2022 State of the City

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2022 Highlights

State of the City Highlights 2022

Highlights video description

Video Description: Music playing over images and text.

Question... what makes Colorado Springs the best place to live, work and play?

Answer... Solid Infrastructure followed by images of street paving, new bridges, Panorama Park, roundabout at Garden of the Gods Park.

Answer... Responsible Growth followed by images of a plane at the airport, utility upgrades in AdAmAn Alley, TopGolf and Northgate Blvd, fire trucks and police officers.

Answer... Job Creation followed by images of people walking downtown, heavy equipment in a warehouse, a person typing on a computer, luggage check at COS Airport

Answer... Residents and Visitors followed by images of Fan Fest, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum, people biking in bike lanes, hot air balloons.

Colorado Springs Olympic City USA logo

Watch the State of the City

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers presents his 8th and final State of the City address

Read the State of the City address

Full Transcript 

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for attending my eighth and final State of the City speech as Mayor of Colorado Springs. My thanks to you, and to all our citizens who will view this speech through various media, for your continuing interest in our great city.

My thanks to the Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC and its CEO, Johnna Reeder Kleymeyer, for once again hosting the Mayor’s annual report to our citizens, and to all the member sponsors of today’s event. And, of course, thanks to the Broadmoor for again providing us with a great venue.

Folks, in the scheme of things, eight years is not a long time. In the course of human history, it’s the blink of an eye. But in the life of a city, particularly one that’s 151 years old, eight years is sufficient time for significant change to occur. In fact Colorado Springs has changed a lot in the past eight years. And I'd like to use my remarks today to talk about these changes and then make some observations about the future of our city.

So I’ll begin by asking you to turn back the clock to the beginning of 2015. I assume most of you, but not all, were residents of Colorado Springs at that time. The city was still emerging from the Great Recession. Job creation in Colorado Springs had been largely stagnant for a decade. According to the annual Milken Report our city’s economic performance was 98th among America’s 200 largest cities and was trending downward. We were not creating enough jobs to accommodate the needs of our local high school and college graduates, and there was an exodus of young people from our city.

Our critical public infrastructure had been largely neglected for many years. The City Engineer estimated our public infrastructure deficit was at least $1.5 billion. Sixty percent of our roads were in poor condition and our stormwater system was both physically and legally deficient. In November of 2014, the voters had rejected a ballot issue to fix it and we were facing lawsuits by the EPA, the State of Colorado, and Pueblo County.

As lifelong residents of Colorado Springs, my wife Janet and I joined many others who were concerned about our city. And, in a moment of psychological disorientation, I decided to run for mayor. Here’s the 30 second message I sent to potential voters.

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Well, judging by the mail, email, and telephone calls we currently get at the Mayor’s office, I think even my most severe critics will concede that we’ve succeeded in getting Colorado Springs moving again. Eight years ago, people complained there were no cranes, evidencing new construction in the city. Now people regularly complain there are too many cranes. Eight years ago the common complaint was the roads weren’t getting fixed. Now we get lots of complaints about all the road construction. Eight years ago, people complained that Colorado Springs wasn’t attracting and retaining young people. Now I get complaints that Colorado Springs is being overrun by young people. But such are the vicissitudes of politics.

Here are the facts. In the last 8 years Colorado Springs has grown by about 50,000 people or about 1½% per year. That rate is actually slower than several previous periods in the city’s history. With a current population of about a half million people, we’ve grown from the 42nd to the 39th largest city in the country.

But while our population growth has been steady, our economic growth has been exponential. The gross domestic product of the Colorado Springs metropolitan area has grown by a third over the past 8 years from 30 to 40 billion dollars annually. According to the annual Milken Report I referenced earlier, our city’s economy, 98th in 2015, is now among the top 10 municipal economies in the country, driven by both job growth and wage growth. We’ve created about 47,000 jobs since 2015. We are also among the top ten cities in America where college graduates want to live and we have among the fastest growing millennial populations in the country.

How has this population and economic growth impacted our quality of life in Colorado Springs? Well, it depends who you ask. Just last May, U.S. News and World Report ranked us the second-best place in America to live. In a broad survey of Americans by that same organization, Colorado Springs ranked as the most desirable city in the United States for the 4th consecutive year. We’re in literally dozens of other top 10 rankings for places to live. Polls indicate a majority of our local residents also view the city as moving in the right direction. But it’s important to acknowledge that some of our citizens, particularly those retired, or not otherwise dependent on our economy for their livelihood, view the city’s physical and economic growth unfavorably.

But the reality is, ladies and gentlemen, you cannot create the 5,500 jobs needed annually to accommodate our graduating children and grandchildren who want to live here, without growing. And the fact is, all healthy cities grow. Of the 100 largest cities in America, the only ones that did not grow over the past decade were Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Memphis, Milwaukee and St. Louis. Colorado Springs’ growth rate of 17% over the past decade was 23rd among the nation’s 100 largest cities.

So what has this most recent period of prosperity brought to our city? It has brought innovation, entrepreneurship, and significant public and private investment. With the support of our citizens we’ve improved about 1,500 miles of roads and have completed or are now constructing many large road and bridge infrastructure projects. In eight years, again with the support of our citizens, we’ve worked ourselves completely out of a legal quagmire and are well on our way to having the best stormwater system in Colorado. And in eight years we’ve brought the bold and ambitious City for Champions projects from conception to fruition. It took vision, persistence and well-designed public/private partnerships to make the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum, Weidner Field, Robson Arena, the Hybl Sports Medicine Center and a new Air Force Academy Visitors Center a reality. This investment will mean millions of visitors, thousands of jobs, and billions of dollars of economic activity for our city.

Add to these investments a new Pikes Peak Summit Visitors’ Center and rebuilt Cog Railway and it’s evident the future of tourism in the Pikes Peak region is very bright. Traffic at the Colorado Springs airport has almost doubled over the last eight years, to its highest levels in two decades, thanks largely to our newest commercial carrier, Southwest Airlines.

The city’s Interquest corridor has seen a billion dollars of economic development. Great Wolf Lodge, Scheels Sporting Goods, Ent Credit Union’s corporate headquarters and a new Centura Hospital are just a few of the investments. Polaris Pointe has become what I like to call a “grownup Disneyland” with golf, race car driving, indoor skydiving, a shooting range, and an indoor, and soon to be outdoor, entertainment venue, as well as other diversions.

And perhaps nothing has been so dramatically transformed over the past eight years than downtown Colorado Springs. A great city needs a vibrant downtown core, and we’ve got one now. The Olympic Museum, the Park Union Bridge, the Vermijo Plaza, Weidner Field, Robson Arena, 3,000 new residential units, 600 new hotel rooms and dozens of new businesses and restaurants have made downtown the place to be for young and old alike.

Our sports economy continues to grow, reaching a half billion dollars per year. Olympic City USA is home to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and its largest Training Center, 25 national governing bodies, the Olympic and Paralympic Museum, over 50 other sports related organizations and dozens of sports related businesses. We continue to attract major sports events. As an example, next June we’ll host the U.S. Weightlifting Championship at Robson Arena with 1,700 participants from around the country, and next July we’ll host the World Jump Rope Championship, also at Robson Arena. Hard to believe, but that 10-day event involves 3,000 participants from 30 countries and 10,000 hotel nights.

The military and defense industry has been and will remain the largest sector of our economy. Given the critical missions and facilities located here, that sector will continue to grow, regardless of where Space Command headquarters is permanently located. But in that regard, I’m very pleased that the ill-advised decision of the Trump administration to move U.S. Space Command from our city is being exposed as clearly contrary to our national defense interests and contrary to the interests of the American taxpayer. The Government Accountability Office found the process lacked credibility and transparency. Be assured our city will continue to wage the fight in Congress, at the White House and in the Pentagon to retain Space Command, and attract any new space related missions that are looking for a home.

Other important economic sectors in Colorado Springs are also doing well.

Our healthcare industry is outstanding, bolstered by our two great hospital systems. And the Colorado Springs Health Foundation has become the philanthropic force that our citizens envisioned.

The Pikes Peak region is blessed to be the home of excellent higher education institutions. The Air Force Academy produces officers who will lead the U.S. Air Force and Space Force. Colorado College is among the nation’s best liberal arts colleges. UCCS continues to grow and become a huge economic force in the region, expanding programs to meet critical needs, like Astronautical Engineering and Cybersecurity. Pikes Peak State College also plays a tremendous role in developing our workforce for tomorrow.

And our city has proven itself very economically resilient, even in the face of a worldwide pandemic. The numbers are out and they prove what we suspected. While the average large city in America suffered a 4% reduction in their economy due to the pandemic, and many much more severe, the economic loss to Colorado Springs was one tenth of one percent and we recovered all of the jobs lost to the pandemic faster than any other major city.

Now, what has this period of growth and economic investment meant in terms of the municipal tax burden of our citizens? This is something I think we should be very proud of. Despite the era of prosperity and increased public investment in infrastructure we have seen, Colorado Springs residents continue to enjoy among the lowest municipal tax burdens of any city in the country. The city's per capita tax burden is just over $800. That’s a third of the average tax burden of residents in the country’s 100 largest cities. And it’s my sincere hope that future Mayors and City Councils in Colorado Springs will not lose sight of the fact that you can have a very prosperous city and still have a low tax burden, and the fact that high tax burdens are ultimately hostile to a city’s growth and prosperity.

Another thing that is vital to a healthy city is a healthy reserve fund that will help it weather an inevitable national economic downturn. I’m pleased to report that over the past eight years the city administration and city council have been deliberately and intentionally working to increase our city’s reserves. The reserve currently stands at 24% of the city’s annual general fund budget. By all accounting standards, that’s a healthy situation. 

The only unhealthy aspect of the city budget is an unfunded pension liability and the only entity that has the power to fix that problem is the Colorado legislature. Small tweaks to PERA by the legislature over the last several years haven’t done enough to reduce the unfunded liability of PERA and more significant reforms are necessary.

Now let’s turn to the future of our great city and the challenges and opportunities we can anticipate. 

The most essential responsibility of government is public safety. Colorado Springs has always recognized that and it’s evidenced today by the fact that 57% of the City’s general fund budget is dedicated to public safety. But I believe the future challenge of having our public safety resources keep pace with our population growth and growth in geographic area will be daunting. In the past eight years we’ve added 120 police officers and 48 firefighters. But while we have 803 authorized police positions, 64 remain unfilled. I believe we’ll rectify that in 2023 by running continuous police academies. But a recent study commissioned by the City indicates that by 2035 we will likely need to increase our police force by another 200 positions. And we’ll likely need to build two more police substations in northeast and southeast Colorado Springs. We’ll also likely need to build up to five new fire stations and add up to 80 firefighters. We will need to do all this to ensure we maintain the reasonable response times our citizens need and deserve.

By action of the City Council, we took a big step this year to help us deal with the financial realities of our public safety needs by restructuring the police and fire impact fees that we impose on new developments. Those fees will help us fund the capital costs of future growth, but future city leaders must be vigilant to maintain public safety as our highest priority.

Unfortunately, we are in the midst of increasing crime in Colorado and no amount of police resources will solve the problem unless the State legislature has a fundamental shift in priority. The heavily Democrat controlled legislature has, over several years, been obsessed with reducing jail and prison populations. They’ve reduced sentences, provided for earlier release from prison, made it harder to revoke parole, and easier to be released on bond. And while our prison population has been reduced 23% over the past decade, our serious crime rate has increased 42%. It’s clear many of our legislators don’t understand the correlation, and it’s my hope the voters of Colorado will restore some common sense and philosophical balance that can deal with the crime wave we’re experiencing.

Staying with the topic of public safety, the Pikes Peak region’s greatest natural disaster threats have historically been, and continue to be, wildland fires and flash flooding. Our increased investment in stormwater infrastructure over the last several years has made us much better prepared for flash flooding, but we must continue to upgrade our system. We also know there will be more wildland fires. The question is when, where, and how well prepared we will be.

Last November, the voters helped us out tremendously by letting the city retain $20 million in excess revenue over the TABOR cap in order to create a permanent Wildland Fire Mitigation Fund that greatly expands our fire mitigation efforts. We are well prepared to leverage these local funds to secure significant state and federal money being made available for wildland fire mitigation. The City and Regional Office of Emergency Management are also emphasizing emergency evacuation planning. Over 600 different evacuation zones have been identified within the city. And, through a campaign called COSReady, our residents will be educated about evacuation from their particular zone. All these public safety issues will require continued vigilance. 

Another fundamental responsibility of municipal government is to build critical public infrastructure to keep pace with the growth of a city. And while we’ve made great progress over the past eight years, it’s my hope that both our city government and our citizens will not lose sight of the fact that this is an ongoing challenge. Frankly, Colorado Springs has had an historical tendency to ebb and flow in its investment in roads, bridges, stormwater, parks and other critical public infrastructure. Although we have fairly quickly overcome a significant infrastructure deficit that took two decades to create, we simply cannot let up. We must continue to invest in public infrastructure, both city and utility infrastructure, to preserve our city’s quality of life and ensure that the private sector also continues to invest heavily in our city.

And perhaps the most important thing we can do to ensure our transportation infrastructure grows with our city is to renew the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority, or PPRTA, when it comes before the voters in November. We are asking our citizens to extend PPRTA for another 10 years without raising the .55% sales tax paid by virtually all El Paso County residents. It’s PPRTA that pays for very expensive transportation projects that expand our traffic capacities and reduce congestion. For example, among the high priority projects for PPRTA III will be the long overdue expansion of Marksheffel Rd. and the completion of the Powers Boulevard extension to I-25.

Other ongoing challenges we face are homelessness and affordable housing. As to homelessness, I have long ago reconciled myself to the fact that as long as there are any unsheltered people on our streets many of our residents will conclude we are not appropriately dealing with the issue. But I can confidently assert, based on what I know from other cities, you will be hard pressed to find a large city that has dealt with the issue, within the parameters of the law, more effectively than Colorado Springs.

Despite significant community growth, we’ve cut our unsheltered census by 50% in the last five years. We are one of very few major cities that have seen a reduction. That’s because we have an incredible group of non-profits working with the city to address the problem. Thanks to the Springs Rescue Mission, Salvation Army and others, we have enough shelter beds to accommodate anyone who wants shelter and access to health care, behavioral health care, substance abuse treatment and employment opportunities. And we are increasing their ability to move to transitional and permanent housing.

Our police and fire departments are conducting effective outreach to those who refuse shelter and we are enforcing no camping bans and our “don’t sit, don’t lie” ordinance to the fullest extent allowed by law. I strongly believe our approach is the right one and I strongly encourage future mayors and city councils to maintain this approach in order to avoid the disasters that have beset so many other large cities.

What has transpired in Denver is a cautionary tale. In three years Denver has dropped from ranking the 2nd best place to live in the U.S. to the 55th. The reasons cited for this precipitous fall are crime, homelessness, and the pervasive presence of marijuana. That’s something Colorado Springs residents might want to consider when asked to approve 115 recreational marijuana dispensaries in the city on this November’s ballot.

As to the need for affordable and attainable housingAttainable housing means decent, attractive, safe, and sanitary accommodation that is affordable for the full spectrum of the city's residents. While a cost of no more than 30% of gross household income is a good rule of thumb for affordability, there will be some circumstances where higher or lower thresholds may be more applicable. in the face of rapidly rising rents and home costs, the worst thing we could do is to defy market demand and curtail building new single family and multi-family housing. We need a broader range of housing choices for our residents, not a smaller one. As to affordable, or below market subsidized housing, we should recognize and appreciate the tremendous gains we’ve made over the last several years.

Once again, thanks to incredible partners in the for-profit and non-profit sectors, and the effective utilization of federal dollars by the city, we have more than doubled the output of affordable housing units in the city over the past six years. We should seek to further increase affordable housing by continuing and expanding these partnerships. But I would strongly discourage future city leaders from getting the city directly into the housing business itself. On a national level, such efforts have been historically unproductive. 

Those of you who know me well, know that I’m a limited government advocate. I strongly believe, and nothing has occurred over the last 8 years to change my view, that cities will be most successful when they focus on the essential functions of municipal government: public safety, public works, transportation and parks, and don’t seek to take on responsibilities that have heretofore been the province of federal or state government or are otherwise not a traditional responsibility of local government.

I have supported and continue to support the use of Lodging and Rental Car Tax revenues to promote tourism in the Pikes Peak Region. Our 2% lodging tax is among the very lowest in the country and I would recommend seeking voter approval to raise it to 4% and use some of the additional revenue to fund maintenance of tourist burdened parks like the Garden of the Gods or North Cheyenne Cañon and the promotion of arts and cultural events that attract visitors to the region.

And here is yet another challenge for our city residents. As a city grows you have to work harder to keep it clean. That’s why we initiated the Keep It Clean COS campaign last spring. The city is expending a one-time amount of $2 million for new equipment to combat litter and clean up streets and medians and an ongoing $800 thousand per year for additional contracted manpower to help keep our city beautiful. We’re also increasing the resources of our forestry division to better maintain our city’s very large tree canopy. Every one of us needs to get involved in our keep it clean effort – individuals, neighborhoods, businesses and non-profits. If we all make sure our own space is clean, we’ll have a much cleaner city.

Now, I am often asked what things that will not be completed before I leave office am I most looking forward to seeing completed in the years ahead. And there are a number of visionary projects I hope to live to see come to fruition. I’ll mention just a few.
One such project involves the Fountain Creek Watershed from Fillmore to S. Nevada. Through the investment of Lyda Hill Philanthropies and the input of many stakeholders and consultants, we’re developing a visionary plan as to what that corridor can look like after the closure of the Drake Power Plant, the relocation of the City and Utilities Fleet Complex on Fontanero, and other public and private investments. Turning the Fountain Creek Watershed into a popular recreational amenity will result in an even greater transformation of downtown Colorado Springs.

There are several park projects I am very much looking forward to seeing completed. They include the development of Coleman Park on the city’s east side, the reclamation of the Pike View Quarry and its transformation into a world class bike park, and the opening of the Jimmy Camp Creek and Corral Bluffs Open Space in a way that preserves archeological and anthropological treasures and still allows for recreational use. Corral Bluffs is one of the most significant archeological sites in the world today, revealing the transition from the great dinosaurs to mammals and how life as we know it began. We owe it to future generations to develop it as thoughtfully as possible.

As to our parks, I continue to believe that our Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department would benefit from additional dedicated, non-general fund investment for maintenance of our existing parks and new park development. At the very minimum we must renew the Trails and Open Space or TOPS tax before it expires in 2025. If that is not accomplished next April, it needs to be a high priority of the next administration and council.

Another project I look forward to seeing completed over the next few years is a much-needed new downtown transit center. The project is in the design stage and its completion, estimated to be in 2027, is essential to the future transportation needs of our city. It will also be fascinating to watch Southwest Downtown and the Park Union District blossom over the next decade.

I have 7 to 9 months remaining in my term as Mayor, depending upon whether there is a run off election to determine my successor. Be assured I will be working day and night during that time to finish what I’ve begun and to prepare the city to meet the challenges of the future, and I will not be distracted by all the political rhetoric the Mayor’s race will inevitably generate.

But given that this is my final State of the City address, it must contain a lot of thank yous. Unfortunately, to do that right, and properly convey my gratitude to everyone who helped our city move forward over the past eight years, would require a speech of insufferable length. So I must reconcile myself to the fact my attempt, though well intentioned, will be inadequate.

I will begin by expressing my heartfelt appreciation to the 18 people who have served on City Council since April of 2015. Together we have shown our citizens that a strong mayor and a city council can work together to accomplish tremendous things for our citizens. I hope that what we’ve done to make the budget process, the confirmation process and general conversation between the executive and legislative branches much more constructive and effective will be replicated in the future. A particular shoutout to the current City Council: President Tom Strand, President Pro Tem Randy Helms, Bill Murray, Yolanda Avila, Wayne Williams, Mike O’Malley, Nancy Henjum, Dave Donelson and Stephannie Fortune. Would the council members who are present please stand and be acknowledged for your great work. 

My thanks also to the judicial branch of city government. Our municipal court, which consists of 10 part time judges, under the leadership of Chief Judge and Court Administrator HayDen Kane, has been a highly professional group that has rendered great public service to our city.

I am deeply indebted to the outstanding city staff I have had the privilege to work with as Mayor. Throughout my entire tenure I have benefitted from the wisdom, political savvy, and work ethic of my Chief of Staff, Jeff Greene. Jeff is a consummate professional and has done a great job. Jeff, stand up and take a bow. (pause) I do, however, blame Jeff for the fact I have not vetoed a single ordinance passed by the city council over the last eight years. His communication with council was so effective that council ideas I was inclined to veto never got to my desk. Frankly, I’ve been itching to veto something. But there’s still time!

Our city department heads have been a stellar group of managers and visionaries. No less than 7 departments have been headed by the same person throughout my tenure. They include City Attorney Wynetta Massey, City Planning Director Peter Wysocki, Public Works Director Travis Easton, Human Resources Director Mike Sullivan, Economic Development Director Bob Cope, City Clerk Sarah Johnson, and Chief Judge HayDen Kane. Other current department heads that are with us today include our Fire Chief Randy Royal and our Police Chief Adrian Vasquez. Also present is Deputy Chief of Staff Ryan Trujillo and of course our CEO of Colorado Springs Utilities Aram Benyamin.

The Mayor’s Office staff has made it fun to go to work every day. Every day is “another day in paradise,” as we in the Mayor’s Office like to say. My thanks to Julie Lafitte, Laurie Landers, Wendilyn Guidotti, Katie Lally, Mattie Gullixson, Dawn Conley and Jessie Kimber for a job well done.

The fact is the City of Colorado Springs and Colorado Springs Utilities have tremendously dedicated and effective employees. It has been a great joy to work with so many outstanding public servants. Would all the city and utilities employees who are present today please stand so we can acknowledge you.

Our city could not have been as successful as it’s been over the past eight years without our partnerships with other regional governments and non-profits. While I can’t name them all, I must mention El Paso County, The Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments, PPRTA, the El Paso County Health Department, Silver Key, the Chamber and EDC, the Downtown Partnership, CONO, the Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority, the Colorado Springs Health Foundation, the El Pomar Foundation, the Colorado Springs Sports Corp., the Pikes Peak Home Builders Association and Realtors Association, Visit COS, the Trails and Open Space Coalition, the Trust for Public Land, the Palmer Land Trust, the Homefront Military Network, Mt. Carmel, the Colorado Springs Housing Authority and all our nonprofit shelter, housing and social services providers including the Springs Rescue Mission, the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, Greccio Housing, Homeward Pikes Peak. Whew, you get the picture? I really can’t mention them all, but so many government and non-profit partners help make our city a great place.

On a personal level, I attribute any professional success and political survival I’ve enjoyed to the unwavering support of my family. I’ve had a lot of stressful jobs and a well-ordered personal life has helped me through the tribulations of extended public service. I met my wife Janet on a blind date 47 years ago. I like to say she’s the one who was blind. She took a chance on me and through 46 years of marriage she has given me the love and support that has made me a better person, and a better ancestor, than I ever could have been without her. And over the last 8 years she has quietly and effectively embraced her role as the City’s First Lady. She has raised almost a million dollars to promote our city as Olympic City USA and make Park and Rec sports available to all our children, regardless of economic circumstances. And folks, be assured that the only person in Colorado Springs that has eaten more rubber chicken than Janet over the last 8 years is me. We are both rubber chicken connoisseurs. Thank you, Janet, for all you’ve done for me, and for Colorado Springs. 

Janet and I are delighted that our oldest daughter, Alison, was able to join us at our table today.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I’m not a very flamboyant guy. But I believe I’ve led an interesting life. I was born out of wedlock, adopted when I was an infant and lost my adoptive parents at a young age. That trauma caused me to make it my life goal to lead a meaningful and consequential life. My legal career has taken me from the local courthouse to the U.S. Supreme Court. I achieved what some lawyers refer to as the “legal trifecta” serving as District Attorney, U.S. Attorney and State Attorney General. And thanks to the citizens of Colorado Springs, I’ve had the honor and privilege of serving as Mayor of my hometown, an ascendant American city at a time of unprecedented prosperity, overcoming challenges like domestic terrorism, civil unrest and a worldwide pandemic. And I am so glad I did. While it’s been a difficult job, it’s been extremely satisfying. In this time of highly partisan politics that has rendered federal and state governments largely incapable of resolving critical issues, I believe municipal government is where problems are being addressed and people’s quality of life is being enhanced.

When I walk out of the Mayor’s Office for the last time next spring, I will have been in public life for 35 years. That’s a long time to be in the arena. It has not been easy for me or my family, but it has been incredibly rewarding. And I’m so grateful to be able to say that thanks to the people of Colorado Springs, El Paso County and the State of Colorado, I have been able to live the life I intended to lead, and that makes me a very lucky man.

Citizens of Colorado Springs, 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. I have every confidence that future generations of Colorado Springs residents will understand and appreciate how unique our city is. It is one of very few large American cities founded on the basis of aesthetics, its proximity to the natural beauty that surrounds it, rather than economic practicality. We must never lose sight of the vision of its founder, General William Palmer, that Colorado Springs be an uncommon place where uncommon people enjoy the common pleasure of living, working, and playing. And we must never shrink from the challenge that faces every generation of Colorado Springs residents – to continue to build a city that matches our scenery, a shining city at the foot of a great mountain.

Thank you, and may God bless you and may God continue to bless the City of Colorado Springs.

Spirit of the Springs Lifetime Achievement Award

Each year at the State of the City, Mayor Suthers presents a Spirit of the Springs Lifetime Achivement Award. This year's awardee is Lyda Hill. Garden of the Gods, Seven Falls, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center, Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, and UCCS are a few of the places impacted by Lyda's generosity.