The issue: Discourse in Colorado Springs is often divisive and disruptive.
What we think: It’s time for more productive dialogue to solve issues standing in the way of economic and community success.
If the Colorado Springs city election taught us anything, it’s that the nasty rhetoric at the national level has seeped to the local level.
The mass mailers, local advertisements and social media posts were all increasingly strident and extremely negative.
Throughout the election, the conversation was less about the issues and more about pointing fingers: Who’s more conservative? Who’s a closet progressive? Who voted for what and why?
None of it was very enlightening; none of it served the city well. And frankly, we’re better than this, no matter what the conversation looks like at the national level. These are friends and neighbors, business contacts and community leaders — and we all have to work together now that the results are in and the dust has settled. Given the tenor of the election, that might be easier said than done.
That’s too bad, because there are important issues that demand our attention and our conversation — important concerns that require productive, thoughtful conversation and solutions that can only be gained from consensus.
These issues receive national attention for the Springs, and not the kind that says we’re a great place to live, work and play. They need to be addressed, and while everyone won’t start out agreeing, it’s vital that the conversations occur.
Let’s start with the teen suicide epidemic in El Paso County. The deaths are tragic, heartbreaking for families, for schools, for the community at large. And for every suicide reported, there are scores of attempts that go unreported. Solving the problem starts with access to mental health care. Ever try to find a psychiatrist who treats adolescents in Colorado Springs? It’s not easy. And while therapists are easier to find, finding the right fit for a teenager is harder.
Schools play a huge role in helping teens find steady ground, but tight budgets don’t leave much room for extra money for counselors and help.
Homelessness is an increasing issue in Colorado Springs — and we can’t merely leave the answers to nonprofits like Springs Rescue Mission or Homeward Pikes Peak. We need to talk about it, find solutions and not simply settle for criminalizing the poor and mentally ill.
Workforce development is another big issue that is no longer just looming on the horizon. Shortages in fields from cybersecurity to construction are here and could be an impediment to continued growth in Colorado Springs and El Paso County. If we don’t have the right workforce, we won’t attract the right kinds of jobs — those positions with staying power and high wages. We need to take time to have productive meetings with each other, no matter what political stripe, to solve issues that affect the social, business and work climate in the Pikes Peak region.
None of the problems have easy solutions, but we can make headway if we work together.
We can find common ground — and learn that all sides only want what’s best for our city — through honest, open dialogue. By leaving agendas and political affiliations at the door, we will find that there’s more that brings us together than tears us apart.
Let’s show the rest of Colorado that Colorado Springs can come together, solve our problems and celebrate our successes with single, unified voice. Colorado Springs is poised for great things. Let’s work together and make it happen.