In 2009, Outside Magazine ranked Colorado Springs number one on its list of “America’s Best Cities”. Here’s the heart of their reasoning:
Considering that the town is base camp for both the Air Force Space Command, NORAD, and ultra-conservative advocacy groups like Focus on the Family, it may be a bit conservative for some. But regardless of your political bent, it scored extremely high in our education category, has the best weather of any city on our list, and, most important, blew away the competition when we compared average income to cost of living. The city is experiencing something of a cultural resurgence, too. Colorado College’s ten-month-old, $33 million performing-arts center has begun drawing national classical music and dance groups, and this year the city launched its own roots-and-blues festival, Meadowgrass. But you don’t come to the Front Range for the music. You come for 14,117-foot Pikes Peak (directly above town); the Arkansas’s Class IV rapids (two hours west); world-class athletic facilities (Carmichael Training Systems is based here); and 260miles of multisport trails available within a ten-mile radius. Sure, there are a few other towns with this many outdoor options, but they generally cost twice as much—or, like Boulder, require you to shave your legs.
So, it seems the key factors for Outside Magazine in naming the Springs, “America’s Best City”, might have been the City’s low cost access to sports and nature.
About a year after the town was ranked number one by Outside, the mayor and city council laid off 530 city workers, turned off half the street lights at night to save money, quit picking up trash in the city parks, cut back on fire and police protection, as well as took several other cost cutting measures. There seem to have been at least three reasons the mayor and city council took such draconian measures.
In the first place, the City faced a projected $38 million shortfall in sales taxes due to the poor economy. In the second place, a proposed $10 million dollar property tax increase was rejected by the voters. Last, the mayor and city council turned down $42 million in Federal Aide on ideological grounds (they argued the money would increase the Federal Deficit).
I suspect — but cannot prove — that the mayor and most of the city council have their views on the Federal Deficit given to them by Fox News and other conservative sources of misinformation. But whatever the case, they chose to ignore the warnings of real economists that austerity during a recession was likely to lead to job loss. Consequently, today’s news should be no surprise to them:
Colorado Springs tied for the worst job outlook in the country for the winter, according to a Forbes list based on the quarterly Manpower employment outlook survey.
The Forbes.com report said that the Springs faces a 3-percentage-point deficit in employment outlook for the first quarter of 2011, meaning more employers are planning to cut staff than are planning to hire. Sharing a three-way tie with Colorado Springs at the bottom of the Forbes list were Akron, Ohio, and Columbia, S.C..
The gloomy local forecast comes even as the national employment picture is brightening, with more employers expecting to hire than to cut staff in the quarter, according to the Manpower survey.
Perhaps there are also ad hoc reasons Colorado Springs is now ranked among the worse cities in the country for unemployment, but the refusal of the mayor and most of the city council to take sound economic advice surely has played a role in our decline. I can’t help but think Colorado Springs put its village idiots in charge of the village.