Colorado Springs saw record attendance in the past week for the Pikes Peak Posse and the annual balloon festival. Our community is in a celebratory mood, with good reason.
It is difficult to find negative economic or cultural indicators in the Springs today. After years of struggle, almost everything is improving.
Housing prices are soaring like balloons on Labor Day. The community's partnership with the University of Colorado Health continues elevating health care and medical education. New employers are moving in at the Colorado Springs Airport, which continues improving its competitive edge with cost-cutting maneuvers passed along to airlines and aviation businesses. The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs is building at record speed to accommodate growth.
New tourist attractions, including two large indoor water parks, are in the works. The Southern Delivery System marches toward completion ahead of schedule and under budget, creating access to the community's water in Pueblo Reservoir. More water means enhanced ability to grow the business community, the population and the economy.
Polling data show overwhelming willingness among taxpayers to improve our roads, as a funding measure heads to November's ballot.
Rewind five years, just to understand how far we have come. Back in 2010, the Springs was suffocating under a broken form of governance. City Hall was run by a manager - the most recent hired from Southern California - who did not answer to voters. In fact, the manager punished voters for declining a tax increase she wanted. City workers removed garbage cans from parks. They shut off one-third of the streetlights. Cops were instructed to ignore most minor property crimes while carrying out sting operations to frame Hooters waitresses and strippers. Parks and street medians went unmaintained. After imposing punitive hardships, the manager instructed her public relations manager to pitch Colorado Springs to the national media as a cautionary tale about voters who refused new taxes.
A viral phenomenon of bad press culminated in The New York Times publishing a propaganda piece about a poor woman and son so frightened by the darkened streetlights they had to sell their TV and buy a gun. Colorado Springs was on the verge of an economic death spiral.
Voters overhauled the system in November 2010, adopting an executive-mayor/City Council government. The public chooses a local person to run the executive branch, which is independent from the council.
When government executives answer directly to the electorate, the public gets results. Former Mayor Steve Bach fired anyone who did not embrace service-oriented governance. He appointed a blue-ribbon panel of successful businesspeople who helped put the airport on a trajectory of success. He insisted on an open bidding process to determine the future of the municipal hospital system.
When the organizer of the city's beloved Balloon Classic chose to call it quits last year, Bach and the City Council went into overdrive attracting a new promoter. The result was last weekend's Labor Day Lift Off - the biggest and best balloon festival our city has seen. It may become the country's premier balloon event within a few years.
Mayor John Suthers has shown himself equally capable and willing to serve the community. When businessman Steve Schuck asked Suthers to help him and The Gazette promote our community's presence at the Colorado State Fair - which had suffered in recent years - Suthers embraced the task with zeal. He sent emails and made calls. He persuaded people to donate funds and attend the fair as part of the Pikes Peak Posse, a collection of locals who compete with the Denver Rustlers and other organizations to run up prices on livestock auctioned by 4-H kids to fund educations and provide food for charities. The result: a showing of Colorado Springs residents that doubled previous years.
Things are good in Colorado Springs, and it shows. Enjoy the success, spread the word and keep moving up.