Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera — Doris Day, 1956
This is not a city that has ever taken Doris Day’s advice, so poignantly expressed in the saccharine little song that cluttered the airwaves half a century ago. We see ourselves as captains of the municipal ship, perfectly capable of shaping our collective destiny.
That’s why we have so many committees, so many “leadership” organizations, and so many earnest, competent people presiding over so many dreary, interminable meetings.
The meetings are all about the future. What’s the future of local health care? Of city revenue? Of economic development? Of water? Of roads? Of anything that vaguely involves the city, the county, business, the arts, real estate, transportation, jobs or life as we know it. Hundreds, even thousands of us, are involved in such efforts, to little effect.
The Greeks were more sensible. Rather than wasting their time in fruitless speculation, they relied upon oracles. Want to know what to do about Memorial Health System? Want to know what path the city should take to assure a peaceful and prosperous future? Go to Delphi, and ask the oracle. A lot faster, a lot simpler, and just as likely to produce results.
Let’s look at past efforts to predict our city’s future.
Gen. Palmer sought to create a God-fearing, law-abiding, art-appreciating little city at the foot of Pikes Peak. His vision evaporated when gold was discovered in Cripple Creek, transforming the city into a rip-roaring boomtown … until the gold ran out.
Then it was time for tourism and TB, as tuberculosis patients (including my grandfather) came to town, lured by “healthful air” and similar quackery. Then World War II, Camp Carson/Fort Carson/the Air Force Academy/Norad, 30 years of prosperity & growth … and bust, as military budgets were slashed in the early 1970s.
Enter three young entrepreneurs — Steve Schuck, Bruce Shepherd and Dave Sunderland, who created the Economic Development Corp. Theirs was a simple, even oracular, concept: go recruit companies, especially hi-tech companies.
The concept worked. Thanks to the EDC and El Pomar, new employers came to town.
The good general didn’t expect that his city would be built and sustained by gold miners, medical tourists and world war. His successors didn’t expect that post-war prosperity would be created by the military/industrial complex, Christian nonprofits, Olympic athletes and a fleeting hi-tech boom.
If the past is any guide, we’re not going to get where we want to go by beating dead horses. We won’t quickly become the Sports Capital of America, Silicon Mountain, the Vatican of the Religious Right, or the Arsenal of American Democracy.
Just as Bogart and Bergman will always have Paris, we’ll always have the military, tech companies, religious nonprofits, and the USOC (unless they get a better deal!). Yet those pillars of the economy seem less secure, less stable, and less likely to create future prosperity than at any time in the city’s recent history.
So what are we going to do?
Here’s a suggestion: forget the past. Pay attention to sports clichés, specifically, “Let the game come to you,” and “You can’t teach speed.”
We’re not the John Elway of cities, the golden boy destined for the Hall of Fame, but Rod Smith, the undrafted free agent who became a star through unremitting effort.
We’ll never be Austin, unless both Colorado University and the Capitol move here. We’ll never be San Francisco, or San Antonio or Denver.
You can’t teach speed. You can’t teach Pikes Peak, hundred-mile views, the Garden of the Gods, Red Rocks open space, the Broadmoor, the North End, Section 16, or five miles uphill on a road bike on Gold Camp Road. You can’t teach landscaped medians and a spectacular parks system. You can’t teach honest, efficient city/county government, and a safe-crime free city.
Where we live is what we are. Our prosperity depends — and always has — upon the beauty of our built and natural environment.
If we maintain and enhance what we have, the game will come to us. But if we let the city decay and deteriorate we’ll be out of the game.
Asked, the Delphic Oracle repeated a prophecy given to “proud Sparta” in 401 B.C.
Sure though thy feet, proud Sparta, have a care,
A lame king’s reign may see thee trip — Beware!
Troubles unlooked for long shall vex thy shore,
And rolling Time his tide of carnage pour
Pretty sobering, if obscure. But one thing’s clear.
Stay away from meetings.
Hazlehurst can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-227-5861. Watch him at 7:20 a.m. every Tuesday and Friday on Channel 3, Fox Morning News.