In his eighth and final State of the City address, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said even his most severe critics would agree that he's succeeded in "getting Colorado Springs moving again," referencing the slogan he ran on in 2015.
He championed the city's population growth of 1.5 percent each year during his tenure, a rate some say is too fast. Suthers said the 50,000-person increase is actually lower than several previous periods in Colorado Springs' history. He described the economic growth as "exponential."
"The gross domestic product of the Colorado Springs metro area has grown by a third over the past eight years, from $30-40 billion annually," he said. He referenced a report by the Milken Institute that ranked Colorado Springs as having one of the top ten municipal economies in the United States.
Suthers also acknowledged that some residents struggle with how the city is evolving. Recent criticism includes the approval of a Kum & Go gas station in the southwest of the city, despite heavy opposition from neighboring residents. An 8,000-seat music venue planned for the booming area known as Polaris Point in the northeast part of town has drawn ire for moving forward with only 800 planned parking spots on-site.
"But the reality is, ladies and gentlemen, you cannot create the 5,000 jobs needed annually to accommodate our graduating children and grandchildren who want to live here, without growing," he said.
While he has been in office, Suthers says the city has gained 47,000 jobs.
"Eight years ago, people complained there were no cranes evidencing new construction in the city, now people regularly complain there are too many cranes," he said. "Eight years ago, the common complaint was the roads weren't getting fixed, now we get lots of complaints about all of the road construction."
Suthers jokingly described his decision to run for mayor in 2015 as a moment of "psychological disorientation." He thanked the citizens of Colorado Springs for the "profound honor and privilege" to serve as mayor of his hometown.
"The state of our city is excellent. It is widely recognized as among the very best cities in America and our future is bright if we choose capable leadership going forward," Suthers said.
Looking to the future, the mayor pushed for voters to cast ballots in favor of several tax measures in the upcoming election. That includes continuing a 1 percent sales tax to support the Pikes Peak Regional Transportation Authority (PPRTA) and increasing another tax on lodging and car rentals from two to four percent.
"Be assured I will be working every day and night to finish what I have begun and to prepare the city for the needs of the future," Suthers said.
He is term-limited and his successor will be elected in April.
Suthers is a former attorney general of Colorado. He also served as United States attorney for Colorado, executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, and district attorney of the 4th Judicial District, which includes El Paso and Teller counties.
Following his speech, Suthers awarded Lyda Hill with this year's Spirit of the Springs Lifetime Achievement Award. An entrepreneur and philanthropist, Hill is known for funding projects that focus on water conservation, green spaces, and medical research.
The 79-year-old spent her childhood summers in Colorado Springs. She is credited with building the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center and recently pledged $40,000 to the Rocky Mountain Field Institute. Hill is currently involved in several local initiatives, including a project which aims to revitalize a 7-mile stretch of Monument and Fountain Creeks into a recreation destination while also bolstering the downtown economy.
Hill was recently given the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy.
More Colorado Springs news
- Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs launches a giraffe care and conservation program
- Planning for expanded open space in northwest Colorado Springs could be underway as soon as next year
- Tourists flocked to the San Luis Valley and other Southern Colorado destinations in 2021
- Colorado Springs Police Department looking to purchase virtual reality system for use of force training
- Colorado Springs City Council approves new emergency evacuation ordinance despite concerns from residents
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