Cities reach their highest potential only if a broad spectrum of the community takes action. That's the understanding that appears to motivate a group of Colorado Springs residents who have formed Colorado Springs Forward, a coalition of local residents from diverse backgrounds who represent the arts community, small businesses, neighborhoods and other sectors of the Pikes Peak region.
The group launched last week with a letter of support signed by more than 500 community residents. Goals include:
- A growing and vibrant economy that provides excellent job opportunities for our citizens.
- A well-functioning, efficient and effective council-mayor form of government
- Adequate public investment to meet community infrastructure needs
- Protection and fortification of the region's military presence against sequestration or base realignment proposals
- Competitive, low-risk utilities today and into the future
- Support for the vision of City for Champions, should detailed plans make good sense
When organizers arrived to meet with The Gazette's editorial board Wednesday, board members were skeptical of the organization's ability to gain traction and get things done. After all, we've heard some of this. Other organizations with grand visions of progress have come and gone over the past decade.
As the meeting progressed, and organizers endured our interrogation, something seemed unique about the values of this group. Leaders of other movements have spoken of inclusion. But founders of this organization spoke almost entirely about reaching out and listening to a broad base of the community.
It wasn't an "oh, by the way, we'll acknowledge inclusion." It was more like an obsession with the need to involve people of the community who are typically skipped over by organizations composed of leaders from special interests. It wasn't about lobbying the community on particular issues and goals. It was about listening, learning and working together. The organization states its values as:
- Community success above individual gain
- Open, honest and respectful two-way communication
- Trust and respect for others
- Data-driven decision making
- Citizen involvement and engagement with local government
Organizers insist they will avoid duplicating the roles and functions of other organizations. They want to enable collaboration and communication between other well-intentioned groups and provide a "powerful collective voice" for nonelective leadership.
If they can stick to and carry out their values and goals, they may succeed at moving this region forward. For too long, the public has perceived a heavy-handed, top-down approach to decisions and efforts toward progress. It has led to unhealthy levels of distrust in local government. It has divided a community that could and should work together toward placing this city, blessed with some of nature's most magnificent assets, among the grandest cities of the world.
We need the community, not a cadre of well-connected leaders, to create the kind of business climate that provides good-paying jobs. We need the community to get behind improving transportation assets and infrastructure. We need the community to correct the dysfunction that impedes local government. We need the community to improve this region's worldwide image. But most important, we need to move this community forward.
"Together we must be willing to face reality, deal with challenges, take action and assess outcomes. quickly and effectively," states a portion of the Colorado Springs Forward website that states the movement's belief system.
Key word: "Together." Colorado Springs needs an attitude of mutual respect and a cohesive will to change our trajectory. It needs more action and less talk and a vision that focuses on improving our community. By all appearances, Colorado Springs Together coalesced as a result of people who want real change enacted by the public. The 500 signatures, from a diverse representation of the community, provide evidence of a good start.
The Gazette supports Colorado Springs Forward with cautious optimism as we believe it has an opportunity to change the narrative and enable a turnaround for our region. We will watch closely how it proceeds, hoping to witness and report on positive impact and measured success to the goals upon which it was founded.