State Of The City: Colorado Springs Remains Resilient Through Coronavirus And Economic Challenges

Bryan Oller for KRCC
The crowd at the 2020 State of the City for Colorado Springs.

In his sixth State of the City address, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said the pandemic brought all of the ingredients for a complete economic collapse.

"Our local unemployment rate went from 3 percent to 12.6 percent in 45 days," he said. "A stay at home order left much of our economy closed down for two months. City tax revenues plummeted 14 percent in March and 22 percent in April. Traffic at our airport declined at one point by 90 percent." 

But, that's where he said resiliency took over, with construction in the city continuing at record levels, tourism increasing toward the end of the summer, and city revenues exceeding last year's levels in June and July.

"To be sure, we have a long way to go to fully recover from this pandemic, but we are moving forward toward that goal," he said. Suthers said city officials have carefully monitored and managed revenue losses to help minimize the impact on the public.

That includes cutting $22 million from the 2020 budget and imposing a hiring freeze that has resulted in the city having over 200 fewer employees than a year ago. Large capital projects have also been deferred.

Suthers also highlighted continued progress in the city including the opening of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum, significant investment in the southeastern quadrant of the city, and efforts to become the permanent home of the U.S. Space Force.

"Through the hard work of many people, too numerous to mention, I assure you Colorado Springs will make a very compelling case to the Air Force, DOD and the White House," Suthers said.

The mayor also briefly mentioned the recently formed Law Enforcement Transparency and Accountability Commission, which he described as being formed out of meaningful community dialogue around police transparency and brutality.

Those conversations started after the shooting death of De'Von Bailey by Colorado Springs police last August, and continued after protests around the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis this spring.

"Many cities experienced riots and extensive property damage. But Colorado Springs was blessed to have the vast majority of protestors focused on their cause and dedicated to lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights, as well as a police department focused on protecting their right to do so, while also protecting all our citizens and their property," Suthers said. 

Other highlights from the past year, Suthers said, include a decrease in the number of unsheltered people living in the city, continued construction on the Pikes Peak Summit Complex, and the Flying W Ranch reopening eight years after being decimated by the Waldo Canyon Fire.  

"Despite the difficult challenges the last year has brought, including a worldwide pandemic that has impacted our economy, Colorado Springs has proven itself resilient and prepared to move forward towards our city’s 150th birthday and beyond," Suthers said.

Suthers also presented this year's Spirit of the Springs Lifetime Achievement Award to William J. (Bill) Hybl, Executive Chairman of the El Pomar Foundation and former president of the United State Olympic Committee. He was recently recognized with the naming of one of the City for Champions projects, The William J. Hybl Sports Medicine and Performance Center located at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. He and his wife, Kathleen, have two sons and six grandchildren.