Every city has them, Gil Penalosa said when he was in town last week for the Downtown Partnership’s City Center series — those people who make planning for the city’s future more difficult.
Penalosa, creator of “8 80 Cities,” ideas to create cities that appeal to ages 8 to 80, calls them CAVEs — Citizens Against Virtually Everything.
You know who they are: Those people who are opposed to fixing stormwater, providing for parks, City for Champions, and a nearly every new idea that a resident of Colorado Springs might bring up as a way to improve the city.
Interestingly, they never seem to have any innovative ideas themselves — but they aren’t shy about taking to social media to decry, deride and undermine other people’s suggestions about how to make Colorado Springs a better place.
They’re the ones who complain about the bike lanes, who scoff at the idea of creating a walkable, bikeable city center. They’re the ones who say it can’t happen here, Colorado Springs isn’t the place for innovative ideas. They are the ones who cry foul when the city wants to put a sports stadium downtown, who believe “we can’t do that here,” because Colorado Springs is lame and always will be.
As the city grows, we can’t afford that kind of thinking.
Failure to address stormwater infrastructure years ago has led to increased costs and federal lawsuits today. The inability to get support for a downtown stadium means our smaller neighbor to the south might get one sooner — and the teams and tourists that come with it. Failure to create a walkable, bikable city means that Millennials will turn to cities better suited for them, and the Springs won’t have the high-tech workforce needed to keep cybersecurity businesses here. Without investing in amenities, culture and a strong, positive quality of life in Colorado Springs, businesses will turn to other cities when they want to expand — no matter how magnificent our mountains are.
Panalosa said something else: “When you say no to something, you are saying yes to something else.”
When you say no to parks, he says we’re saying no to safety, to a better-connected city, to residents who feel they are part of Colorado Springs and want to stay here. We’re saying yes to isolated senior citizens; yes to more crime.
When we say no to road diets and lower speed limits, we’re saying yes to increased congestion, yes to uninviting city spaces, yes to more traffic accidents. We’re saying no to improved economic development, no to inviting people into stores and cafes. And we’re saying yes to visitors and residents taking their business elsewhere.
When we say no to City for Champions — the Olympic Museum, the downtown stadium — we’re saying yes to fewer tourists, yes to people commuting to the Springs or to Denver for events.
It’s easy to find fault; it’s harder to find common ground. While no plan will be all things to all people, the city must change and develop with new residents and new growth. It’s time for bold action and decisive planning.
So we should say yes to parks and bike lanes, yes to art on the streets, yes to road diets for downtown streets. We should agree that the City for Champions proposals will bring our city firmly into the national spotlight and bring outside tourist dollars to the region.
As another City Center Speaker said in 2016: We pay for what we value — and its time we valued Colorado Springs.