by Rob Natelson
To listen to an audio version read by the author please click here.
This article first appeared in Complete Colorado.
In my last column for Complete Colorado, I examined how the “progressives” running Lakewood—Colorado’s fifth largest city—are failing to carry out a basic municipal responsibility: enforcing state and local anti-noise laws so residents can sleep at night. (Perhaps it was a coincidence, but after that column was published, I noticed an improvement—temporary, it turned out.)
My column also observed how the city’s communication media—particularly its website and house newspaper—have become vehicles for the usual “progressive” practice of propagandizing us at our own expense.
The latest edition of the official city organ (“Looking at Lakewood”) arrived at our home a few days ago. It continues the pattern.
“Injustice, discrimination, and oppression”
One city council member used her space in the paper to inform us giddily that the NAACP has “honored me by asking that I start an NAACP chapter in Jefferson County.” That way, she assures us, she can give “a voice to People of Color and to all those who suffer injustice, discrimination, and oppression in Jefferson County and in Lakewood.”
Somehow when I think of “oppression”, “injustice,” and “discrimination,” Lakewood does not come readily to mind. Traditionally Lakewood has been one of the best places in the Denver metro area for people with modest incomes—although, of course, the “progressives” are working to change that.
Was the council member referring to the prevalent “oppression,” “injustice,” and “discrimination” against those of us who want to sleep at night?
Whatever the answer to that, the fact remains that her self-serving announcement had nothing to do with city business. Taxpayers should not be paying to disseminate it.
Another council member tells us that he is seeking “moderates” to run for city council. He makes it clear, though, that if you think the 2020 presidential election was rigged you need not apply—no matter how “moderate” you may be on other issues.
Still another council member used her space to congratulate herself on her own brilliant foresight. It appears she lobbied for making the city attorney a city employee instead of contracting out the job to the private sector. She claimed this saved money. Maybe it did. But there is no way to know because government accounting almost invariably understates the cost of government-run services.
Still another council member describes city lobbying efforts at the legislature. She did not reveal how much the taxpayers had to pay for it.
In fairness, I should add that one council member (Mary Janssen) wrote something I’ve never seen before in “Looking at Lakewood.” She actually recommended reducing the city mill levy to compensate for soaring property assessment values!
Promoting government wonderfulness
Another part of the paper tells us that city government will give you money for the socially-conscious action of . . . throwing a party! Under the “Neighborhood Get-Togethers Grant” program, “Residents can apply for a modest stipend ($100–$500) to support a gathering that is open to the neighborhood and encourages community building.” The paper’s front page features a photo of one government-subsidized block party.
Now, “progressives” are always telling us that government is necessary to bring “equity” to the poor and oppressed. But now they have a program that pays for beer and ’dogs. Sign me up!
Of course, a latent purpose behind grants of this kind is to accustom people to accepting hand-outs from their “progressive” masters.
As is common in “Looking at Lakewood,” the current edition features an item celebrating the city’s economic development programs. Years ago, I researched programs like these. Before my research, I favored them, but the facts cured me of that.
As a rule, government economic development efforts show little, if any, long-term public benefit. This is partly because other businesses pay for the subsidies and partly because government is not a very good economic decision maker.
But these programs do benefit the politicians, who win the gratitude of those receiving the subsidies and who get headlines for attending ribbon-cutting ceremonies. When the subsidized business fails or moves out, as often happens, the politicians are nowhere to be found. And the media very seldom give the same publicity to the failure as they did to the start-up.
These programs should be scuttled and replaced with the best economic development program of all: a package of efficient services, low taxes, helpful city workers, and a minimally-necessary scheme of regulation. Lakewood doesn’t have that yet.
You will, however, be comforted to know that Lakewood has created yet another government program. The house organ informs us that this program will reduce water usage in the interests of—you guessed it—“sustainability.” Of course, publications like these rarely mention that the simplest and most effective way to conserve water is to price it at market value.
In my last column I documented the use of “progressive” buzz words on the city website. The latest edition of “Looking at Lakewood” continues the pattern. By my count, the small (8-page) tabloid includes the following words or variations thereon: “diversity”, “affordability”, “injustice”, “oppression”, “environmental” (two uses), “equity” (five uses), “sustainability” (seven uses), and “community” (a whopping 57 uses).
Don’t bother looking for any reference to freedom or individualism.