By EMMA GORSUCH and MAX KRONSTADT
Mayor: John Suthers
Suthers, the incumbent, has lived in Colorado Springs his whole life and is running for reelection to build on the progress he made during his first term. Suthers’ goals have been to improve collaboration with the City Council and Regional partners, to invest in infrastructure, and to promote jobs. During his time as mayor, 700 miles of road were paved, 24,000 jobs were created, the median wage increased, and the Springs was ranked No. 1 Most Desirable City. Suthers dealt with the city’s stormwater problems, backing a controversial ballot initiative which saved the city from an EPA lawsuit and enabled it to hire an extra 120 police officers and 32 firefighters. Suthers also intends to add 1,000 units of affordable housing to the city per year for the next five years. To combat homelessness, he plans on creating adequate shelter beds, providing employment opportunity, increasing enforcement against illegal camps, quicker cleanup of camps, and the expansion of the Springs Rescue Mission Campus, which is already underway. Suthers has already increased low-barrier shelter beds and created homeless courts to provide referrals for substance abuse and mental health treatment.
City Council: Wayne Williams, Tom Strand, Tony Gioia
Williams has an extensive background working on local issues at both a state and county level. His moderate and bipartisan record has allowed him to accomplish major changes, including improving our infrastructure through the creation of the Pikes Peak Regional Transportation Authority. His planned policies that support small businesses, deregulation, increased police and firefighter services, and improved transportation without tax hikes.
Strand is running for reelection. He has served in numerous roles over his 40-year history of public service in Colorado Springs, including president of D11 public schools and member of the city council. He is committed to improving public safety and services to the homeless and wants the city to invest in renewable energy as well as cut fees for developers of affordable housing. He has increased access to open spaces and combated homelessness. He is fiscally conservative and socially liberal.
Gioia’s background in real-estate gives him insight to the issue of affordable housing. He plans to focus on decreasing fees and incentivizing businesses to develop small and multi-unit affordable homes. He has done work to improve public transportation within the city and emphasizes the importance of providing support to the homeless population and lowering emergency room costs.
Alternatives: Val Snider, Bill Murray, and Athena Roe.
Ballot Issue 1: NO
Issue 1 would give firefighters collective bargaining rights. This initiative is unnecessary and costly. Currently, firefighters receive almost double the average income in Colorado Springs and extensive benefit packages that include lifetime retirement pay. Over the last four years, their pay has increased by 16 percent and the number of firefighters has increased, with growth expected to continue. The firefighters are well-represented in local committees and have a close relationship with the mayor. The city council and mayor can increase firefighters’ salaries as necessary given other budgetary constraints and considerations. However, collective bargaining could prove costly. Disputes during the bargaining process would require a special election that could cost upwards of $500,000, a significant blow to taxpayer pockets. A bargaining agent is not necessary, and unnecessary increases in firefighters’ pay would divert funds from the budget, leaving other essential services, such as the police force, parks, and roads, underfunded.
Mayor: John Suthers
Incumbent Mayor John Suthers and I certainly don’t agree on everything — in fact, we probably don’t agree on most things — but he is by far the most qualified and competent candidate in the field and will be receiving my vote this Tuesday. Though conservative, Suthers has not been afraid to ask voters to increase taxes so that the city can invest in infrastructure, parks and open space, and public safety. He created the city’s Office of Sustainability and has advocated for environmentally friendly policies throughout his term. Perhaps most importantly, he has vastly improved the relationship between the mayor’s office and the city council, enabling the city government to function much more smoothly than it did before. If he’s re-elected, I hope he’ll reconsider some of his policies that criminalize homelessness and truly commit to increasing the city’s supply of affordable housing, even if it requires significant government spending and intervention.
City Council: Terry Martinez and Tom Strand
Terry Martinez is an elementary school principal, and he is likely the most progressive candidate in the race. He supports closing Martin Drake as early as possible, which he considers to be 2023, and recognizes homelessness as a multi-faceted problem that will require complex solutions. Given his background in education, Martinez believes in the importance of youth involvement, and has proposed forming a board of high school and college students to research local issues in order to advise the city council.
There are few people as committed to the success and prosperity of Colorado Springs as Tom Strand. He’s served the community for over 40 years — in the school system, non-profit sector, business community, and city government. He approaches city government from a fairly non-ideological standpoint, looking at what’s best for the city and its residents. To that end, he believes in cutting fees for developers who build affordable housing, investing in infrastructure and renewable energy, and improving outreach to homeless populations.
You can vote for up to three candidates for city council, but are not obligated to, and voting for fewer candidates increases the impact your vote will have for those candidates. Since I find Terry Martinez and Tom Strand significantly more compelling than the rest of the field, I will only be voting for these two candidates.
Ballot Iss 1: YES
All workers deserve the right to collectively bargain, and firefighters are no exception. Though some argue it will create inequity between the fire department and other public employees who don’t yet have the right to collective bargaining, what seems more likely is that it will catalyze other departments across the public sector to claim their right to stand up for themselves as well.