The worst fire in Colorado history is only halfway contained, and in the suburbs of Colorado Springs, residents and former residents are discovering what happens when a forest fire comes to town. Some cars are nothing but charred metal and some homes are burned to the ground, while, in the same neighborhood, other houses have not been touched. Fires are also raging in Utah, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and South Dakota. Climate change is drying out the forests, creating fuel for fires expected to increase individual property loss, human misery and federal taxes. Studies show that local government agencies allow development near dense forests, knowing that the cost of fire-fighting will be covered by Washington. We update the current outbreaks and ask, is it politics that’s preventing prudent planning?
360 houses, no, strike that. HOMES destroyed. Several dead, a few missing, and the utter destruction of block after block after block of what used to be prime housing in some of the prettiest scenery around. How did it come to this? I have two answers, TeaBuggerers and ALEC.
Here’s what the Denver Post wrote in January, 2010, after several ALEC based proposals made their way into the real world:
COLORADO SPRINGS — This tax-averse city is about to learn what it looks and feels like when budget cuts slash services most Americans consider part of the urban fabric. More than a third of the streetlights in Colorado Springs will go dark Monday. The police helicopters are for sale on the Internet. The city is dumping firefighting jobs, a vice team, burglary investigators, beat cops — dozens of police and fire positions will go unfilled. The parks department removed trash cans last week, replacing them with signs urging users to pack out their own litter.
Neighbors are encouraged to bring their own lawn mowers to local green spaces, because parks workers will mow them only once every two weeks. If that. Water cutbacks mean most parks will be dead, brown turf by July; the flower and fertilizer budget is zero.
As social experiments go, this example of rampant TeaBuggerism and ALEC legislative behavior shows just how badly things can go when they go bad. It is a bit like a 40 yr old punk proudly proclaiming, “I never had health care and I will never need it. I’m as healthy as a horse.” Until the horse comes down with colic and is close to being dead on the hoof. When it is needed, there is nothing there to fall back on.
The same applies to Colorado Springs. Maintenance investments, infrastructure upkeep, having trained pros, like cops, firefighters, city workers on staff - these don’t happen all at once. It takes time, training, investment, and rational thinking. It costs money to do all of that, it takes energy, planning ahead, and thinking of the worst case scenarios. It takes the understanding the emergencies can and do happen, and to prepare for them, you must prepare for the worst.
Now that they are shitting in their own crock pot, you can easily guess what sort of solution the Colorado Springs morans and hypocrites are now seeking:
Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach, who has been present at media briefings, skipped talking to reporters Friday morning.
He attended an emotional meeting the evening before with residents wanting to know what had happened to their homes. And in the morning, he was gearing up for his meeting with the president, sorting out in his head what kind of federal aid he would ask for. “I really appreciate the president coming here … if nothing more than just to reassure us that this has a focus at a national level, that there are people all over this country who are concerned for our citizens and those who have lost their homes,” Bach said. “And I do plan to ask for cash,” he added.
After the recession hit, Colorado Springs was in rough shape. City services were being cut left and right. Then one man wrote a manifesto—a blueprint for how the city could solve its problems. Planet Money’s Robert Smith tells the story. Robert is a member of the Planet Money team. (Originally aired 03.02.2012, 27 minutes)