February 22, 2011
All nine candidates in Colorado Springs’ mayoral race met Tuesday evening for a rapid-fire forum of one-minute answers posed by The Gazette and KOAA News First Five. To a packed house, they gave positions on such things as how to best provide water for the city’s future and how to revive crumbling pieces of the city’s past, such as parts of Academy Boulevard.
Most of the time the candidates agreed. They all want to increase jobs. They all want to cut government waste. They all think Colorado Springs is a great place, and with their help, can be a world-class city. But when pinned down on specifics, candidates showed their differences.
Southern Delivery System: Most candidates agreed that this ambitious water pipeline from Pueblo is costly but necessary, and should be built now. But Mitch Christiansen said he needed to study the costs more, warning, “It could just be an open hole where we dump billions for years to come.” Tom Gallagher said he supports a different pipeline along Colorado Highway 115 that would create recreational opportunities.
Memorial Hospital: Dave Munger, Buddy Gilmore and Richard Skorman said they support making city-owned Memorial Hospital a nonprofit. Munger said, “If we sell it to a for-profit company, it would be providing health care to make money, not the other way around.”
Christiansen, Phil McDonald and Kenneth Duncan said they want to leave it as it is. Brian Bahr said he thinks it should be sold to “take care of the taxpayers.” Steve Bach said he thinks the city needs to study the issue more.
Encouraging “the arts, diversity and inclusion” during hard times: All candidates agreed that the arts are important. Only Skorman suggested specifics, saying Colorado Springs “needs to change its brand.”
“People think of us as an intolerant city, and that is not who we are,” he said. “We are very friendly to the arts. We have over 90 arts organizations. People think of us as narrow, intolerant, anti-government. We need someone to change that brand. As mayor that will be my No. 1 priority.”
Revitalizing downtown and Academy Boulevard: All candidates said they disliked sprawl and that encouraging in-fill would make more sense. All said city building codes need to be streamlined. Only Skorman said not much could be done by a mayor. In the zinger of the evening, he said, “It is based on the markets. Developers don’t seem to want to build downtown.” He looked at Bahr, who owns Challenger homes and had just voiced support for in-fill and said, “Challenger doesn’t build any homes downtown.” The audience laughed.