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The future we leave behind

'B' Street in the 1980s. | Western History/Genealogy Dept., Denver Public Library
‘B’ Street in the 1980s. | Western History/Genealogy Dept., Denver Public Library

While Colorado moves forward attracting tech-sector jobs, leading the country in renewable energy initiatives, and inventing new ways to attract visitors — Pueblo is doing its best to attract the 1980s. Pueblo is the Oldsmobile to the world’s Oldsmobile-doesn’t-even-exist-anymore. If you are under fifty-five, what’s going to be done to address Pueblo’s greatest problem, “Doing the same thing that’s always been done?”

What is the compelling reason someone with a college degree, creative individual or insanely talented person to stay or come to Pueblo? You don’t want to hear this but we are losing our best. It’s so bad, Pueblo produces renewable energy, chile, water, people with a college degree and ahem-cough cough— missed opportunities.

Is Pueblo the renewable energy capital of Colorado? We have Vestas a turbine tower plant and that’s it. Vestas should be one of many natural renewable local industries. Let me belabor this for effect. We have only ONE large, jumbo-sized, industrial strength production facility that capitalizes on the natural resources we have in abundance — solar, wind and water. 

With all this solar and wind, add the agricultural potential of biodiesel or whatever mineral-vegetable car juice they can concoct — Pueblo lacks any major research and development facilities? What are we doing? Well if you are keeping score at home we invested in a coal-fired plant that apparently we get to pay higher energy prices to not use the energy we are paying higher prices for and then there was this guy who wanted to build a nuclear power plant. Brilliant.

As the planet gets hotter and communities use more water, that wet stuff we store and you boat on is going to be at the center of a water war. Look Pueblo, you can’t count on Bob Rawlings and Chris Woodka to keep knee-capping Colorado Springs and Aurora every time these two cities make a run on water. (Bob and Chris, let’s meet at your library to car pool to give a beat down to Colorado Springs? I’ll bring the sandwiches, Chris will drive and Bob will fill the squirt guns with Fountain Creek Water.)

Are we the leaders of water technology and policy in the West? Is our university coming up with innovative solutions and products for people in the Ag communities? I know CSU-P has a great guy trying to do this, but it would be nice if we could help him turn us into leading experts on our water before we run out of it.

So what’s the best idea Pueblo has come up with to take a seat at the big boy table? The Riverwalk.

The Riverwalk will save us. People love walking next to rivers. It will bring in tourists. It will bring in business and we will sing HARPy days are here again. Our registers will be so busy, Heaven will have a problem with its angel population. That was the promise. The reality is people want more than an expensive strolling park.

Locals and tourists want us to be a Riverwalk town, but we aren’t yet. Tourists love our city. They can’t believe a town like this exists. Then they ask, “is this all?” 

“Is this all?” they ask. I know they ask it because I then have to use all my political expertise to distract them by saying, “Slopper!?” As much as I find the statement offensive like a bowl of bland green chile — they have a point. I know, I know, wait until we get the money to expand the Riverwalk. 

Two quick questions. One, the Riverwalk has had a sizable amount of money given to it through grants, rich-people and individuals like my family who gave money to get my grandfather’s name on a brick — so when does the money create critical mass in the downtown area economy? And the second, the point is for the Riverwalk to be a catalyst for economic growth for the Downtown and Union areas. So why are the proposed tourism expansion plans building away from those two areas? 

How backwards is economic development in our town? Here’s this nugget from the news right before deadline. With a college system producing an abundance of nurses and two hospitals in need of nurses — these graduates can’t find the experience to be nurses. We have left the confines of human reason and entered goat-shoe-yum-yum-banana glerp. A glerp is the sound your brain makes after thinking about how Pueblo is supplying college graduates into a labor force with the necessary experience to gain a job, but without the necessary experience to get said job. Glerp.

What’s the solution? A trade. Here’s our offer from people like me who are going to have to deal with the decisions and actions taken today. One, we have a $15 million state grant to develop tourism on the Riverwalk. We want Pueblo to attract the type of quality enhancements so Union and Main can return to some sort of glory and rival Manitou Springs and Old Town Ft. Collins in its ability to generate sales tax and create an exciting downtown. By the way, what’s the deal with the PBR? Are they leaving town because they seem to breaking up with Pueblo?

Two, end the great migration. How are we keeping our best people? Let’s focus on renewable energy, tech-sector jobs, and careers of the future to keep our best workers. Instead of competing with the world with the cheapness of our labor let’s offer the world the uniqueness of our work ethic and heritage.

We also want a ladder system so those who work in manufacturing or low-paying service sector jobs can receive the type of training and education to improve their career prospects—should they choose. If investing in people isn’t true economic development, then who knows what goat-banana logic applies to Pueblo. Don’t tell us the money isn’t there. And don’t tell us the means aren’t there. We have a university and two school districts, one which calls itself, “World Class”, teachers hungry to do more than administer tests, and a group of young people demanding we job proof their future. 

Three, Pueblo is more than the Northside and the Riverwalk. Tourists and visitors love Pueblo. They love our chiles. They love our architecture. They love our way of life. Sometimes they move here. The City says we have around a $7 million budget shortfall. It has cut and it has raised fees… what if we tried increasing revenue by helping businesses in the areas we have forgotten about, but people love. You know those big brick buildings that made all the steel? People love that we were a steel town who built America. People love the idea of our melting pot neighborhoods like Bessemer. If Bessemer existed in Pittsburgh you couldn’t take off your skinny jeans without falling over a hipster. What is the good answer for why Bessemer is ignored? How about the East Side? Do they not have enough money to care or they don’t have enough money for Pueblo to care?

Four, if Vestas is so important to the vitality of Pueblo what if Pueblo purchased some of these fine Pueblo-made windmills? We could stick them out at the Chemical Depot and then get some high-tech companies to store all their servers out there. Then the wind mills can power the computers. Pueblo would get good paying jobs in our community. We would support Vestas and create a renewable energy industry. For the win, I would stop writing editorials containing the words “goat” and “bananas”.

To those who may burden my generation with the task of rebuilding after a lost generation – you think we don’t notice, but we do. It’s not the 80s anymore, we want Pueblo’s future back.

by John Rodriguez, Publisher

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