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Colorado Springs City Council Candidate Forum

KOAA5, The Gazette and El Pomar Foundation’s Forum for Civic Advancement hosted a Colorado Springs City Council Candidate Forum at El Pomar’s Penrose House Pavilion.

This was an opportunity for voters to hear from all 11 candidates for the At-Large seats on council. Ballots started going out to voters in the city this week. You have until April 2nd to return the envelopes. See below for more information on this election and important dates.

KOAA news anchor Rob Quirk served as the moderator.

City Council Candidate Forum
Moderator Rob Quirk gives final instructions to participants in the City Council Candidate Forum. (KOAA)

The first question posed to the candidates is whether they support Ballot Issue #1 which asks the voters if the Colorado Springs Firefighters should be allowed to use the power of collective bargaining.

For:
Dennis Spiker, Terry Martinez, Bill Murray, Randy Tuck

Against:
Wayne Williams, Regina English, Tom Strand, Athena Row, Tony Gioia, Gordon Klingenschmitt, Val Snider

Read more on that issue in a report from News5’s Zach Thaxton. 

Next up, how should the city council address continued growth in Colorado Springs?

  • Athena Roe recommends working more with developers to ensure they include more affordable housing options.
  • Tony Gioia believes we need to focus on affordable housing by using annexed lands in a smart way, and work with developers on how to make this happen.
  • Bill Murray wants better management of the taxpayer money going towards incentives for developers. He believes the balance is too far in favor of developers.
  • Gordon Klingenschmitt believes the city needs a better managed affordable housing plan alongside a more efficient public transportation plan to guide growth.
  • Val Snider says the city existing concept, Plan COS, has provisions on how to develop vibrant neighborhoods to address growth.
  • Randy Tuck wants the city to look at moving development closer to where people work and allow more access to downtown in order to be a more efficient community.
  • Wayne Williams supports better transportation plans, more affordable housing, and better city services to keep pace with growth.
  • Dennis Spiker believes developers are taking advantage of taxpayers. He would support giving money to developers who bring new concepts to the city rather than redundant concepts.
  • Regina English believes the people need to have more of a voice in how the city moves forwards.
  • Tom Strand says Plan COS approved earlier this year has the instruments necessary for our future, but would also like to consider further plans dealing with transit and public safety.
  • Terry Martinez supports bold commitments to address the needs for more affordable housing in Colorado Springs.

Candidates were asked – Should the Martin Drake Power Plant in downtown Colorado Springs should close sooner than 2035?

  • Tony Gioia wants the city to have a robust plan in place to cover the energy needs of Colorado Springs Utility customers before considering an earlier closure.
  • Bill Murray supports following the 2035 timeline approved by council as it provides time to manage plans to address needs.
  • Gordon Klingenschmitt mentioned his support of the people of Colorado Springs who struggle on a regular basis to make tough choices in their family budget.
  • Val Snider wants a plan of action and concepts in place on how to replace the power generation of the facility before rushing to a closure.
  • Randy Tuck brings up his background in construction which requires a plan before taking action in order to avoid costly mistakes.
  • Wayne Williams supports a closure, but does believe a plan needs to be in place before utilities customers are negatively impacted by electricity rates.
  • Dennis Spiker adamantly believes the power plant should have closed years ago, rather than spending money on scrubbers to extend the life of the facility. He says we need to look at more efficient, green energy solutions now.
  • Regina English says we need to trust the experts at Colorado Springs Utilities to determine the best timeline and plan of action on the plant.
  • Tom Strand reminds everyone he made the motion to close Drake not later than 2035 which was approved by council. He says that was the best plan at the time with the leadership in place, but supports an earlier closure with strong plans to avoid rate hikes.
  • Terry Martinez says it is time to close Drake now. He believes the city should have moved to renewable energy solutions years ago.
  • Athena Roe is in support of a better plan to manage rates before closure, but she is not seeing that right now and is not optimistic of the sticker shock attached to closing earlier.

Read more about the issue in a report from News5’s Patrick Nelson.

In regards to the continued issues with a growing homeless population in Colorado Springs, we asked the candidates how they believe the situation can be addressed.

  • Regina English says she understands some people are happy living outside, but believes “they need to move and go camp out in another city.” She would like the city to provide more support and resources to those that cannot help themselves.
  • Tom Strand wants to stick to the city homeless action plan which includes methods on determing how best to help different segments of the homeless population. He’d like to get help to women, children, families and veterans. When it comes to those who do not want jobs, housing solutions, and are a continued problem for city departments, he says, “this is a population we need to deal with in a more forceful manner.”
  • Terry Martinez says we need to address women and children in the homeless community by providing resources and access to training, assistance and jobs.
  • Athena Roe wants to work towards long term solutions to address issues with mental illness in the community. She says groups that are specifically in the downtown area, “we do need to move them out” to address the concerns of businesses and people who frequent the area. For solutions, she would like to advance partnerships with non-profit organizations.
  • Tony Gioia spoke of using a smarter approach to create “stable living conditions” for segments of the population who are looking for a way out of homelessness. He referred to it as a “moral and fiscal responsibility. For those who do not want help, he says “it might be time for them to take a hike, you know the ‘People’s Republic of Boulder’ might like to take them in.”
  • Bill Murray says this is an example of ‘build it and they don’t want to come” in reference to shelters and resources recently developed in coordination with partner organizations. Murray says the homeless community in general is not taking advantage of these resources, despite recent work by council. He would like those who don’t want help or a change in their situation to “please move on.”
  • Gordon Klingenschmitt believes we need to find solutions to compassionately help the homeless, such as his actions as a Navy chaplain and a member of the ministry. He wants to work alongside existing organizations to help, as well as working with law enforcement to make sure people are not  “harassed on the public streets.”
  • Val Snider says the city already has a homeless action plan in place that in coordination with Plan COS will address these problems. He says the feedback he’s received suggests there needs to be more aggressive law enforcement actions against the chronic homeless. “They need to be corralled, if you will. They need to find places to put them. The chronic homeless need to be dealt with a little harsher with increased law enforcement, based on the feedback I get.”
  • Wayne Williams supports the items listed in the city’s homeless action plan, along with supporting local non-profits that conduct outreach efforts. He also supports helping people on a case-by-case basis to find solutions.
  • Randy Tuck says “this is a huge problem” which he would like an action committee put together to plan methods to reach out for solutions, as part of the effort we need an accurate count of the homeless population.
  • Dennis Spiker wants the city to increase the number of personnel on the Colorado Springs Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team to help people get off the streets and take advantage of low barrier beds available. He also supports out of the box thinking like tiny home villages seen in other cities. When it comes to people “who don’t abide by our laws they need to be dealt with by the police department.”

Read more about the city’s current initiative to address homelessness, here

The final question of the evening was “Do you support city council putting recreational marijuana on the ballot for voters to decide?”

  • Athena Roe – No
  • Bill Murray – Yes, for the benefit of tax revenues
  • Val Snider – Not city council role, would not oppose citizen-led initiative
  • Gordon Klingenschmitt – No
  • Tony Gioia – Not city council role, would not oppose citizen-led initiative
  • Wayne Williams – No, would not oppose citizen-led initiative
  • Randy Spiker – Yes
  • Regina English – No
  • Tom Strand – Not city council role, would not oppose citizen-led initiative
  • Terry Martinez – Yes
  • Randy Tuck – Yes, for the benefit of tax revenues

 

The city will host an election on Tuesday, April 2nd to select a Mayor and three At-large City Council members for the next 4 years.

Candidates had from January 2nd to the 22nd to file their application to be on this year’s ballot. The drawing order their names will appear on the ballot was determined on January 25th.

The following is a list of candidates as they appear on the ballot. Municipal elections are non-partisan.

Mayor:

At-Large City Council (3 seats on council):

Issues:

Issue 1: Collective Bargaining for All Uniformed Fire Department Employees

Read a full write-up on this issue from News5’s Zach Thaxton – here.

As with all elections in Colorado, ballots will be mailed to every eligible active voter within city limits. The latest estimate shows 300,000 such voters in Colorado Springs.

The first ballots will be mailed out to military and overseas voters by February 19th. The remainder of the ballots will begin to go out from the City Clerk’s Office on March 8th and no later than March 18th.

Ballot counting will begin on March 18th and continue to election day April 2nd, and to the deadline to receive military and overseas ballots on April 10th.

Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights notices about the collective bargaining issue will be mailed out by March 1st.

Ballot Drop-Off Locations and Hours of Operation:

LOCATION ADDRESS HOURS OF OPERATIONS (Monday – Friday) ELECTION DAY HOURS
(Main location) City Clerk’s Office 30 South Nevada Ave., Suite 101 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM & 24/7 Ballot Box 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Colorado Springs Senior Center 1514 North Hancock Ave. 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM
YMCA Southeast Family Armed Services Center 2190 Jet Wing Dr. 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM
PPLD-East Library 5550 North Union Blvd. 24/7 Ballot Box 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM
PPLD-Library 21c 1175 Chapel Hills Dr. 24/7 Ballot Box 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Black Forest Park-n-Ride 7503 Black Forest Rd. 24/7 Ballot Box 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM
El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Locations Citizens Service Center, 1675 West Garden of the Gods Rd. 24/7 Ballot Box 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Downtown-Centennial Hall, 200 South Cascade Ave. 24/7 Ballot Box 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Southeast-Powers Branch, 5650 Industrial Pl., Suite 100 24/7 Ballot Box 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM
8830 North-Union Town Center Branch, 8830 North Union Blvd. 24/7 Ballot Box 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Fort Carson Branch, 6351 Wetzel Ave., Bldg. 1525 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM

 

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