A famous actor-comedian-director pitied himself. “What’s the matter with me? Why can’t I be cool?” asked the helplessly geeky Allan Stewart Konigsberg, better known as Woody Allen.
He should hear the words of actress Vanessa Ann Hudgens.
“Being cool is being your own self, not doing something that someone else is telling you to do,” Hudgens explains.
Which brings us to Colorado Springs, a major city in the shadows of Denver — a larger city with an avant-garde appetite for recreational drugs, far-left politics, and other stale trends Colorado Springs consistently rejects.
While the Springs accepts its humble role as Denver’s sober sibling, the rest of the world thinks this place is cool.
And, yes, it matters. Here’s why.
By every conceivable strategic, geographic, cultural, social and practical consideration, Colorado Springs should continue as the headquarters of Space Command — the country’s cool new unified combatant command focused on the military’s growing future in space defense.
The Pentagon wants a permanent host community that meets these criteria:
• Ranks among the 150 largest metropolitan statistical areas. Check. The Springs ranks 79th.
• Within 25 miles of a military base. Check. The Springs hosts Fort Carson, the Air Force Academy, Peterson Air Force Base, Schriever Air Force Base, NORAD, Northcom and more.
• Scores a Livability Index of 50 or higher by the American Association of Retired Persons Public Policy Institute. Check. The Springs rates 53.
The chosen community will also rank high for infrastructure capacity, community support of military, and workforce qualifications. Throw in that the Springs serves as the past and present headquarters of the recently recommissioned Space Command — and will do so for at least six years no matter what — and this should not be a contest.
There’s just one more off-the-books consideration reported last week by Gazette Senior Military Editor Tom Roeder. He calls it the “cool factor.” (Boomers, think “Fonz Factor.”)
“Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who could have big sway on the Space Command decision, leaned toward cool places in his last job as Army secretary,” Roeder says. “In picking a headquarters for Army Futures Command, charged with developing the latest technologies for land warfare, Esper eschewed traditional military towns to pick Austin (Texas).”
This brings us to Aurora, which also wants Space Command. Believe it or not, Aurora has elements of cool. Take Mayor Mike Coffman. A former congressman and Colorado secretary of state, he voluntarily left his cushy job as state treasurer for dangerous Marine service in Iraq. That’s cool, but no one considers Aurora the James Dean of Colorado.
Roeder explains the Denver metro, which includes Aurora, has many of the characteristics favorable to Colorado Springs “along with the hip creative culture that made the Army house its Futures Command in Austin.”
Yes, metro Denver can be cool — even with Eric Cartman’s beloved Casa Bonita closed for COVID-19. But it cannot compete with the Springs in this category. Just ask the investment experts who assess which cities are in fashion and which are not.
Investing.com recently ranked the “Top U.S. Cities Americans Are Leaving.” It reads like a who’s who of yesterday’s cool zones: 1. Portland, Ore.; 2. San Francisco; 3. Seattle; 4. New York; 5. Chicago; 6. Washington; and 7. Los Angeles.
Colorado Springs has no place on the list, but Denver ranks 14th for cities people are leaving. As Investing puts it, Denver’s recreational pot sector “has edged out other industries both new and old,” leaving wages inadequate for the city’s high housing costs.
Things are much different an hour south in the Springs. Colorado Public Radio published and broadcast a detailed report in March that says Colorado Springs “topped the charts” when the Brookings Institute studied cities with the highest growth rate of millennials. U.S. News & World Report ranked the Springs the “most desirable” place in which to live in 2018. That’s pretty cool.
“Colorado Springs is booming,” public radio explains, citing 37% population growth since 2000 and job growth that “is more than keeping up.”
We could detail the burgeoning arts, cultural and entertainment scene, but choose instead to name drop something cool. OneRepublic. The most successful pop-rock band to emerge from Colorado formed when two students at Colorado Springs Christian High School — Ryan Tedder and Zach Filkins — formed the nucleus of the chart-topping band. Yeah, we’ll be countin’ stars because the Springs knows how to produce them.
The Springs is cool because it is not like Portland, San Francisco, Seattle or Denver. Cool hipsters know it, so they move here in droves. It is one more reason Space Command belongs in Colorado Springs.
The Gazette Editorial Board