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Bag It: Other Things for Which Denver Could Charge Residents

Ah, cupboards full of plastic bags, we hardly knew ye.
Ah, cupboards full of plastic bags, we hardly knew ye. Teague Bohlen

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click to enlarge Looks like a free day to breathe...if you can. - RICK KIMPEL AT FLICKR
Looks like a free day to breathe...if you can.
Rick Kimpel at Flickr
Air Quality
This sort of charge would depend on the air quality on any given day, naturally, and it carries with it the same sort of environmental goals as does the Bring Your Own Bag ordinance: encouraging responsible behavior by penalizing the irresponsible. So when the air is good or moderate, Denver residents wouldn't see an air-quality charge on their city tax bill. The rate would increase when the air quality is unhealthy for sensitive groups, and increase even more when the air quality is rated as "unhealthy” or “hazardous."

Soda Pop
New York City gets the brunt of the blame for this policy, but Boulder established the same thing back in 2016. Arguably, it’s policy that’s proved to have worked: It’s estimated that soda consumption in Berkeley, California, which passed a sugary drink ordinance in 2015, dropped by over 50 percent in the first three years. In Boulder, it’s a two-cent-per-ounce tax on soda, which sounds like a lot (two pennies times a 44 oz. Thirstbuster is no small change) until you consider that it's not a consumer tax. The price of the tax increase is applied at the distribution level, and is only felt by the consumer through higher prices for individual sodas, which is a long way around saying that it is a consumer tax, just a hidden one. (Makes you feel better, right? No? Maybe a soda would make you feel better. That’ll be $16.50.)

Dog Parks
There has to be a way for Denver to charge dog ownership above and beyond simple licensing. Why not charge for the privilege of having a place for dogs to run and jump and play? That land ain’t free, you know, and neither is the fencing or paying some poop service to come around once in a while to clear out the piles. Besides, don’t you love your dog enough to pay a little more for his or her happiness? Of course you do. That’s a good citizen.

click to enlarge TEAGUE BOHLEN
Teague Bohlen
Biking
Those who use bikes as their primary mode of commute clearly have it too easy, including access to all those mini streets, the implied permission by authorities to ignore traffic signage and basic rules of the road, a healthy lifestyle and good calves. There has to be a way to make biking more revenue-positive for the city. Tolls on bike paths would be too hard — but maybe if the cops actually started issuing citations to those irresponsible cyclists who weave in and out of lanes, ignore stop signs and lights, and generally rely on everyone else trying to figure out what sort of Greg LeMond move they might make in front of you? That would be a start.


The 16th Street Mall Shuttle
RTD has already reduced service on the mall by half in terms of frequency. Why not chuck the whole idea and start charging people? The department could market it as a “charming old-world” addition to the area, super-low fares like a dime or even a quarter. Anything would help. And if it’s successful enough, it might do away with itself completely by lack of use. Problem solved.

Mountain Views
Hey, hotels charge for the view. Homes are sold in part based on their vistas. Why wouldn’t Denver want to get a piece of that sweet action? Owners and renters with a current line of sight overlooking anything worthwhile could get a letter from city government saying, “That sure is a pretty view you have from your front window there. It’d be a shame if anything were to happen to it....”

Naming Rights
No, not for the city, or for Mile High Stadium — er, Empower Field at Mile High. For your own street. What, you don’t want to live at the corner of CenturyLink Drive and Kaiser Permanente Boulevard? Then pony up, Denver.
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Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.
Contact: Teague Bohlen