Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers delivered his third annual State of the City address Friday, remarking on the city's successes in the past year and challenges moving forward. He began by reflecting on his previous State of the City addresses, saying that the city has moved from one of great potential to one that is beginning to actually achieve that potential.
This year, Mayor Suthers highlighted increased collaboration between the mayor's office and city council, economic growth, and increased tourism. He also praised, among others, collaborative government bodies, private partners, educational institutions, and faith groups.
Among the city's challenges, Suthers remarked on critical infrastructure issues, including road improvements funded by voters in 2015, which he called a "work in progress," as well as the issue of stormwater deficiencies.
To that end, the mayor plugged an upcoming ballot issue that seeks to reinstate a stormwater fee for 20 years, tying it to the city's ability to adequately fund the police and fire departments.
"Ladies and gentlemen, this would be a long term fix for a longstanding problem," Suthers said. "And if the voters approve, Colorado Springs will be on sound financial footing for at least the next couple of decades. Investment in stormwater infrastructure is critical to our continued economic prosperity."
Suthers said the measure, known as Issue 2A, would raise $17-18 million per year for two decades to be designated specifically for stormwater projects, thus freeing up the same amount for police and fire staffing issues.
Other challenges facing the city, Suthers said, include providing skills to job seekers to accompany the city's strong economic growth, affordable housing in light of a hot real estate and rental market, and funds for a new Summit House on Pikes Peak while the tourism industry continues to see record numbers.
Suthers also revisited a topic from last year: an expansion of Interstate 25, in particular between Monument and Castle Rock. He praised members of the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority for providing funds to help with the portion of I-25 located in El Paso County; he also credited the Colorado Department of Transportation for moving up its timetable. But he also blasted state legislators for "political gridlock," preventing the project from being funded.
"I urge all of you to vociferously urge our state legislators and governor to put aside ideological differences, to get their priorities straight, to stop making excuses and get this project funded," he said.
In the end, Suthers said the city is moving in the right direction, and is "taking its place among the great cities of America." He said the challenge moving forward is the same as it's always been: to uphold the legacy of General William Palmer, the city's founder.
"His challenge was to grow the city’s economy and build adequate infrastructure while maintaining a very high quality of life for our citizens," Suthers said in his closing remarks. "Our challenge today, 146 years and 470,000 people later is precisely the same."
Today's State of the City address was Suthers' third, and the city's 146th. After his remarks, Suthers presented the Spirit of the Springs Lifetime Achievement Award to Mary Ellen McNally, who has served on many boards, raised funds for non-profit organizations, and served on city council, among other civic work.