Updated: March 4, 2011 at 12:00 am
The general election serves this year as a de facto nonpartisan primary in the mayor’s race, as it will be nearly impossible for one candidate in a field of nine to obtain a clear majority of 51 percent or more of the vote. For that reason, The Gazette’s editorial board chose the two candidates it would most like to see in a one-on-one runoff.
To make our decision, the editorial board met in person for about one hour with each of the nine candidates. We judged them on their apparent economic acumen, their knowledge of city process, their friendliness and general demeanor, and their ability to answer a wide variety of questions — including personal questions — in the harsh environment of an editorial board meeting with four or more inquisitors tossing hard balls and softballs at random. Though only board members voted on our picks, other Gazette associates were invited to attend and ask questions.
On the issues, we wanted candidates who were strongly in favor of the Southern Delivery System, exactly as it was designed by Colorado Springs Utilities. We wanted someone open to various possibilities for Memorial Health System, and not someone with a set-in-stone agenda. We wanted someone who clearly understands that jobs result from prosperity, which results from private-sector innovation and production. We wanted someone willing to adapt to change. We wanted someone with a commitment to improving the city’s image and ending the standoff between City Hall and the private sector.
Nearly all candidates emphasized a need to get local government out of the way of business, but some were more detailed and convincing in their commitment to making it so. All but two candidates were in support of SDS, and all seemed reasonable about the need to take a wait-and-see attitude regarding the future of Memorial. All talked about limited, more efficient government.
In order of priority, our top picks are:
1. Steve Bach
2. Richard Skorman
The two were in a field of four candidates the editorial board selected unanimously as finalists. The other two were Dave Munger and Brian Bahr. All of the top four have succeeded in business.
After substantial and spirited deliberation, the board chose Bach because his top priority seems to be an unwavering commitment to change the culture of city government.
The Gazette gave enthusiastic support to November’s full-time mayor initiative because of our belief that city government must undergo substantial reform if our region is to grow and prosper into the future. In recent years, Colorado Springs has developed a People vs. City Hall mentality that is holding the community back. Too many taxpayers feel the city bureaucracy no longer serves their needs as a top priority, viewing it as mostly a wage-and-benefit entitlement for city employees. Too many in the ranks of city government view the private sector as a greedy ATM that won’t deliver the cash local government needs. The conflict has become gridlock. The private sector won’t support city government, and city government won’t supply trash cans or streetlights.
The schism won’t end until a strong leader, who answers to voters and not city employees, properly manages the day-to-day business of city bureaucracy.
Bach, a mature and successful businessman, brings the right attitude and background to restore a proper relationship between city government and the people. He has the kind of confidence and personal demeanor that commands the attention of a room. He delivers a grandfatherly stability that’s reminiscent of Reagan. He loves Colorado Springs and will intuitively promote his adopted hometown in the mainstream national media. He projects a fearless commitment to take charge, much like former Sen. Hank Brown did before he quickly rescued the University of Colorado from years of institutional immaturity and buffoonery.
The choice between Skorman and Bach was difficult. Skorman is a creative and successful small businessman who also exudes natural leadership traits. He would create a fine image for Colorado Springs and would have the management skills needed to run City Hall. Like Bach, he obviously loves this community and seeks only to serve and improve it.
Skorman has served on the City Council and been part of the system that is gravely in need of repair, which did not weigh in his favor with some members of the board. It would be nice to have a mayor without direct ties to the legislative branch, for the sake of checks and balances.
Though Skorman clearly understands the need for change, espousing a desire to get local government out of prosperity’s way, Bach exuded an even higher level of commitment to reform and private-sector prosperity. Both managed to greatly impress the board. The distinction was a matter of degree.
The Gazette’s editorial board was favorably impressed with nearly all nine candidates for mayor and believes even more that an elected executive from the community, to replace an appointed city manager, will take our city to the next level of greatness.
We ask voters to send Bach and Skor-man to a runoff campaign, in which we will all be able to judge them with more focus and attention to detail.
Voters will choose five at-large candidates to serve on City Council, and the editorial board was able to reach a consensus on four. In no meaningful order, they are: Tim Leigh ; Merv Bennett ; Brandy Williams ; and Val Snider .
The board exhausted efforts, but failed to reach a consensus regarding two other candidates: council members Jan Martin and Sean Paige . The Gazette encourages readers to choose five from among our six.
The board did not meet with council candidates because there were too many. We had a few suggestions to meet with “just the serious” candidates, but we had no idea who they were. We initially took seriously anyone who was selfless and caring enough to join the race for a job that demands nearly full-time attention and pays $6,250 a year.
After taking seriously a reform slate of five candidates organized by Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights author, former county commissioner and former State Rep. Douglas Bruce, the board dismissed them.
Do not vote for any member of this slate, which would be a travesty and a decades-long setback for Colorado Springs. The slate — consisting of Bruce, Richard Bruce (no relation), Ed Bircham, Helen Collins and Gretchen Kasameyer — has one goal in mind: Kill the Southern Delivery System. This could ruin Colorado Springs, now and well into the future.
To determine our picks — from a pool that excluded the reform slate — the board reviewed The Gazette’s candidate questionnaires, news articles, campaign literature, websites and anything else that came to our attention.
We want the same from council candidates as we want from a mayor: a commitment to allowing prosperity, to completing the Southern Delivery System, an open-mindedness regarding the future of Memorial Health System, a commitment to changing the culture of city government, and a willingness to adapt to changes that will help our city prosper and grow today and for future generations.
All of our top four choices fit these criterion. All will be excellent additions to council.
The board’s irreconcilable dilemma regarding Paige and Martin was simple. Two members want Martin off the council because they view her as an advocate of more taxes in a system that does not work. They view her as part of the problem. They believe Paige has proven an effective and energetic member of council who provides an important balance.
Two others believe Martin has shown herself an excellent public servant who cares deeply about her community and knows the realities facing city government. They believe Paige provides division, not balance, and has proven ineffective. They see him as part of the problem and Martin as part of the solution. We have agreed to politely disagree.
Please vote for five of the six candidates who rose to the top of our list after substantial vetting by the editorial board.
A retired Air Force officer, Mike Terry has a long and impressive record of public service. He serves on the Pikes Peak United Way Fund Allocation Committee and the Colorado Centre Metropolitan District Board of Directors. Terry formerly served on the Widefield School District Board of Directors and the Security Public Library Board of Trustees.
He wants to promote economic growth by “limiting government growth and promoting private-sector growth by decreasing taxes, lowering regulations and focusing on essential city services.”
Please vote for Mike Terry. He will help change the culture of city government and move Colorado Springs in a positive direction.
This was the easiest decision the board had to make. Lisa Czelatdko is a homemaker and community volunteer who has studied for her MBA at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and has served on a variety of boards and commissions in the community, including the citizens committee of the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments. She has a commitment to government oversight and accountability to taxpayers.
Czelatdko is 100 percent pro Southern Delivery System, writing: “Colorado Springs should have made international news for having the largest and most innovative water project in this West. Our high desert area requires that we need water to maintain our quality of life, and to attract new businesses.”
Czelatdko seems to understand that Colorado Springs can afford SDS, which most communities could not, only because it has kept taxes and government in check.
Czelatdko’s opponent, former State Rep. Michael Merrifield, has never met a tax increase or regulation that he didn’t consider a good idea. He wants to “hit the pause button” on SDS — a project paid for by water customers, not taxes — and it seems pretty clear that he wouldn’t lose sleep if the pipeline were never built.
Merrifield said “jobs and jump-starting the local economy” are his top priority, which flies in the face of opposing SDS.
Please vote for Lisa Czelatdko.