Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

OUR VIEW: Gazette endorsements for six council races and two ballot measures

Ed Updated: March 9, 2013 at 12:00 am

Gazette endorsements reflect the opinions of a majority on the editorial board. We encourage readers to educate themselves with this and other resources when deciding how to vote. To determine Gazette endorsements, the board researched answers to a Gazette survey, literature produced by candidates, and questioned all candidates who accepted our invitation to participate in a Gazette candidates’ forum. See video of editorial board meetings, and short candidate statements, on gazette.com. Endorsements follow:

District 1: Don Knight. This race caused the most difficult decision for the board, which was torn between support for Knight and incumbent Tim Leigh. Each man is intelligent, successful and well versed on key policy issues. Leigh’s outspoken, often confrontational participation in community dialogue was a concern to several board members who said his approach does more to divide than to move the community forward in a professional manner. Others said those concerns should be weighed against the incumbent’s high-energy approach to moving the city forward and his insistence on a fair bidding process that determined the successful outcome for Memorial Health System’s future.

At at time when our community grapples with the future of another local asset — Colorado Springs Utilities — Knight brings a unique qualification. He was second in command of utilities for Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Base.

Knight would bring smart, practical sensibilities, along with a good grasp of issues, to the council.

District 2: Joel Miller. Though one board member advocated incumbent Angela Dougan, others strongly favored either challenger. Dougan’s detractors said she gave unclear answers. One board member showed notes about her answers that mostly consisted of question marks. Opponents also expressed concern about Dougan’s notorious propensity to miss City Council meetings.

The board was deadlocked on challengers Bill Murray and Joel Miller. Murray wanted less regulation of marijuana and more regulation of oil and gas drilling within city limits. Miller wanted more regulation of marijuana and sounded a bit more moderate regarding regulation of oil and gas. The deadlock ended when Murray asked his supporters Thursday to vote for Miller in order to help defeat Dougan. Miller would bring dedication to changing things for the better, would show up prepared and would bring passion for creating more economic development.

District 3: Keith King. Typically, with seasoned political veteran King in the race, this would be an easy choice. King is a former state representative and state senator, an education reformer and revered community leader on multiple fronts. It was not an easy choice, only because King finds himself in competition with seasoned political veteran Jim Bensberg, who twice chaired the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners and has proved himself an above average public servant.

King won out because our city struggles to determine the proper role for its legislative branch. Perhaps no one in our city has more knowledge and experience regarding structural efficiency in government than King brings to the equation. He showed himself a master of efficiency in legislative leadership positions.

District 4: Deborah Hendrix. This was the easiest of decisions the board had to make. That is not to dismiss the positive contributions that Helen Collins or Dennis R. Moore could make.

The Gazette has already explained that Gary L. Flakes cannot be seriously considered, as he only recently completed incarceration for his part in the killing of two teenagers.

Neither Collins nor Flakes attended the editorial board’s forum, so board members did not get the opportunity to meet and question them. Moore came across as a competent leader who is passionate about protecting the interests of the people in the district. But Hendrix exuded character and leadership qualities that are hard to find. She is likely to be a new shining star on City Council. She has served on multiple non-profit boards and as an elected member of school boards. She has served as president of Harrison School District 2, overseeing an era of positive change. An independent businesswoman, Hendrix believes her district most needs enhanced economic vitality and more jobs.

District 5: Bernie Herpin. Incumbent Herpin may have had a run for his money if challenger Al Loma, a proven leader in education reform, had shown up for either The Gazette’s forum or The Gazette’s production of a short video for each candidate.Jill Gaebler had support from one board member but failed to convince others that she brought much new to the table. Several board members were troubled by her tendency to agree with Herpin, making them wonder why she sees need for new leadership.

We make this endorsement with slight trepidation only because Herpin has shown himself as one who believes most community problems are best resolved by more local government. No amount of pay is too much for a city employee.

But Herpin is an intelligent man who governs from the heart. He can provide a bridge from the old to the new. Those are good qualities that we respect. He is also an unwavering defender of gun rights, which was important to at least one member of the board.

District 6: David H. Moore. This was another difficult call, only because all three candidates did well in our forum.

Andres G. Pico is known and respected by half of The Gazette’s editorial board because he used to produce well-written, intelligent commentary for The Gazette’s editorial section. He has a firm grasp of public policy.

Ed Bircham is a long-time business leader and well-versed on the issues facing city government. Our main concern involves his pledge in a past election to sabotage the Southern Delivery System, a pipeline the city’s utility is constructing — at a price far below estimates — that will supply our community with water we desperately need.

Moore brings to the equation all of the strengths we found in Bircham and Pico but adds affability and leadership qualities that give him a significant edge. He speaks with conviction and a demeanor that makes others want to listen and follow. He is a staunch conservative on all issues and will have no trouble getting along with others on the council at a time when the legislative branch needs to get positive, market-driven results to create new jobs and wealth.

Raise for Council members: “No.” The board does not assert its opposition to this measure lightly. We believe Colorado Springs long ago outgrew having a volunteer legislative branch that asks council members to work nearly full time for annual stipends of $6,250 each. Until the community raises council pay, service on council will remain an unthinkable option for most working class residents.

This measure, unfortunately, comes without a solid plan for funding higher salaries. It also comes at a time when the proper role of the council remains largely undefined, with questions about the council’s ongoing governance of Colorado Springs Utilities. Alas, it’s ballot measure conceived with good intentions but put forth at the wrong time and with too many unanswered questions.

TOPS Amendment: “Yes.” A “yes” vote will allow the city to use up to 20 percent of revenue from the Trails and Opens Space tax, approved by voters in 1997, to acquire, build and maintain new parks and to maintain and renovate existing parks. Since Jan. 1, the city has been able to use only 6 percent of revenue for parks maintenance.

This is a vote to use a greater percentage of TOPS money to maintain and improve the parks we already have. It only makes sense to care for current assets before adding more properties that will create additional maintenance liabilities the city cannot afford.

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