Don’t get me wrong, I like it! ….But it’s a pretty, well, unique town.
And the emphasis is on town as opposed to city. The Springs is just one big, sprawling small town of 500,000 people. Shortly after arriving here, I had a flat tire on a very un-flat road, rendering my ordinary tire jack insufficient for the job. Ten people offered to stop and help, including two guys who dragged a 300-pound floor jack out of the back of their pickup to get me fully operational and on my way.
There’s a real small-town laid-back feel here because so much of the population is from small towns or rural areas. And that is because the big Elephant here is not some gleaming mega-church, as some may believe, but the US military. The troops are everywhere, with four Air Force bases and the Army’s massive Fort Carson to our immediate south. According to studies, 4 out of 5 military enlistees hail from small towns or rural areas. Think about it: How many military guys do you know of that came from Manhattan? Answer: slightly fewer than the total from Zipdacoatup, North Dakota. With today’s all-volunteer force, they have families, and they all come from Zipdacoatup as well.
Seven years ago I rolled into town, this most conservative of Republican cities, and found my Republican mayor was Lionel Rivera, a Hispanic George Bush fan, my Republican Party County Chairman was Hispanic Greg Garcia, and in my part of town, with a 3:1 GOP-Dem registration ratio, my city councilman was an African-American named Darryl Glenn. For you folks enamored with the equality-of-outcome concept, the income gap between white and African-American is the smallest of any city in America at 9%,and we are tied for the best “gini” number of any city in the US. –Not what people would lead you to believe about a Republican-dominated city. The Democrats had a big breakthrough with Obama garnering almost 39% of the vote, which is a big jump-up from John Kerry’s 33%, though 2012 will likely see a serious erosion of Democratic gains..
I really didn’t expect socialism. The gas company? City-owned. The electric company? City-owned. The big hospital? City-owned. And they all work pretty well. We have the 4th-lowest utility bills of any city in the US, and get extra-clean water (and air) to boot. It’s efficient to get your water, electric and gas bill on the same page and paying with one click.
But I did expect conservatives, and boy do we have ’em. Tea Party Heaven. I went to a TP event downtown in Acacia Park last year, and it was jammed. Lots of passionate speeches and rah-rah, but, hey they cleaned the park after they were done. No Nazi signs like Nancy Pelosi said there were, though there were a few signs about Nancy Pelosi herself, which were rather short on positive sentiments. Lots of grandmas. And there were way more black people than guns. I liked it.
Speaking of guns, the gun-grabbers have made some headway here. In a 2003 landmark decision, the City Council passed an ordinance ruling that Mr. Don Ortega would no longer be allowed to sit with his shotgun on his lap at City Council meetings. Mayor Rivera said that he was going to start packing a .38 at meetings if didn’t pass. But we’re still pretty safe since the concealed carry permits are quite popular and the Sheriff’s Department says there are over 10,000 people legally packing heat, ready to help with law enforcement.
Did you know Colorado Springs has been tagged “the skinniest city in America?” What else could one expect with the US Olympic Committee headquartered here, along with the governing bodies of scores of different sports, from USA Archery to US Figure Skating to USA Volleyball and everything in between. The Olympic Committee came here to get natural blood-doping for US athletes. In the thin air (Denver is way down low compared to the Springs), humans develop 20% more oxygen-carrying red corpuscles. The place is crawling with athletes, making fatties really uncomfortable. Our marathon is a bit special, it’s an up-and-back deal: Climb 7,100 feet in 13.1 miles to the top of 14,110-foot Pikes Peak, then charge back down the rock-strewn mountain. Oxygen is available for dropouts at the Peak. Like I said, the place is crawling with athletes, so if you want to do the Pikes Peak Death Run run next August, you’d best get your application in by April. It’s BYOB-AIS: Bring Your Own Bandages And Inflatable Splints. If you can’t get into the marathon because you applied too late, you can do the one-way Pikes Peak Ascent the day before and ride back down in a yellow school bus. A guy from my church ran the ascent on Saturday and then did the full marathon on Sunday. His wife was in church praying for him.
Colorado Springs is an animal house. Dogs are everywhere, some people collect them like bottle caps. Dog Fancy Magazine named Colorado Springs the best city to raise a dog in, due to the many dog parks, lots of open space, lack of insects, fresh air, and the fact that people just love their animals here. And we have wild animals. You can’t grow a garden on the west side of the city because the deer will devour it. They didn’t have a rain delay for the 2008 Senior Open at the Broadmoor, but they did have a “bear delay” while ursus major wandered about on the 13th fairway. Inside the city limits I have also seen pronghorn antelope, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, and lots of foxes and coyotes. Since moving here, we had a buffalo stampede with 5 of the critters shot in the street, and on our side of town, a mountain lion shot 3 blocks from the school where my wife teaches.
Choice? Yes, we’ve got educational choice unlike almost anywhere else. You can send your kid to any school. That’s right, Illinois, any school. You may have to drive the kids there yourself, but it can be any school in the district, or any school outside the district, or any charter school. Just sign up on time.
So, yeah, come on out. It’s a little scruffy around some of the edges, the libertarians have given us the medicinal marijuana blight for example, but I like it (the city I mean, not the bong). I’m staying.