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Op-Ed: Wanting to be here – John Batey

John Batey, Executive Director of the Pueblo Urban Renewal Authority, writes want it is going to take for people to want to stay here and thrive here.

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After the January 2014 issue of the PULP, I started thinking about what forces people, particularly young people, to leave this place in droves as soon as they’re able. The editorial that appeared that month struck a chord with me. What has caused this? 

The deceptively simple answer to this question is ‘no jobs.’  And while it is absolutely the correct answer, the creation of long-term jobs and more permanent industry clusters will only come about as the by-product of making Pueblo a place where people want to be.  And more importantly to our young people, a place where people want to stay and build a life.

To make this happen, what is needed is nothing short of a fundamental cultural change in how we perceive this community.

There is nothing anyone can write, say, or do to bring about this sort of cultural change.  It must be an organic process that occurs and grows on its own.  But one can take a step in the direction of trying to uncover some answers as to what this positive image of Pueblo-as-a-Destination could look like by getting to the root of what made a group of Puebloans leave, what made them come back, and what keeps them here.

To that end, this piece is peppered with quotes and background from a set of anonymous interviews with two groups:  two people I’ve chosen to call “returnees,” or individuals who had spent a number of years living away from Pueblo and have recently moved back, and two people I’ve chosen to call “native nesters,” who are both individuals who chose to stay in Pueblo for most of their lives and build lives, careers, relationships and households all here in their home town.

To get anywhere, we first have to ask who we want to become. 

Since returning to Pueblo more than three years ago, I’ve had the pleasure of working with economic development officials from across the region.  One story relayed to me from folks out of Oklahoma City was very telling—when they asked a major primary employer why their city was not chosen over Chicago when it came to building a major facility, the answer from the employer was simply, “Because no one wanted live in Oklahoma City.”  Our own economic development officials have faced similar dynamics in past attempts to secure prospective employers.

Pueblo will not succeed until Pueblo becomes a place where people want to be.

“There appears to be no community-wide, commonly held vision for moving Pueblo forward.  Pueblo doesn’t seem to know who it wants to be,” said one returnee I talked with.

He was born and raised in Pueblo, and attended CSU-Pueblo. After finishing college, he moved away from Pueblo because he could see no career path by staying in town. For him, there is a serious challenge of how to inject a philosophy of excellence into a community.  Although he has a deep love for the Pueblo community, he acknowledges that at times there is a “good enough” mentality that works against us in the long run.

Pueblo is a uniquely different flavor of Colorado as opposed to Northern Colorado, the mountain communities or the even the eastern plains. It is where the names of cities, counties, rivers and valleys turn Spanish.  The mountain ranges sound alien and unpronounceable to other Coloradans–the Wet Mountains, or the Sangre De Cristo Mountains.  “What is the Huerfano?  Where is the San Luis Valley?,” they ask.

Pueblo sits at the crossroads of a historic borderlands region–one of the major borders of 18th Century North America, where the Louisiana Purchase ends and New Spain begins. The Arkansas River, the largest river on the front range of Colorado, brings an abundance of quality water to Pueblo–an increasingly rare commodity nearly anywhere else in the Rocky Mountain region.

We were diverse from the beginning.  

Among the original founders of Fort El Pueblo were an African-American frontiersman, a Hispanic woman, along with several Euro-American men of various Germanic, Italian and southern/central European origin.  And of course the Spanish, Indian and mestizo cultures that all the groups were and still are immersed within.  

African-Americans in Pueblo?  Yes, indeed!  Pueblo’s African-American population declined following the decline of CF&I, but Pueblo is the heart of African-American history in the state of Colorado.  Pueblo is the locale of the oldest chapter of the NAACP in Colorado, the Pueblo Branch #4005 chartered in 1918.  Pueblo was also the location of the state’s only “colored-children’s orphanage” beginning in 1914–the Lincoln Home, which is still located at 2713-2715 Grand Avenue and is on the National Register of Historic Places.  

The steel mill brought a constant stream of former share-croppers tired of living under the financial yokes of former slave-owners, and Pueblo became home to many prominent and wealthy African-American Coloradans including Sam Nelson, whose furniture store stood on Union Avenue beginning in 1912.  African-Americans have always been here.  Every African-American who walks these streets, along with everyone else for that matter, must always remember this fact.

So what does one do with this inherent, native diversity?  There is a simple choice, the exclusionary principle or the inclusionary principle.

The Exclusionary Principle  is where we seek to isolate (or segregate) ourselves from people of different ethnic, religious or cultural backgrounds.  

Under this principle, we can also choose to exclude people based upon sexual orientation, political party or what part of town they come from. We can exclude, isolate and segregate ourselves until we are incapable of doing anything as a community because we have chosen to completely dissolve the very notion of community by excluding so many of our neighbors and fellow citizens.  

“Some old Pueblo families tend to gravitate towards the familiar, which can sometimes be good or bad,” a Pueblo native nester still living here told me. 

She works in a male-dominated industry in Pueblo.  She has learned to navigate Pueblo’s “old school” politics, although she acknowledges that it can be difficult to get a job and build a career in Pueblo without “knowing the right people.”  She has very deep familial roots in the Pueblo community, so she feels “rooted” by being here.  After finishing high school here, she immediately went to work and began college, buying a house in Pueblo relatively soon thereafter. She has continued living here for well over a decade since.

“Although old school Pueblo politics is frustrating, you got to learn to work it so you can change it from the inside,” another native nester told me. 

This native is the youngest of all my interviews.  After graduating high school and leaving Pueblo for less than two years, he attended CSU-Pueblo and received his undergraduate degree.  He now works in a professional capacity in a downtown office setting. He has enjoyed a good pace of career advancement here in Pueblo, although he is hungry for more advancement.  He enjoys Pueblo’s pace of life, and also appreciates that the “big city” is less than 2 hours away. He looks forward to more leadership training opportunities in Pueblo; he feels strongly that current community leaders need to do a better job of mentoring young people to step up into executive positions.

Pueblo could also change via the course of the Inclusionary Principle, which includes working collaboratively, with any and all of our fellow residents who care about the welfare of the community, to advance a commonly-held agenda born from a process of compromise.  

Allegiance to the inclusionary principle necessarily means focusing upon goals bigger than ourselves or our individual clique. It also requires a willingness to release control over a project in order to see it move forward–and accepting that although the outcome may not be exactly what you desired, the project should still be considered a success if it’s well-received by a larger number of people.  In addition, inclusion means embracing our diversity and using this as an asset that adds real substance, or ‘thick culture’ to our city. 

Inclusion means finding ways to say ‘yes’ to someone else’s idea, until there is a legitimate, bona fide and well-articulated reason to do otherwise. This is the only way a “community” can truly move forward.

I know for certain which option our ancestors chose, because we are still here.  They would not have survived in the barren wilderness unless they learned to cooperate and work together.  

But make no mistake, I am no idealist. I’m equally certain that ethnic prejudice, hatred and segregation have also been dominant themes throughout Pueblo’s history.  However, the themes of teamwork, cooperation and collaboration are undoubtedly the foundation of what built our legacy to the world, the steel industry.

“Pueblo is a true melting pot, with good weather, low cost of living, and neighborhoods which have great character and diversity,” another returnee told me. 

She grew up in Pueblo but moved away for college to one of our nation’s coasts. She lived in several major metropolitan areas for a many years, and moved back because of economic factors, and to be closer to her family.  Although she did not plan on staying (just wanted to hang out while reevaluating things), she ended up staying and is trying to building a life here.  After experiencing that Pueblo hasn’t changed much in thirty years, she isn’t quite sure she’ll stay. 

She said she feels strongly that there is no pressure to be your best in Pueblo. She notes that in a large city, you must always do your best because there is a long line of people behind you ready to take your job.  Because that pressure does not exist in Pueblo, she feels that at times people strive for very little, especially in the higher end jobs.

I would agree with her, but I do feel there are some community leaders who are giants in Pueblo and who have accomplished great things. I’m fortunate to have breakfast every Friday morning with a few of them.  However, the nesters are also correct that we need to do a better job inspiring a new generation of Puebloans to stay here and stand on the shoulders of these giants. To take and build upon these accomplishments.  

Both the native nesters have learned to succeed in Pueblo by learning to work within the “old school Pueblo rules” that tend to be based upon the exclusionary principle. While this is commendable, I would implore them and others to use whatever influence they have to bring the inclusionary principle into the conversation. Encourage new collaborations and cross the tracks to the other side of town; reach out to groups and individuals who haven’t been heard from before.  Grow community instead of dissolving it.

Ultimately, we must welcome everyone to Pueblo, and I mean everyone: Euro-American retirees, African-American soldiers from Fort Carson, artists, the LGBT community, college students looking for a great bargain on a degree from CSU-Pueblo. Come live in a real place, with a real sense of place.  With a local culture you won’t get anywhere else.  Also, there is good chile.

John Batey is a graduate of Central High School and is the Pueblo Urban Renewal Authority’s Executive Director. 

Editor’s Note: Guest contributions are neither solicited by the PULP nor are contributors compensated for their work.

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Denver’s Wes Watkins dynamic new future-funk EP is from another planet

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Future-Funk Party Starter | Wes Watkins

Dreams Out from Denver’s best kept secret Wes Watkins wears so many musical hats it needs a rack; downtempo G-Funk homage and sweltering nee-Soul / Rn’B are all over this release, all covered with a thicc pop glaze and a penchant for electronic-sonic experimentation that keep every song fascinatingly adventurous while maintaining a danceability and groove that easily, easily warrants multiple listens. Don’t sleep on this one.


Lo-Fuzz Folkie | Hoi Ann

The beauty of Hoi Ann’s Tangenier lies in both what you can hear and what it may want you to not hear. Lo-fi folk and bedroom-pop are easily tangible on its surface, but the buzzy electronic tones that sparingly flourish the 5 songs of this release lie low and create a unique aural atmosphere for listeners, like hidden secrets for your ears only.


Indie-Punk Sweeties | Gestalt

The pop-punk shred-bois in Gestalt are back at it again; The irresistible combo of the Get Up Kids earnest midwestern-emo and smart pop-punk wit of the Wonder Years is strong on the tracks that encompass LongBoix, as is an acute fondness and growing appreciation for the finer indie rock of yesteryear. Well I guess this is growing up.


Psych-Rock Screamcore | Gone Full Heathen

On their criminally good self titled EP, Fort Collins heavies Gone Full Heathen friggin dare you to try and trap them in a single genre. Nice try, but they’ll just chew right through your puny ropes using a gnashing blend of crushing stoner-rock laced hardcore punk and overdriven psych-rock / post-metal induced bite like the righteous rock and roll wolves that they are.


All releases available for purchase now thru Bandcamp. Go Local!

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The Haze Craze for Lazy Days

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There are many different styles of beer. Ranging from light lagers (think Bud Light) and ales to sours, stouts, and IPAs.

Within those styles, however, are varying styles.

For example, one would think a sour beer is a sour beer, right? Wrong. According to the Beer Judge Certification Program, which defines every style of beer, there are six recognized European sour styles.

For IPAs, there are seven. American beers have four; stouts have three… You get the point.

Even with viewing the list of recognized styles, it’s not a complete list.

Take New England IPAs (NE IPA), as a prime example. Many breweries are currently mass producing this style of beer, and it’s selling like crazy.

You may have heard one of your annoying beer loving friends talk about drinking a “juice bomb,” or a requesting a “hazy IPA” at the pub, and shrugged it off. It turns out, they (sometimes) know what they are talking about.

What makes NE IPAs so popular when compared to a more traditional, West Coast IPA? NE IPAs have all of the hop flavors, without an overabundance of bitterness.

Instead of constantly adding hops throughout the boil to achieve a fruity flavor balanced by bitterness, the NE IPA has a small hop addition at the begging, and then nothing else until after the boil has finished.

That translates into a beer with very little bitterness, and plenty of hop aroma and flavor. Hops like Citra, Mosaic, Mosaic, Galaxy, and El Dorado are most common in NE IPAs, according to the Homebrewers Association. Those hops tend to impart a fruity, and dare I say, juicy flavor profile.

Between the juicy flavor and the seemingly natural haziness to NE IPAs, it’s not far fetched for an NE IPA to look like a tall glass of orange or grapefruit juice, only carbonated and full of alcohol.

NE IPAs are starting to gain momentum here in Colorado, with breweries turning their focus to the haze craze. Specifically, Odd13, WeldWerks, and Epic Brewing coming to mind.

Odd13 is based in Lafayette, Colo. and has a long list of NE-inspired IPAs constantly rotating through the tap room and distributed throughout the state. Codename: Super fan and Noob are two beers that are found in cans, and both offer a different approach to the haze craze.

WeldWerks is based in Greeley, Colo. and has accumulated a cult-like following in just a few short years for its Juicy Bits NE IPA. The brewery just started self-distributing locally, so you’ll have to make the trip to the brewery and pick up a crowler or four. Be sure to check the WeldWerks Facebook page for availability and limits. Yes, they have to place per person limits on how much you can purchase.

Epic Brewing recently announced its NE IPA, which will rotate between four different flavor profiles throughout the year. The cans will look the same but will be different colors as a quick way to tell identify which version you have.

So the next time you walk into a brewery or liquor store, it’s OK to ask for a hazy or juicy IPA. It’s a thing, and, frankly, they are damn good.

On Tap: By the time this hits newsstands, ThunderZone Pizza & Taphouse will have opened on the CSU-P campus. Located at 2270 Rawlings Blvd., the ThunderZone features 32 taps, a carefully curated tap list, and is locally owned.

At the opening, the tap list includes tasty brews from the likes of Florence Brewing and Lost Highway.

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Senators upend GOP health care bill in true Trump style… Twitter

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WASHINGTON — When Sens. Mike Lee and Jerry Moran decided they were in ready to disrupt the GOP rewrite of the health care law, they chose President Donald Trump’s favorite medium.

They could not support Senate Republicans’ plan, the somewhat unlikely pair of conservatives tweeted at 8:30 p.m. Monday night, giving no heads up to the White House or Senate leaders before pressing send.

The story behind the statement reveals two senators willing to be branded as bill killers and seemingly unconcerned with trying to soften the blow with party leaders.

The announcement, coming after some 10 days of conversations between the men, stunned official Washington and left Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at least two votes short in the closely divided Senate from being able to move forward with the GOP bill, effectively sinking the measure. It landed shortly after Trump dined with a group of senators to discuss strategy – unwittingly plotting a plan that would immediately become outdated.

Sen. John Cornyn, the second-ranking Republican leader, found out about Lee’s defection after the White House dinner of rosemary-grilled rib eye and summer vegetable succotash. He “had no idea it was coming,” Cornyn said.

Another Republican, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, found out from TV news.

Moran, a second-term lawmaker from Kansas who isn’t known for making waves, and Lee, a two-term senator from Utah who has clashed with Trump, have been talking over the past 10 days about the health care legislation and agreed the GOP bill did not go far enough to repeal Obamacare or address rising health-care costs. They decided to announce their position to make the bill’s fate clear and allow senators to move on, Moran said.

“It could have been prolonged for days or weeks while no one said anything,” Moran said in an interview.

Moran, who oversaw the Senate Republicans’ 2014 election campaigns, concluded last week he wouldn’t vote for the latest version of the bill but “gave myself a weekend in Kansas to think about it,” he said.

Lee had helped draft an amendment, along with fellow conservative Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that would allow insurers to sell skimpy plans alongside more robust ones to lower costs. Cruz agreed to some changes in wording by GOP leaders, but Lee thought the new language allowed too many Obama-era regulations to remain in place.

After talking again, Moran and Lee agreed Monday night on a statement drafted earlier in the day. They issued their statement shortly after a White House dinner attended by seven GOP senators – all likely yes votes on the health care bill. Neither Lee nor Moran attended.

A Lee spokesman said the statement – and its timing – “had nothing to do with the White House dinner. It was not a reaction in any way.”

The statement was made public as soon as it was ready, the spokesman said.

Neither Trump nor McConnell received advance warning about the statement, although it’s likely that neither the president nor the Senate leader was completely surprised.

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence spent the weekend calling lawmakers, including Lee and at least seven other GOP senators, according to the administration. Trump talked politics, while Pence discussed policy.

Trump called Lee on Saturday, and Lee told the president he was leaning against the bill, for the reasons he later made public.

Lee told Utah’s KSL Newsradio that he had a great conversation with Trump, when he told the president his “consumer freedom” amendment had been weakened and that he wasn’t sure that he could support the bill.

“He was encouraging to me and said, you know, ‘Just see what changes you can make to it,’ ” Lee said.

Lee and McConnell did not talk over the weekend, but Lee spoke twice to Cornyn, R-Texas, the majority whip.

Trump, who frequently takes to Twitter to announce proposals or denounce opponents, was blindsided by, of all things, a tweet.

He told reporters Tuesday he was “very surprised when the two folks came out last night, because we thought they were in fairly good shape. But they did. And, you know, everybody has their own reason.”

Moran said while he remained committed to repealing the health care law, Congress needs to make a “fresh start” on writing a replacement bill in an “open legislative process.”

“We should not put our stamp of approval on bad policy,” he said, in a statement that followed the tweet.

In his own statement, Lee said the GOP bill does not repeal all the Obamacare tax increases and “doesn’t go far enough in lowering premiums for middle class families; nor does it create enough free space from the most costly Obamacare regulations.”

Both explanations were issued on social media.

“Twitter is a nice medium to get your message out,” Lee’s spokesman said.

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