How much will it cost?
Residents of Colorado Springs ask that about nearly every municipal endeavor. Need potholes repaired? How much will it cost? Need stormwater infrastructure updated? Can’t you find the money somewhere else in the budget? Need money for small business assistance or tourism marketing? Look elsewhere. We don’t want to pay more.
Maybe it’s time to shift the conversation — it’s not always about what it costs us. Sometimes, it’s about what value it brings to the city and everyone who lives in it.
Value, not cost.
That was part of the message during a recent City Series talk sponsored by the Downtown Partnership. The things that make people fall in love with where they live all have a cost — but their value is seldom considered in the Springs.
Think about the Uncle Wilber fountain. Thousands of kids — and adults — play in the fountain’s 200 water streams every summer. No one can argue that it’s a vital part of the Colorado Springs experience, but it comes with a cost. We have to pay for the water, for maintenance, for repairs. But the value it brings to tourists and visitors to the city is seldom considered. (Without private residents and local nonprofits, Uncle Wilber wouldn’t exist.)
And what about Cheyenne Mountain Zoo? The zoo is one of the city’s major jewels, attracting thousands of visitors every year. And yet, it doesn’t receive any municipal support. In fact, it’s one of a few zoos in the nation receiving no tax revenue whatsoever. If donations and grants falter, so does the zoo. And so does the city’s image.
We’re seeing it happen at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, another institution that brings intrinsic, intangible value to the city — and yet taxpayers won’t bear the cost to keep its doors open. Instead, the center is considering a partnership with Colorado College to cut costs and remain viable.
What do we value in Colorado Springs?
We value public safety, trails and road maintenance. Those are the things we pay extra to have in the city. We’ve never approved money for arts, culture, recreation or downtown improvements. We don’t pay for zoos, galleries or concert halls.
But maybe we should.
Maybe we should consider the value of Art on the Streets, the Fine Arts Center and the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. We should think about the importance of providing interesting, fun, interactive events for residents and visitors alike.
It won’t add millions of dollars to the city’s General Fund — even small things can make a difference. Maybe the city pays for a quirky, entertaining upgrade to a local playground or funds an event that brings people downtown or to the Westside or to America the Beautiful Park.
Instead of worrying only about the additional cost of public safety, closing roads or cleanup afterward — consider the value of the event, the idea, the art.
Considering value means a mind shift for many in Colorado Springs. It means thinking about the long-term benefit instead of the short-term savings.
Permanent art exhibits — like the famous stallion outside Denver International Airport or the big blue bear outside its convention center — absolutely cost money.
But when the big blue bear ends up on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram — consider the value of positive conversations about Denver, the value of all that positive energy.
We should consider value more often. Instead of discussing improvements or events in terms of dollars and cents, we should think about them in terms of fun, entertainment, positive energy and positive feedback from visitors.
After all, what’s the cost of boring? Or ugly?