COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers spoke to an audience of 700 Friday at Broadmoor Hall for his third State of the City address.
Suthers focused on four priorities: his relationship with the City Council; investing in city infrastructure; creating jobs; and identifying future challenges.
Some past city administrations had friction that hindered them from accomplishing as much as they could have, and Suthers said that hasn't been the case during his three years in office.
"Would the council members present please stand so we can acknowledge your good work," Suthers said early in his address, and the crowd followed with applause.
Suthers particularly praised councilmen Richard Skorman and Merv Bennett for their leadership roles as council president.
Continuing a five-year expanded street paving project, and pushing for voter approval of a fee to fund stormwater projects, are two of Suthers' primary infrastructure objectives.
"If we can deal with our stormwater situation, avoid costly litigation and use the money we save to hire and increase pay for public safety officers, we should be on solid financial footing for several decades to come," he said.
Last year, Suthers received a standing ovation for supporting the "I-25 Gap" project, a proposal by the Colorado Department of Transportation to widen the interstate between Monument in El Paso County and Castle Rock in Douglas County, and challenged CDOT to accelerate the construction timetable.
On Friday, Suthers thanked the agency for its cooperation but criticized state lawmakers for failing to find money for the project.
"I urge all of you to urge our state legislators and governor to put aside ideological differences, get their priorities straight, stop making excuses and get the project funded," he said, followed by applause.
Suthers also said he wants schools and employers to train more workers to fill a surplus of vacant, high-skilled jobs that pay an average annual salary of nearly $70,000.
Finally, Suthers said the most immediate issue for future economic growth is for the City Council to approve an amended annexation agreement for the Banning Lewis Ranch subdivision in northeast Colorado Springs.
"Over the past 22 years, we've lost 2,700 jobs and $4.5 billion in economic benefit because we haven't fully developed that area and development has moved elsewhere in El Paso County," he said.
Suthers said a revised agreement could bring the city $62 million in revenue and $47 billion in economic growth over the next 30 years.
At the end of Friday's address, Suthers presented longtime volunteer Mary Ellen McNally with a Spirit of the Springs Lifetime Achievement Award.
McNally, 81, has been an active community volunteer since moving to the city in 1964.
"I'm most proud of Cheyenne Village, which is a home for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities," she said. "My daughter lives there. I'm also quite proud of the Southern Colorado AIDS Project. My son is gay, and I consider myself an advocate for the gay community."
McNally said she hasn't retired yet and doesn't plan to.
The annual address is sponsored by the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Corporation.