If you want to understand why it’s in our own self-interest to spend public dollars on parks, bike trails and open space; to leave the marijuana dispensaries alone; to preserve, restore and renovate historic buildings; to transform our neglected watercourses into public amenities; to discourage, rather than encourage, formless sprawl; to build our arts community; to expand, encourage, treasure and respect public and private education; and to take the message on the door of Fannie Mae Duncan’s famous Cotton Club, (“Everybody Welcome!”) as our city’s formal motto…then read this piece in the New York Times.
It’s about Boulder. Yeah, that Boulder, the one full of the anti-business lib’ruls that run the city and spend their time passing nonsensical ordinances making the city a nuclear-free zone or requiring that pets be referred to as “animal companions.” There’s nothing to learn from those aging gray-ponytailed hippies…or is there?
While we weren’t paying attention, the very people whom we’ve been trying to attract to Colorado Springs have been pouring into Boulder. Here are the first two paragraphs from the story.
“Sixty engineers, entrepreneurs and financiers were sipping yerba mate tea at a coffee shop down the street from a bong-and-lingerie store on a recent sunny Tuesday in Boulder, and discussing how Boulder — usually seen as an enclave of hippies, marijuana dispensaries and rock climbers — has become a hotbed of capitalism.
“Experienced tech entrepreneurs and investors sat alongside people who had just moved to Boulder hoping to start a company in this small city, which is breeding tech start-ups at an attention-grabbing rate. In the first three months of the year, 11 Colorado tech start-ups raised $57 million in venture capital, solidifying Boulder’s place among the country’s up-and-coming tech centers.”
And why is Boulder a preferred destination for young techies?
Because of CU, because of the culture, because of the mountains, because of the arts scene, because of the bike trails, because it’s cool place to live if you’re smart, young and ambitious.
Back in the 60’s, there was a little town in California that was a lot like Boulder. It was open, accepting, uncrowded and full of bright 20-somethings with outsized dreams. It was close to the ocean, and home to a major research university.
It was called Palo Alto, and today its “institutionalized tech scene” is less attractive to the kids who are creating a new world. They’re making their own scenes.
Can we compete? Sure.
We need an attitude adjustment. We need to realize that the “creative class,” as Richard Florida calls them, doesn’t care about the stuff that dominates our debates. They don’t care about deficits, about property taxes, about the cost of streetlights, about subsidizing some super-regional mega-mall, or about the USOC. They care about the fabric and texture of their own lives and the business/social environment that they live in.
If they’re trying to fund a start-up, they need investors, colleagues and competitors. They might love Colorado Springs, but they look at our national image. They can’t imagine that Colorado Springs is easier to live in and more conducive to business formation than Boulder. If they think about us at all, it’s as a laboratory for testing bizarre right-wing social theories, a dysfunctional dystopia that only Ayn Rand could love.
It’s an image as inaccurate as that of Boulder as a community of indolent dopers. We need to change. We need to do cool, fun things – and we can’t just leave it up to brave souls like Lauren Ciborowski and Brett Andrus.
Next week: a proposal.