On March 7, the Colorado College Collaborative for Community Engagement and the Colorado Springs Independent hosted the second Colorado Springs City Council Debate — Energy and Open Spaces: A Town/Gown Collaborative — at Packard Hall for the upcoming Colorado Springs City Council Elections. The program was organized by CC Political Advocacy Coalition members Charlotte Schwebel ’21 and Elena Martinez-Vivot ’21.
Eleven candidates present at the debate discussed the possibilities for the future of Open Spaces and Energy in Colorado Springs. Colorado Springs City Council President Richard Skorman welcomed an audience of more than 150 people to engage in what he called “messy democracy.”
The debate was moderated by students from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak Community College, and CC. Questions were submitted by members of the Colorado Springs community and selected by a committee of students, activists, and local policy makers.
The debate was divided into two sections: Trails and Open Spaces Coalition, with five questions; and Energy and the Environment Coalition, with six questions. Each candidate, randomly chosen to address a question, was given 90 seconds in which to answer, after which a second candidate was given a minute for rebuttal. The first candidate would then receive 30 seconds for a second rebuttal.
The chair of the Trails and Open Space Coalition highlighted the importance of open spaces, stating, “Everyone deserves easy access to the outdoors because the outdoors connect ourselves and each other.” The major concern regarding open spaces revolved around their cost of maintenance. Some of the suggestions for possible sources of funding were bringing tourism into Colorado Springs and finding other appropriate sources of revenue.
The energy and the environment section focused primarily on the Martin Drake Power Station located in downtown Colorado Springs, and the need for renewable energy sources in the city.
Aram Benyamin, CEO of Colorado Springs Utilities, addressed the urgency of replacing the Drake plant and asserted that “we are at a point of transition.”
However, the forum was not only for the candidates to share their opinions. It also provided a chance for the Colorado Springs community to get to know them. One of the community members present at the forum shared, “I have never had the chance to see this kind of a debate.”
The forum was also appealing for the CC campus community in preparation for upcoming city council elections in April. Skorman called attention to the statistics from the local elections, where merely 100 students from the CC community participated.
Our college has a population of over 2,000 students. Outdoor education and issues of environment are an integral part of our lives and daily conversations. Colorado College is also part of the larger Colorado Springs community and plays a significant role in the changes that occur in the city. These actions have a direct impact on other community members, as exemplified by the creation of the bike lanes and the plans for Robson Arena.
However, the lack of participation in actions beyond individual lives and on-campus social circles could also be observed in the minimal attendance of the CC community at the debate. This shows the need for us to get out of our “CC Bubble,” as these topics have a direct impact on our lives here.