private garbage collection -- a system that's reliable, affordable and frees residents from the threat of garbage strikes or service cuts when a contract expires or the money runs low.

Believe it or not, you don't need government, or government workers, to pick up garbage and take it to a dump. Turns out that there are very reliable private companies that will provide this service, at very competitive rates, if the government simply declines to get into the business. Makes you wonder what other "government functions" could be performed by the competitive sector, if the government didn't insist on doing virtually everything.

We in Colorado Springs have a world-class Zoo and a very good philharmonic: both are thriving without city support. Our excellent Fine Arts Center is also self-supporting; as is The World Arena (which was originally proposed as a city-owned facility). We now have a private contractor operating three city pools, which were facing closure, and we have one community center being run by a private entity -- succeeding in a private-public partnership where Denver has failed. Neighborhoods are stepping-up to help maintain neighborhood parks. Private "friends" groups are funding operations at Rock Ledge Ranch, a living history museum, and the Starsmore Discovery Center, in North Cheyenne Canyon Park.

We do things differently in Colorado Springs, and historically have, by relying less on government and more on the non-governmental sector to get many things done -- garbage collection being just one example. That's a more sustainable model to follow when tax dollars get scarce. I think it's a model that more cities will have to embrace as we enter an era of chronic budget constraints.

Not that I'm gloating or anything. It's just a reminder that not everything we do in Colorado Springs is wrong. In point of fact, we do a lot of things the right way, despite all the trash talk we sometimes hear from misinformed outsiders.