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Choose unity through tragedy 

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Tragedy often brings reflection.

This month the lives of five men and their families were forever changed following the deadly shooting in central Colorado Springs. And, by extension, our community was wounded.

The entire nation joins us in mourning El Paso County Sheriff’s Deputy Micah Flick. We also ache for the injuries of two Sheriff’s deputies, Sergeant Jake Abendschan, Deputy Scott Stone, CSPD Officer Marcus Yanez and innocent bystander Thomas Villanueva.

When this attack occurred, the knee-jerk reaction I experienced were calls to me for comment, assuming, in error, that the shooting had happened inside the district I serve on City Council, District 4, in Southeast Colorado Springs. This pervasive perception of the Southeast illustrates a divisive attitude we must be wary of as a community.

We must not succumb to the fear and sorrow that labels one neighborhood solely as dangerous and downtrodden. My greatest hope is that Colorado Springs comes together as a community to champion one another. After all, we are the City for Champions. We are Olympic City USA.

With this, we in Southeast Colorado Springs believe there is the most significant opportunity yet to choose optimism and unity for us all. We are a neighborhood on the brink of epic change. Let us tell our own story, which is so much more than just poverty, fear and violence. Part of this storytelling is connected to our local media, which has a responsibility to be accountable for the facts it disseminates. The major TV networks failed to report the correct location of the shooting as central Colorado Springs, thereby perpetuating the negative stereotype of the southeast neighborhood.
Crime is not localized to District 4. Although crime rates have increased throughout the nation, Colorado Springs has a rate that is lower than the rate for many cities of the same size.

There are many positive newsworthy events in Southeast Springs, some of which include activities with our local law enforcement. It’s important to change the narrative by introducing a few of our Southeast leaders:
  • Dr. Andre Spencer, Harrison School District 2 superintendent: He does not allow a single student expulsion to occur without his review; instead he provides avenues for success.
  • Jeannie Orozco, Harrison School District 2 board member: She has worked for a decade as an advocate to organize and provide the tools to Southeast residents to successfully achieve progress.
  • Jerome Ajavon, entrepreneur: The founder of Shades of Colorado Springs, an outdoor summer festival celebrating culture that also raises funds for local students’ college education.
  • Marjorie Smith, neighborhood leader: She made sure the location of Fire Station 8 remained in Park Hill.
  • Woody Longmire, Harrison School District 2 services coordinator: He volunteers on many significant Southeast efforts such as festivals that raise money for school supplies and scholarships.
  • Taj Stokes: He is the founder of Thrive, which supports entrepreneurs starting their own small businesses.
Recently, the Urban Land Institute interviewed about 200 of our Southeast residents. The group is known for its success in creating responsible land use and thriving communities worldwide. ULI presented a variety of recommendations. The one they emphasized the most is that we must tell our own story in Southeast.

We are proud that Southeast Colorado Springs is one of the most diverse areas of the state as well as home to a younger population compared to the rest of the city. Our district also offers more affordable housing choices as well as plenty of land use for economic development. In fact, all nine of El Paso County’s majority-minority Census tracts, where at least 50 percent of the population is minority, are located within City Council District 4.

Southeast residents greatly appreciated when the ULI pointed out what we have been saying for years: The status quo must change. We want to focus on expanding the wonderful potential we have. We’ve worked to increase transit accessibility, eliminate other economic and social barriers and instead create opportunities.

We in the Southeast ask you, our neighbors, to support us as we tell our story. Above all, we are one Colorado Springs community that comes together in tragedy and triumph.

— Yolanda Avila

Yolanda Avila represents Colorado Springs City Council District 4.

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