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Livin’ the Dream (City), part 2

Tue, Jul 21, 2009

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Bettina, Warren, Amanda – of course, you’re all correct…except for a couple of points.

Like it or not, Dream City was conceived, organized publicized and pushed by the Gazette.  It is thought of, correctly or incorrectly, as a Gazette promotion. 

And, it might be fair to assume that Dream City might share some of the characteristics of its parent’s Multiple Personality Disorder. 

Given the G’s longtime editorial slant, I’d guess that the paper would oppose most of the initiatives likely to emerge from Dream City. 

Those of us who were around in the 90’s well remember the Gazette’s fierce opposition to TOPS, not to mention the reams of favorable coverage given to Douglas Bruce and the charter amendments and statewide constitutional amendments that he wrote.

But that’s neither here nor there -just a reminder that an apparently friendly old pit bull behind a chain link fence will still bite, given the opportunity.

The larger issue is that of change itself and of the myopia that afflicts those who push for it at any time in the history of a community.

I remember the beautiful Victorian downtown of my childhood, and how it was swept away in a few years-not destroyed by fire, or allowed to crumble from neglect, but torn down by well-meaning, civic-minded folks who wanted to rebuild downtown, to make it modern, shiny, and up-to-date.

What they succeeded in doing was to transform much of downtown into a wilderness of parking lots, conveniently located close to the clubs where the eager youth of our city get drunk, spill out in the streets when the bars close, and fight merrily among themselves-such an improvement!

The businessmen who, with the enthusiastic cooperation of the city (which created its very own ‘urban renewal’ program to fund the destruction of the city’s core), didn’t raze these noble old buildings out of spite – they thought they’d make money and improve downtown.

Careful, modest preservation initiative work (e.g., Dave Hughes’ brilliantly conceived plan that rescued Old Colorado City from the wrecking ball).  Grandiose schemes (southwest downtown?) often die of their own weight, and when revived, transmogrify, becoming the antithesis of what was originally planned and imagined. 

Your eyes, and your ideas change over time.  Decades ago, I thought neon signs were tawdry and tasteless. Today I think we ought to gather up and preserve the remaining historic neon signs, put ‘em all up in one of downtown’s desolate parking lots, and have a Vegas-style Neon Museum. 

So forgive my skepticism – I earned it fairly, and have the scars to show for it.  Doing good things – I’m all for it.  Going to meetings – no mas! Expect maybe only in bad weather, after work, and close to one of my many favorite downtown watering holes.

Especially one that’s close to a parking lot.

 

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7 Comments For This Post

  1. Amanda Mountain Says:

    John, I completely respect that your experience with change has not always been positive, and that oftentimes well-meaning people get it wrong. At the same time, I think it’s a part of the natural cycle of a healthy community to always have at least one group that still believes it is not only possible, but essential, to create new initiatives that preserve what is important. Some of these initiatives will certainly fail, but it is through the process of trying that we’ll end up with a better place to live and work.

    TOPS is a perfect example. The initiative succeed in spite of The Gazette, or any other individual or organization who said it wasn’t feasible. If we really want to pass good legislation in our city, we need to stop using The Gazette alone as a skapegoat for our past failures.

    The Gazette doesn’t have to endorse something in order for it to succeed. In fact, that is the very idea of Dream City. The more people are directly involved in the community, the less they will rely on any media source alone to develop their opinions.

    Based on your most recent post, I think we can agree that sometimes “organized” efforts lead to compromised visions, and less than ideal results.
    The grassroots nature of Dream City allows for individuals to take something from conception to implementation with or without the support of major institutions/bureaucracies that many have believed until now are essential to creating positive change.

    A vibrant democracy starts with the power being in the hands of the individual, and this grassroot effort tried to spawn as much ownership as possible for our communal future.

  2. Hunter Willis Says:

    John,

    I think you need to move to La Junta. At least there the small town folksiness you crave will leave you with warm fuzzies. Sure, there isn’t a population large enough to handle a publication like the Business Journal so you’ll likely be out of a job writing business articles. But hey — I hear the local Boy Scout troop has an awards ceremony coming up. You could write about that.

    As for the fear and passiveness you described yesterday is great for a thriving town of 600 whose city council meetings erupt with emotion when discussing where to put the first traffic light but we’re a growing population center and we need to improve and build our offerings to stay competitive to keep jobs here.

    Bettina was in the Gazette a few days ago describing what she learned on her trip to Austin, Texas. Austin is known for its arts and music and I know heaps of young people who love the atmosphere there. With the aging of Baby Boomers (also called “The Greediest Generation” for their favoring of immediate pleasure over long-term planning) in our city and around the country, our area needs to attract a wide variety of young people.

    Yes, Colorado Springs is a fantastic place to live, no one is arguing with that. But how much better could it be if we expanded our arts offerings — if we could attract more painters, musicians, and people who want to make positive impacts on the lives of those around them? This would, in turn, attract young upstart companies here — companies flush with innovation, ambition, and VC money for the masses.

    Colorado Springs is a great place — why not build on that?

    Please forgive my optimism — I earned it fairly watching droves of bitter old men throw my future away because they were too lazy to stand up and make a difference. I watched them fall by the wayside while a new generation, unsatisfied with the status quo, build something amazing.

    What’s sad is that so many old guys decide to check-out instead of coming along side of the younger generation to help them focus their ambition — not to shape it, but to mentor them down the well travel road of Old Man Experience.

  3. John Hazlehurst Says:

    Hunter, now that’s the kind of positive energy we need to see here!! Drive those greedy old geezers out of town, and everything will be fine! We should all move to La Junta, get out of your way, shut up and die.

    That’s what passes for community-spirited inclusiveness, I guess.

    Let’s just make it explicit, shall we? Compulsory euthanasia for the old & irrelevant, free beer and VC money for “the masses.”

    Sorry, but I’m staying here. I’m not sure that I’m one of the “droves of bitter old men” who “threw away your future”-but guess what: your past, your present, and your future are your responsibility.

    “too lazy to stand up and make a difference?”

    I’ve stood up, I’ve made a difference, and I think I still do.

  4. FactFinder Says:

    I have known John Hazelhurst for over two decades and I can assure you that he does not need defenders, but I think Hunter needs to know more about John.

    For example Hunter, when John was on City Council, he was the ONE councilman who enthusiastically supported and in some ways, created the opening of the North Slope of Pikes Peak to public recreational activities. That happened 23 years ago.

    It was accomplished by a committee full of people who qualify for your slogan, “The Greediest Generation.” Since that opening over two decades ago, over a half a million people have visited and used the recreational opportunities that exist on the North Slope of Pikes Peak, and it has been accomplished for a miniscule amount of money compared to the budgets of the current TOPS committee. Some members of the City Government have referred to the North Slope opening as the most successful recreational event in the history of this city. I agree.

    In fact, many members of the present TOPS group have now served for three years on a current utilities committee that is supposed to open the south slope and the circle the peak trail to public use. The progress has been ZERO. A total flop. So Hunter, I guess I could say that your generation is the “Get Nothing Done” generation, but that’s just me.

    In my opinion, the missing ingredient in the current effort to get the rest of Pikes Peak open to public access and recreational use is the lack of an outstanding citizen on City Council, combined with a sad collection of selfish jerks in leadership positions at CS Utilities. I would vote for John again and with great enthusiasm. But I think John has learned that serving on city council generates too much brain damage.

    In reference to your love affair with Austin, Texas, I can say, “Been there. Done that.” Austin is every bit as nutty as this City, only much bigger. Austin metro has over 1.6 million people, Colorado Springs metro has 610,000. My principal memory of the place was it is HOT and the traffic was bad.

    “Austin summers are usually hot and humid, with average temperatures of approximately 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 Celsius) from June until September. Temperatures above 100 °F (38 °C) are common. The highest recorded temperature was 112 °F (44 °C) on September 5, 2000.[20][22][23] For the entire year there is an average of 111 days above 90 °F (32 °C) and 198 days above 80 °F (27 °C).[20]” From Wikipedia. This year in July, Austin has recorded 19 out of 21 days with temperatures at 100 degrees or higher.

    But the biggest drawback to the place is that it is full of Texans. Goofy Texans. Wikipedia said it best:

    “Many Austinites have also adopted the unofficial slogan “Keep Austin Weird”; this refers partly to the eclectic and progressive lifestyle of many Austin residents.” So Hunter, you ought to go there. 112 degrees. And a 90 degree average for months. Wow. Be sure to get a pair of cowboy boots. You’ll fit right in.

  5. Hunter Willis Says:

    John,

    You obviously misunderstood my comment and I apologize that you felt it was directed at you personally and not the mindset of the “I’m too old to change” that many in our city have. I don’t know if you have it but this article and the one preceding it seemed to indicate so. Doing nothing can be just as bad as doing the wrong thing.

    FF — your argument is a red herring. “Austin is hot and weird so we shouldn’t be like it.” You missed the point completely — we can learn from some of things Austin does and apply it to Colorado Springs, only making it fit our city’s culture.

    I agree with both of you however that any change needs to be thought out and the pros-and-cons weighed. I also agree that our city council needs a good swift kick in the pants. Personally I think we need a more powerful mayor, one that can really represent our city full-time and and rally the people and implement a city-wide vision.

  6. Dick Burns Says:

    I agree with Hazlehurst (much as I hate to admit it)! We ought to embrace what is good about the Pikes Peak region, seek to rid it of nefarious influences and build upon our unique foundation for future generations. We will never be Denver, for we are not the capitol city. We will never be Aspen, for obvious reasons. But local boys like Hazle have a good sense about what makes this community tick and their advice should be heeded.

  7. Bill Fisher Says:

    John,

    We can improve our city and it’s direction. You believe this in spite of your editorial stance. In the past you’ve led good Dream City fights (e.g. save the Cheyenne Bldg, your grandma’s neighborhood, etc.)

    Your idea to re-purpose existing housing in your grandma’s neighborhood into a small mixed use development that salvaged the existing fabric of the built environment has always been one of my favorite Dream City ideas. We can use this (your) strategy of preservation, renovation, re-use – and apply it to a multitude of areas city-wide to grow within and avoid the sprawl that threatents the great place we already are.