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Forward, march 

Experts weigh in on what the Springs needs to do to evolve

We all may think we know what's wrong with the place we call home, but that's not necessarily the same as knowing how to fix it. With that in mind, we asked both established and up-and-coming leaders the question, "In the next 10 years, what is the one most important thing that needs to happen in your field/industry to push Colorado Springs forward?"

The answers we received were illuminating. Taken together, they're almost a toolbox for building a better tomorrow.

Civic life

Hannah Parsons, vice chair of the board, Downtown Partnership, and Epicentral Coworking co-founder

We have amazing leadership-development programs in this city. We are great at cultivating leaders; we are not great at getting those leaders into positions of authority. Instead, our actions embrace a power structure where those in charge, either by election or self-appointment, believe they know best and don't need to engage citizens.

We allow it. We suffer for it.

When we authentically engage our citizens and promote their ideas, we will begin to see greater community attachment. When we take the risk of promoting leaders we've developed into positions of authority, we will realize the return of that investment. When we decide we don't have all the answers and genuinely reach out to the community for their thoughts about our future, then we will discover innovative opportunities that will ensure we are a great place to live and work both now and in the future.

Until and unless we choose a significant course correction in the way we operate as a city, we should expect nothing more than we have today — and possibly less.

The arts

Murray Ross, artistic director, TheatreWorks

We need to develop a culture that champions and supports our arts as well as our athletes and military, and produces work that is their equivalent in excellence. I'd like our artists and arts organizations to build on our strong foundation of mutual support and goodwill. We need to get together and create a distinctive summer festival which will attract audiences from everywhere. Our forthcoming center for arts and performance at UCCS will be one additional fabulous springboard for such collaboration.

Let's not think small; let's make our town a national and even international cultural destination — at least for two summer weeks. A thousand blessings will follow, all through the year.

Politics

Jan Martin, city councilor at-large

The most important thing I think needs to happen in the next 10 years is become a more "can do" community with less focus on "can't do." We need to select leaders carefully, collaborate, engage the public, and all work toward common goals.

Colorado Springs has everything a city needs to succeed, but we, the leaders, keep getting in our own way on the path toward success. We need local government leaders who can articulate a vision and work with each other and the community to accomplish it.

Startup culture

Julian Flores, co-founder of Atlas Preparatory School and founder/CEO of GetOutfitted

I believe there is one factor above all others that's critical in making our local startup ecosystem thrive in the next 10 years: capital. This can be in the form of a startup accelerator, venture capital, local government incentives or angel investors, and in fact, likely requires all of the above.

Well-funded companies are the ones that grow the fastest and hire the most top-flight, educated and talented people from around the world. Capital inflows are what take a company from its first few employees and initial validation to 30 employees and scale. We already have a small but talented cadre of entrepreneurs taking the risks and innovating, but we're missing the flow of capital other communities have encouraged that matches deal-seekers with these innovators.

Yet, it is precisely when we have a dozen well-funded companies that so many of our other community challenges become addressable, if not outright solvable. At this point we'll have demand for young talent that we can grow locally or attract internationally. These creative workers will, in turn, eat, work and play in the urban center, and they will create the demand for amenities we now see being developed. With these dozen or more well-funded startups, we'll be spinning off side projects and new companies, and at least a few founders will create big wins that can be invested back in the local ecosystem.

Food

Franco Pisani, board member of the Colorado Restaurant Association Pikes Peak Chapter and chef/co-owner of Paravicini's

We've come a long way as far as the restaurant scene I saw when I first moved out here in '97. The more independent, chef-driven concepts that open up, the better it'll be for this town.

I think we have a pretty cool food scene, but we need to continue to grow it — get different types of cuisines to have people try and experience. Some things that people could wrap their arms around would be community tables and other fun dining experiences. There are meal-replacement restaurants, and then there's dining experiences.

Drink

Alyson Hartwig, brewer at Pikes Peak Brewing Company and founder of Colorado Springs Craft Week and Brewers Broads

This question gets to the heart of Craft Week's mission: The key to Colorado Springs craft breweries' success is collaborative effort. Through collaboration we can learn from each other, grow as brewers, increase our quality and the standard for all craft drinks. ...

In 10 years, my hope is that anyone who can create the best crafted product out there can open a business and be successful because of a demand for higher-quality crafted products. We can raise the bar by our standards in making it and consumers' standards for drinking it.

Marijuana

Meral Sarper, chapter leader of Students for Sensible Drug Policy at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

Nelson Mandela once said, "If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner." With Mandela's words in mind, I'd like to offer some advice to cannabis activists and specifically, the Colorado Springs cannabis industry.

1. Get outside of the dispensary. Engage with community groups like Every Vote Counts, who are out to create community conversation platforms and get legislation on the ballot. Use these groups to connect with citizens. Attend city council meetings and introduce yourself to city council.

2. Tame the verbal beast. Speak peacefully (at least in public) of those who seem to be anti-cannabis. It does NOT mean you lie or sugar coat. For instance, "That person is misinformed on cannabis" rather than "They are a lying piece of ---".

3. Speak from a new way of being. Portray yourself as cannabis professional. We must re-brand what it means to be involved in the cannabis industry. Be yourself, yet think of how you could elevate the perception of cannabis business in marketing. One personal suggestion is to lose the "boobs and bongs" imagery, with scantily clad women using cannabis. Instead, communicate how cannabis empowers people in many walks of life. It's about speaking INTO the listening that is out there, not being stuck with anger that "they" won't listen.

Tourism

Steve Bartolin, president and CEO, The Broadmoor

As it relates to tourism and looking ahead a decade, I can't think of any single thing that would have a more positive impact than City for Champions. Three of the four projects support and enhance three of the most identifiable and iconic entities in our community: UCCS, the United States Air Force Academy and the U.S. Olympic Committee. To build on these established community assets is extremely positive.

The most controversial piece seems to be the sports and event stadium. This would be another great enhancement for developing what is presently a not-so-attractive area of our downtown. We have bars, restaurants, office buildings and some retail, but nothing that brings families to the downtown core. If this facility can develop into something that provides sports and entertainment, it could be transformational.

I don't mean to imply that C4C is a be-all, end-all, but it would show that our community is energized, we are making progress, we are moving forward, things are happening — and when you create momentum, it becomes contagious and other good things happen.

Cycling/transportation

Al Brody, chairman, Pikes Peak Area Bike Coalition

Bicycling in Colorado Springs will move forward most efficiently, economically and effectively if we focus on connectivity.

Colorado Springs has 26 drainage basins located throughout its 194-square-mile footprint. We have an amazing opportunity to integrate our extensive stormwater drainage infrastructure and our multi-use trails.

Grade-separated intersections (tunnels and bridges) enable cyclists to move freely without interacting with motorized vehicles. Complete Creeks, a concept similar to our Complete Streets policy where all road users are accommodated whenever we build a road, would accommodate all creek-way users whenever we build infrastructure in a creek. Stormwater is often channeled under roadways in drainage tunnels. These tunnels, if designed with the movement of cyclists and pedestrians in mind, can safely accommodate transportation in all but the rare flash-flood stages of a creek.

Sustainability

Kevin Gilford, Green Cities Coalition member and assistant sustainability director for UCCS

From the sustainability perspective, what we consider the most important issue is climate change. And the number one issue in addressing climate change locally would be to eliminate our coal-fired power plants. ... We need to green up our resources much more than where we're at today. That'll give us the opportunity to create a community that'll attract young, creative Millennials that we want in our city.

Education

Nick Gledich, superintendent, Colorado Springs School District 11

Several needs to be addressed immediately come to mind: over-assessment of students, alignment of the standards with instruction and assessment, relief from unfunded state and federal mandates, the erosion of local control in our communities, and even the decaying infrastructure for K-12 facilities and equipment.

Each need by itself will undoubtedly continue to grow in importance. Imagine in 10 years the impact of the untangling of constitutional measures like TABOR, Gallagher and Amendment 23. If untangled, imagine in 10 years the state legislature, the governor and local governments, including school districts, having the freedom to do what needs to be done.

Without this conflict, continued reduction in K-12 funding would be nonexistent and local schools and districts would be tackling the changing landscape in K-12 education with improved services and programs, raising student achievement and, more importantly, educating the whole child.

As a result, our educational system would be restructured, with stronger local control and an accountability system. Local control will allow our schools to be self-directed by the students and more globally connected, thus having a better understanding of the world they are preparing for.

Imagine in 10 years Colorado Springs demonstrating full accountability in measuring the outcomes it produces in terms of student success, so long as those measurements meaningfully assess the skills, knowledge, and attributes that students in the 21st century need in order to be prepared for college or the vocation of their choice, and to be responsible and informed citizens.

Nonprofits

Abby Laine Sienkiewicz, deputy director, Center for Nonprofit Excellence

In the past 12 months, our community has experienced transition in executive leadership at numerous nonprofit organizations. These changes present our city with an opportunity to examine how we are developing, promoting and hiring our leaders.

Trends nationally show that a majority of organizations lack solid retention strategies, and even fewer have succession plans. Investing in not only the usual suspects, developing a culture of mutual respect and support, and working across generations will set our nonprofits up for success.

Nonprofits contribute to a higher quality of life for all citizens. Let's make COS a place where people of all ages are empowered, encouraged and welcome to enact social change through the work they do.

Music

Chuck Snow, singer-songwriter and member of the Rat Bastards, Lo-Fi Cowboys, Lazy Spacemen and the Autono

Colorado Springs has never been an Athens, Georgia or an Austin, Texas. It has had its shiny moments and continues on to this day limping along with a small but mighty following of people who love the experience of original live music. Overall, though, we scrape by in a town that appears only marginally interested in the cutting-edge creative arts and prefers the mundane and familiar musical territory that satellite radio has embedded in our subconsciousness like a jackhammer.

Despite these negative attributes, let's theorize that there are enough people who actually care about local original music out there who want to see a change in the next 10 years. You have to start with people who love music and are willing to do something simply because they do love it. You aren't going to get financially rich by doing it, and many times you'll get no thanks from anyone for your efforts.

You'll need people in radio and the press who are willing to go beyond the lip service they typically pay to appear to be in touch with their local subscribers.

You'll need an audience willing to listen to something they've never heard before, and to judge it on its own merits instead of waiting for the Sublime cover to get up and dance.

You'll need bands that won't just play for free off in a corner by the salad bar, and you'll need club owners that are willing to help a band build a following instead of always insisting that bands "should bring in all of the people."

All successful music towns have these ingredients, but it's difficult to say whether our town will ever have them all at the same time. Until it does, maybe it's enough as a local musician to just try to get noticed in places where music is held in higher regard, and to chase your dreams without worrying about your "local scene."

Media

Warren Epstein, community outreach manager for the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, longtime Gazette arts editor and media columnist

What will make Millennials care about local media? The Independent, the Gazette, KOAA, Peak FM ... print and broadcast outlets the world over ... they're all asking that question, and there's no simple solution.

But one that seems hardwired to our culture is celebrity. We care about Lisa Lyden. We care about Richard Randall. Many local journalists and radio personalities have developed some measure of fame, and successful media outlets will build on that, developing celebrity within their ranks, leveraging it on social media, and, more importantly, developing fame among the subjects they cover.

Sports, particularly football, stands as the only area where this has been done well, albeit among a limited demographic. Nobody has to convince sports fans they should care about whether Peyton Manning wakes up with sniffles next Sunday. They just do.

Local culture could be the next arena, and one with even greater potential. Local media can mine such riches there. Onstage at the Loft, in a makeshift studio behind a Manitou garage, on the street outside Poor Richard's — the characters and plots of our next obsession could be waiting for us. Imagine a TV news report that leads, not with a car crash or school board scandal, but with the latest hilarious character created by Hannah Rockey or whimsical weapon by artist Sean O'Meallie — two of many arts players who should be household names.

For that to happen, culture must climb to the heights of sports and localism must trump Kardashianism. When that happens, we'll know that not only have our media outlets evolved and come of age — so has our community.

Religion

Rev. Dr. Nori Rost, minister, All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church

What needs to happen in the faith communities to move Colorado Springs forward is a greater appreciation for different beliefs and a growing spirit of working together toward common causes such as helping the homeless, immigration rights, better working conditions and living wages for all.

Faith communities should never rest on the certainty of their faith to the exclusion of those who are different. We should join together in a mutual celebration of the many paths we walk and the many ways we seek and find meaning and hope in our lives.

The third principle of Unitarian Universalism is acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth. If we could each do that, regardless of individual beliefs; if we could, as the many faith communities of Colorado Springs, simply accept and encourage one another to bloom where we are planted; then, finally, the old identity of Colorado Springs as being religiously intolerant could be put to rest, and a new identity of diversity and inclusion could be lifted up as how we want to be known.

  • Experts weigh in on what the Springs needs to do to evolve

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