Pueblo mayor: The city has bright future despite high crime and pandemic challenges

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Memorial Hall in Pueblo, Colorado, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021.

Pueblo Mayor Nick Gradisar spoke about crime, COVID-19 challenges and the local economy during a video State of the City address Monday.

The mayor praised first responders, frontline workers and others for their work during the pandemic. But he also noted Pueblo’s high infection rate and overloaded hospitals, calling the community’s deaths occurring since vaccinations became available, “unnecessary.”

“We are learning to live with the virus and in 2021, we did so with minimal restrictions. No businesses were shut down, few capacity limits were imposed but even the minimal requirement to wear a mask in some situations was met with protest,” he said.

Still, Gradisar has rescinded an order requiring masks in city buildings. It had been in place since August 2021.

During the 13-minute speech, Gradisar said the city’s crime rate was up dramatically in 2021 and there were a record number of homicides. 

He said it’s time to take guns out of the hands of repeat criminals and get those people back in jail. “We need to get back to a system of if you do the crime you do the time,” Gradisar said. “Now all too often there are no consequences for bad behavior.”

Regarding the local economy, Gradisar said last year’s city sales tax numbers were up by 28 percent and more than 660 new businesses got licenses. 

“2020 was a year of economic survival in Pueblo,” he said. “In contrast, 2021 was a year of economic development and growth.”

Pueblo is in a once-in-a-lifetime boom, according to the mayor, with three national homebuilders working on new subdivisions, along with expansions at both the Evraz steel mill and CS Wind tower plant. Gradisar reviewed the disbursement of some $36.7 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds. He also said the 2022 budget had $10 million allocated for street repairs.

A written State of the City report is posted to the city’s website.