Livin’ the dream (city)

Mon, Jul 20, 2009


After months of hype and hundreds of column inches of high-minded rhetoric, the Gazette’s ‘Dream City’ project culminated with a much-touted meeting at Coronado High School. 

Three hundred people showed up – an impressive turnout for an earnest few hours of community-minded heavy liftin’, especially on a radiant Saturday morning. 

I didn’t go – too busy riding my bike, caring for my ancient dog, weeding the garden and riding up to Cripple Creek in our snazzy li’l black roadster. 

The bike ride was absurdly perfect. The roads to and around the Garden of the Gods were  uncrowded, passing motorists were courteous, and the Garden was, as always, transcendently beautiful.

The dog was happy and the drive to the Creek, top down in the mountain cool, couldn’t have been better-and we even won a few bucks at our favorite casino.

So let’s see – I ditched Dream City because I feel like I live in dream city. 

Maybe I’m just a small-town simpleton, but the city seems pretty close to perfect just the way it is.

Most of the people I know, regardless of political affiliation, feel the same way. They complain about the politics of the daily, or about the mayor’s apparent venality or about the incompetence of local governments – but they stay put.

A friend who lives in Kentucky and does business in Colorado Springs put it this way.

“Everyone I talk to in Colorado Springs says it’s a great place, and they never want to leave.  Actually, we’re trying to figure out how to move there ourselves…”

I admire the folks who have worked so hard on Dream City and upon similar, parallel efforts.  They usually preface any discussion by saying “This is a great place, but we can make it even better.”

Can we?  Maybe we’ll just screw it up.  Would you say of the Mona Lisa “Great painting!  But a little touching up would make it even better.”

As the great conservative Edmund Burke once said, “If it is not necessary to change, then it is necessary not to change.”

Perfection, or even near perfection, can’t be improved on.

Although maybe we could paint the Garden of the Gods a fetching shade of pink-those salmon-colored rocks are so 19th century!

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14 Comments For This Post

  1. Kevin Walker Says:

    But, John, what about a new slogan?

  2. Bettina Swigger Says:


    I’m glad you enjoyed a bike ride. Saturday was a glorious day, indeed.

    I do feel compelled to point out one error in your blog post. The Dream City project does not belong to the Gazette. The Gazette was one of the coordinating partners, along with COPPeR, the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region, the Pikes Peak Library District, and Leadership Pikes Peak. Most of all, however, the project belongs to our citizens. For most of the past year, more than 100 volunteer facilitators have been meeting with citizens from across the community to discuss ways in which we can move forward. They discussed issues like health care, transportation, civic engagement, arts and culture, social services and more. Saturday’s summit was a presentation on that data, which represented participation by more than 3,000 people.

    Yes, we do live in a beautiful place, but we can always strive to achieve more and serve our citizens better.

    Our new Dream City interactive web site is up: I hope you will sign on and participate.


    Bettina Swigger
    Executive Director

  3. WarrenEpstein Says:


    Firstly, I want to make it clear this isn’t The Gazette’s Dream City project. We certainly were one of the organizers and founders. But, really, other groups and volunteers did far more of the heavy lifting.

    This is a community-owned project.

    Your point that this place is wonderful and let’s leave well enough alone is well taken.

    A lot of people I’ve heard from have said let’s keep things just the way they are. But unlike the Mona Lisa, the Pikes Peak region can’t be kept just the way it is by doing nothing.

    As you know, even just protecting the status quo will take concerted effort, and many would argue we’re not making that effort and we’re seeing our quality of life slip.

    I’d like to honor the thousands of people involved in the Dream City process who believe our community can be better, and in reading your previous columns, I’m convinced that you do, too.

    I suspect, John, that you’re just baiting me on this one.

  4. Amanda Mountain Says:

    John, I completely agree that we live in an environment that is pretty close to perfect. However, the answer to preserving all we hold dear isn’t simply to do nothing for fear of “screwing it up.” To the contrary, citizen involvement is crucial to the preservation of our city’s historical and natural resources, not to mention the retainment of our region’s intellectual capital. If we don’t come together and publicly state what we find important, then we are liable to lose what until now we have somehow considered God-given rights to pristine trails, green parks, vibrant public gatherings/festivals, etc.

    These are all things that do not occur naturally on their own. There are hundreds, in some cases thousands, of people that fight for the resources to ensure we preserve and build upon our communal assets.

    Dream City is a project that is truly owned by the community, not by The Gazette or any one of the coordinating partners. The beauty of this two-year undertaking is that it engaged hundreds of volunteers who may not have already been involved as community leaders. Our hope is that it will help create the political will necessary to generate the resources we need to be good stewards of our community. Plus, it helps make accessible the conversation about community visioning, rather than simply leaving it in the hands of a select group of acknowledged leaders who alone cannot create the momentum possible to support efforts toward sustainability.

  5. Phil Kramer Says:

    John – The level of naivete in your blog is kind of scary. The “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude simply ensures that we never improve anything.

    Sure, this is a nice place to live. But it could be a great deal better. We could have a local economy that isn’t as cyclical, where people have to move out of town when things are bad just find/keep a job. We could have a culture that doesn’t scare away high-tech companies from relocating here. Personally, I’m sick of seeing jobs go to Austin instead of the Springs.

    It’s easy to stick your head in the sand. It takes more effort to look forward and plan for it.

  6. ES Says:

    ahem. And a public transportation system that actually functions would be nice, too…

  7. Dick Burns Says:

    I propose a Dream City Rugby Stadium. No self-respecting city should be without one!

  8. Ralph H. Says:

    As long as the CSPD, Sheriff or state is spending our tax dollars counting breast flashes or smokers in local bars, the city/county/state has more than enough money to spend. They don’t have to enforce those laws – it’s a conscious choice. They can spend the money on red light runners just as easily.
    It’s how they spend the money that I take issue with … look at the median at Interquest, between I-25 and Hwy 83. Thousands were spent to put it in, and now thousands more to take it out. It doesn’t matter if the city has stuck a developer with the bill – it’s evidence of poor planning.
    The poor choices of expenditure are a major flaw in our city government, and escalates with each level of government in this state.
    Another example is the recent re-examination of the Medical Marijuana issue by the State Board of Health – how many times do the voters have to spank the state before they get a clue? We voted to legalize MM. What part of that does the state not understand?
    One might object to the conjoining of city, county and state issues, but at each level, the elected and selected officials clearly don’t understand the will of the voters.

  9. Jane Hillson Aiello Says:


    If all is perfect in this world (city), put your blog to bed. Who would want to read about never-ending perfection?

  10. Kevin Walker Says:

    Comment to Ralph H. The City is not spending a dime on the median at Interquest. It is private money building that improvement, as most everything else has been built, including Interquest Parkway to start with!

  11. Ralph H. Says:

    Comment to Kevin Walker: Why does a private developer have to build that improvement? Money is money – it has to come from somewhere – and I’d bet it comes from local consumers in some way.
    Additionally, the CSPD is making a fortune enforcing the speed limit on that road segment right now. They have 2 or 3 motorcycle cops working it several mornings. I haven’t gotten a ticket, but they seem to have a steady stream of customers.

  12. Kevin Walker Says:



  13. Jon Severson Says:

    While I agree with much of what you have to say John, I know from my time I spend in Denver every week and talking to the very 20/30 somethings that companies like Codebaby will need to hire I can tell you one thing:

    This isn’t their Dream City.

    I just got back from San Diego and even there people asked why I’d live in COS vs Denver or Boulder. I’ve gotten that in Chicago as well as from friends in Boston, MPLS, Scottsdale, and Florida. Our city DOES NOT have a very positive image with the Creative Class for being a happening place YP’s would want to live. And sadly I’ve seen many try only to decide why fight when you can move to Denver just an hour away…where jobs, housing, nightlife, and an extensive “to-do” list awaits. Not to mention diversity and tolerance for others.

    We need the Dream City Project.

    It’s not an easy battle. I applaud the Dream City crew for pushing on continuely on this idea and personally know or know of many on the team….it’s a great group.

    Many of us who are plugged in here know of things to do. But you know I for one personally fight with staying some days when opportunities for my talents are numerous (and much much better paying) in other cities. A much easier life could be had with less head aches. But like you John I love to bike, and it’s very tough to beat the mountain biking that is just a 10 minute ride from my home.

    I think we need to reverse our image from what it is to the rest of the world to the fact it’s really the best place to bike, hike, run, etc… in the country. That’s an image everyone can sell. Employees like it. Families like it. YP’s like it. And heck…even the CSVB can sell it all day long to Tourists who like it.

    And it’s the reason I founded the Colorado Springs Young Professionals almost 6 years ago and still push on today. And it’s why many people I know stay. We just need to get over the hump of that “other” image sooner than later and I see what the Dream City Team is doing to be just the ticket.

  14. Sarah Says:

    Dear John,

    Usually I appreciate your articles and wacky observations. But your cynicism against Dream City is really unwarranted and, I hate to say it, lazy. Unfortunately you’re not alone in your opinion and I’ve heard an elected official openly dismiss Dream City 2020 as fluffy and useless. Although I agree it has some faults and without any action plan, this effort may be for nothing. I also agree that we should really focus on what is right with this community first rather than focus on what is wrong.

    That being said, without having gone to the summit, your complaints are unwarranted and (from me anyway) unwanted. The summit was an amazing success and was more a celebration of the many wonderful things that this city and region offer than your perceived gripe fest. The majority of the people who attended were between the ages of 55-65 who’ve lived in this community for over 20 years. The vision statements read at the summit from committed facilitators represented the ideas and testaments of 3,000 citizens participating in visioning sessions. The visioning statements were eloquent, thought out and harkened to our founders’ visions of this city and region.

    Palmer, Stratton, Penrose – these are names that synonymous with community visioning. What defamation to our city’s founders for us to not carry or preserve or remember why we love this city. What defamation to be fine with “as is” and not contribute to the betterment of this community for future generations. YES, this community is wonderful and what a privilege we have to be able to enjoy Garden of the Gods every day. But you and I have a pretty comfortable life. Meanwhile, fellow citizens are unable to get from one end of town to another because of the transit cuts. Because of schools closing, teachers and students are being displaced to other schools that may be farther away adding hardship for families, especially lower income families. Students are being packed into class rooms and may not be getting the adequate education that they need. Our city’s infrastructure is terribly in need of maintenance. El Paso County has an extremely high suicide rate. Although crime in general is going down, violent crime is on the rise. This is happening in real time and complacency, especially from our elected officials, is at this point criminal.

    I do not think you realize how damaging your cynicism is. While I appreciate that we have to be cautious and realistic about our expectations of what we can accomplish in this city, I do not think that we should dismiss the work and thought from thousands of citizens participating in the Dream City dialogue. Community vision sessions are helping mold many communities in the country towards becoming more economically competitive, more attractive and more sustainable. The success of implementing these community visions is dependent on the buy-in, commitment and investment from elected officials and community leaders. It would be very foolish in these times to go on with business as usual and douse any attempt from the citizenry to improve our community.

    I’m a 4th generation native. My great grandparents came out here on a covered wagon. My great-grandfather was a miner on Cheyenne Mountain before Spencer Penrose ripped him off of his mineral rights. My grandfather was a respected home builder. My parents are beloved musicians here. My husband is a native artist committed to engaging youth in the community. I hope that my children will appreciate and add to the history here. But I would understand if they choose to leave for communities that offer more for the young. Therefore, until anyone comes up with a better plan than just our status quo, I’ll support any visioning effort or attempt at addressing our current and potential future dilemmas.