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El Paso County Colorado District 49

Perking right along

Politicians and bureaucrats whine incessantly that they don’t have enough to spend. No matter how much they get, it’s never enough. Here’s one reason why.For 19 months, I have tried without success to get the milquetoast media, including the pusillanimous press, to report the perks of politicians, like county commissioners. Their response to my leads is “That’s interesting. Someday, I may write about it.” Maybe if I blow the whistle loud enough, they’ll report on my reporting. Here’s hoping.Junkets. My colleagues and other elected and non-elected county officials take trips and send you the bill. Do they stay at a Motel 6, the way you or I would? Dream on. Nice hotels, nice meals, free transportation, money for incidentals, etc. They enjoy, you pay. IIs their destination Dubuque, Omaha or Cheyenne? No, it’s San Francisco, Washington D.C., and Colorado resorts like Beaver Creek. Why don’t you ask them for the complete cost during our next citizen comment period? I have tried, and get the royal runaround.I have never taken a trip at taxpayer expense, and never will. Someday, we will force governments into the 21st-century and broadcast conventions via satellite, as businesses increasingly do. Politicians can then stay in their own state; yet, stay in touch. Lectures can be taped or typed and mailed or put on the Internet. Sure, politicians wouldn’t then be able to go barhopping with their counterparts from Detroit and Seattle. Tough.County parking. When the new county parking garage opened up, parking rates were reviewed. I learned that only elected officials get free parking; all other employees get a 50 percent subsidy from the taxpayers. At the meeting, I said everyone should be treated the same, and offered to pay whatever everyone else does. Sorry, no deal.Airport parking. Soon after I was sworn in, Colorado Springs sent me a plastic card for four years of free airport parking. I cut it up. It’s evidence of the sense of special entitlement by our elected elitists. From years of close observation, I assure you, politicians are not “special,” but all too human.County fair pass. I recently received two passes to the county fair. The parks director called them “courtesy” passes. I tore them up, and paid at the gate. The fair also had a VIP reception. I declined to attend. The taxpayers who pay for government are the Very Important People. I am just their employee, elected not to rule, but to serve. Do such amenities explain why, in 2005, the county did not return the fair to the private Fair Association, which donated it to the county years ago? Over my protest, the Board made taxpayers absorb $35,000 annual losses indefinitely. Sounds like politics to me.Free cars, gas, service. I learned this summer that an unknown number of county employees get free cars, including gas and full service. They take the cars home, as they may (rarely) need them in an “emergency.” Ordinary folks don’t get a car for commuting purposes. We must arrange our own transportation to work, using our salary.One department director who gets this perk makes $108,000 yearly, 20 percent more than Gov. Owens. I asked the head of Fleet Maintenance for a specific list of car values, cost of gasoline, employee identity, etc. He said it would be a lengthy research project. It has now been put off until the departmental audit later this year.Free lunches, tickets, etc. Commissioners regularly get invited to breakfast-lunch-dinner, cocktail parties, exhibits, openings, concerts, sports events, etc. I drop in the trash any offer hinting at special treatment. Such inducements make me bristle. This commissioner is not for sale at any price. When our code of “ethics” was being reviewed, I proposed we add tickets and meals to our list of gifts not to be accepted. No dice.Ironically, while writing this report, I was mailed two free tickets to the state fair. I tore them up. I’ve put a bowl for torn tickets in my office.We must file annual disclosures of handouts over $25 we have taken. They usually come from those who want something in exchange. I don’t need to file, because I am not on the take. A pending state ballot issue deals with limiting gifts to politicians. I haven’t read it yet, but I yearn to respect our elected officials. I can’t now.Commissioners elected in 2006 will “earn” 38 percent more – $87,300 – which is 97 percent of the governor’s salary. (The sheriff will make 22 percent MORE than the governor.) I was one of only two commissioners in the state who testified against that bill this year. That salary is excessive, since we have an administrator and his deputy to handle daily functions for us, at a total cost of about $300,000 yearly. Do we really need perks and freebies as well?If you want to DO something to stop this cavalier misuse of your money, remember that this November’s Amendment 38, the Petition Rights Amendment, will finally allow you to petition county government (and other local governments) on ballot issues. We can reform the system, but only if you vote to give yourself the power to do so.**********************Contact me at (719) 520-6412, by email at, or by writing me at 27 E. Vermijo Ave. Colo. Spgs. CO 80903. Audiotapes of all BOCC meetings, both simulcast and in archives, are available at Back issues of my monthly reports are at my Web site at Reports can be e-mailed to you monthly. Just sign up. Thank you.

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