Last month I heard the annual State of the City address, hosted by the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce & EDC and presented for the fifth time by Mayor John Suthers.
As a reporter in Southern California I attended several State of the City (and region and county) addresses, and the message is always the same: It is good, but there are opportunities for improvement. Colorado Springs was no different.
Since 2014, the city has seen considerable growth in infrastructure, development and residency. Recently released numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau show that “Colorado Springs is now the 39th largest city in America with a population of approximately 480,000 people,” Suthers told the audience. That’s up from No. 42 in 2014, he said.
Colorado Springs has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report for two consecutive years in the Top 3 best places to live in the U.S. thanks to its thriving job market, local economy, the number of people moving here and quality of life factors including health care and education, Suthers said.
He credited residents for this “enviable status.” The “visionary investments of our predecessors” and those made by residents over the last four years — including in public infrastructure — allowed the city to flourish, he said.
Suthers touted new private investment, including the new U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum near downtown (set to open next spring), the William J. Hybl Sports Medicine & Performance Center under construction at UCCS, a downtown stadium and arena, and a new Air Force Academy Visitors Center. A new summit house on the summit of Pikes Peak and more than $1 billion of private investment along the Interquest corridor are also successes.
But the city also faces challenges. Suthers’ address was interrupted three times by protesters who demanded an independent investigation into the Aug. 3 police-involved fatal shooting of 19-year-old De’Von Bailey. One demanded that District Attorney Dan May recuse himself from the investigation while another pleaded with Suthers to “protect our children from police brutality.”
The protests highlighted the apparent disconnect between Colorado Springs’ citizens and its police force in a time where much of the country is divided on the issue of police brutality.
Suthers said he believes “there is no more difficult job in America’s cities today than serving as a police officer.” The split-second decisions first responders must make “can have fatal consequences and should be subject to scrutiny to determine if the officers have acted in accordance with law. But our police officers, just like everyone else, should have the benefit of due process and the rule of law,” he said.
Other challenges include rising rents and housing costs coupled with lack of affordable housing; Suthers said, “The City Council and I will use all of the tools in our toolbox to facilitate the expansion of affordable housing in Colorado Springs.”
Suthers looked ahead at the city’s 150th anniversary in July 2021, calling on residents to carry on the legacy established by the city’s forefathers.
“We must continue to build a city that matches our scenery, a shining city at the foot of a great mountain,” he said in closing.
To watch the State of the City address, or to read Suthers’s speech in its entirety, visit coloradosprings.gov/stateofthecity19.
Breeanna Jent is a multi-beat journalist who joined the Pikes Peak Newspapers team as editorial assistant in January 2018. Breeanna has lived in the Pikes Peak region for four years and enjoys spending time with her family and discovering all Colorado Springs has to offer. Drop her a line or send your calendar events and community photos to email@example.com.