Monday, September 20, 2010

Quality of life depends on you

Posted By on Mon, Sep 20, 2010 at 10:36 AM

The 2010 Quality of Life Indicators report issued today is a call to action.

Citing a high rate of teen suicide, rising incidence of diabetes and an alarming increase in the number of kids living in poverty, the report urges citizens to become informed and take action to tackle the disturbing problems facing the Pikes Peak region.

Julien Penrose Fountain in America the Beautiful Park
  • The Julie Penrose Fountain in America the Beautiful Park, looking lovely — before it broke.

The report, the fourth annual, was spearheaded by Leadership Pikes Peak, Pikes Peak Library District and Pikes Peak United Way. Its compilation represents more than 5,000 hours of volunteer time and help from about 100 organizations.

“Please read this report carefully,” El Paso County Board of County Commissioners Chairman Dennis Hisey urges in an opening letter.

“Most of us came to El Paso County because it was a great place to live, work and play. Think about what you can do to keep it that way. Recognize the great progress our community has made and great challenges that lie ahead,” he writes. “Then take action! Get involved, volunteer, advocate and demonstrate your enthusiasm for this outstanding community.”

An opening letter signed by the Colorado Springs City Council describes the report as “not only a tool for you to understand our community but it is intended to inspire you to become more involved."

“We hope you will use it to explore the elements of life in Colorado Springs and to join the many that are passionate about improving our quality of life,” Council says.

Filled with data, charts and conclusions, the 124-page report summarizes its findings this way:

• Over the last 10 years we have added 90,000 people to our community.
• We have only added 14,000 jobs — 16,000 more military personnel, 2,000 fewer civilian jobs.
• Our workforce is earning less. Since March 2001, real salaries and wages paid in El Paso County have dropped by 10 percent.
• El Paso County residents use methamphetamine at a rate 40-50 percent higher than other large counties in Colorado — a trend that has been ongoing for several years.
• Colorado Springs has a major crime rate almost 20 percent lower than the national average.
• 75 percent of our need for electricity is met by burning coal in power plants — only 9 percent comes from renewable sources.
• We have 35 acres of park for every 1,000 people living in El Paso County — 40 percent higher than the national benchmark.
• Our people are healthy; our rate of cardiovascular disease is approximately 25 percent of the rate for the U.S. as a whole. But the incidence of diabetes has jumped 40 percent in one year.
• Our level of suicides in the 15-19 year-old group is almost 80 percent higher than the national average.
• The Pikes Peak Region students achieve CSAP scores and high school graduation rates 3-5 percent higher than the state of Colorado average.
• We have over 200 arts and cultural organizations in the Pikes Peak Region.
• We are safer drivers — the rate of automobile accidents has dropped by 40 percent since 2001.
• The hours of service for our bus system have been cut in half in 2010 due to a cut in funding from the city of Colorado Springs.
• Approximately 1 million people use the Colorado Springs airport each year.
• We have reduced the amount of waste going to landfills by approximately 35 percent since 2005.
• 89 percent of those people surveyed felt that an accepting community is important. 78 percent of them felt we have it.
• We have seen a 63 percent increase in the number of children living in poverty from 2000-2008 — and increase of over 9,000 kids in eight years.

Student achievement is better than average but children living in poverty is growing.
  • Student achievement is better than average, but the number of children living in poverty is growing.

The report also notes our population is getting older, while the number of young professionals, from ages 25 to 44, has declined.

One reason all of this is important, the report says, is that the just-completed U.S. Census could open the door for the area to receive nearly $5.5 billion in federal funding over the next decade, about $880 per resident per year.

“We hope this report stimulates thought on what support we might want to pursue as a community and how we might want to use it,” the report says.

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