Choices can be difficult.

Our neighbors down in “The Springs” decided a couple of years ago to nix a tax increase for many things, including keeping the lights on at night.  

Now Colorado Springs, Colorado’s second largest city with a population of 420,000 and a footprint big enough to contain all of Boston, Miami, Minneapolis, and San Francisco, goes without any tax-supported night lighting.

In what they now call “the experiment,” Colorado Springs is going without a lot more than streetlights.   It’s cut cops, firemen, closed parks, ceased normal maintenance and repairs, and parked transit buses.

The experiment that is underway in “the Springs” is to see whether its sales-tax dependent revenue will rebound before doing “less with less,” as they call it, brings about the city’s demise.  It’s going to be close.

It’s a municipal strategy that takes the entirely opposite approach from what New York Mayor Giuliani employed to bring back the Big Apple.  Giuliani did not want to see one broken window; by going dark, “the Springs” is saying: “bring rocks.”

If this just involved one military-dependent mid-sized American city, its decision-making could be laughed off.   Unfortunately, Colorado Springs is not alone.

And when it comes to foodborne illnesses, the first lines of defense are the nearly 1,000 local health departments, which usually rely on cities, counties, and independent districts and the states for funding.

Local health departments, which inspect restaurants and investigate outbreaks, have laid off or left unfilled 23,000 jobs in the last three years, according to the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

Another way of looking at it–three out of four Americans now live in an area with less capacity for food safety than just three years ago.

Local governments, which fund local health departments, cannot print money or put their budgets on a credit card.   

It use to be that the best fiscal conservatives in government made sure local governments that are closest to the people got the tax support they needed to do their jobs.  They took pride in their local communities.

This era of Tea Party politics has brought out people who are not motivated by community pride, but anger.   Why else would you be willing to wreck your own house because of something going on at a distant statehouse or the nation’s capital?

Making people eat at restaurants that no longer undergo inspections is no experiment.  It’s just a mater of time.