Candidates in City Council District 4 agree on a lot of things, including the need to boost the local economy, but they’re miles apart on campaign fundraising.
Deborah Hendrix, president of the Harrison School District 2 board, leads with about $14,000 in her campaign chest. At the other end of the scale is Gary Flakes, a leadership consultant, who has raised only $165.
Hendrix is backed by the Housing and Building Association, Elite Properties of America and MDC Holdings, Inc., which donated $10,000.
Helen Collins, who works in personnel background investigations after 20 years in the military, received a $2,000 contribution from the Mark J. Bogosian Living Trust, her biggest donor.
Dennis Moore, a retired Air Force veteran, received a large number of small donations, mostly less than $200 each.
Most of the candidates said the economy is the biggest issue facing District 4, but Moore singled out crime as the No. 1 issue. Public safety is affected significantly by a poor economy, he said, and making a safer community could attract businesses.
“If you have an atmosphere of safety, hopefully you can bring in businesses to see it’s a safe environment to work at,” he said.
Hendrix said revitalizing downtown and offering incentives to convention bureaus are keys to prosperity. Making the city a “hot spot for conferences and vacations,” would bring revenue from tourists excited to visit downtown to support local growth.
“We need to make sure it’s viable,” she said. “It’s an attraction component, as well as other things we have to offer around the city. But downtown has to have a draw for us to bring people into the ciy.”
Lowering taxes and fees, cutting wasteful spending, eliminating parking meters and reducing regulation across the board is how Collins says she would entice new businesses and investments.
“Government cannot control the economy,” she said. “I trust free markets. The city can’t make an economy work, they can only make it worse.”
Flakes said he has faith in economic gardening, which seeks to create jobs by supporting existing local companies, giving them the resources they need to grow.
Hendrix also said City Council must be more accessible to citizens. If elected, she said one of the first things she will do is propose changes to structural aspects of council, such as having meetings at times when most citizens are not working.
Collins also suggested moving meeting times to the evenings so City Council members don’t have to quit their day jobs. She, like Hendrix, is opposed to the proposal to raise City Council wages to $48,000, which is the second ballot question posed to this year’s voters. Flakes said he supports the measure. Moore also said he's in favor of the raise because it would allow more people to run for council, but he said he will support the decision voters make.
The candidates differ in their plans to address a backlog of stormwater infrastructure projects that a task force estimated amounts to about $900 million.
Collins and Hendrix both said they would propose allocating existing funds to address stormwater issues to avoid new taxes. Moore and Flakes said they would consider ways to raise new revenue. Moore suggested creating a district such as the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Agency to secure funds from outside the city.
“Stormwater impacts do not necessarily begin in Colorado Springs or end at the city limits,” he said.
Flakes suggested letting citizen dialogue determine the best course of action, potentially leading to a new city sales or property tax or issuing bonds for high-priority projects.
Collins and Hendrix both support oil and gas exploration within city limits and keeping the Martin Drake Power Plant open; Moore and Flakes both said they want to do more research before making decisions.
Flakes, who served a 12-year, five-month term in prison for being an accessory to the 1997 murders of two Colorado Springs teenagers, has faced a lot of criticism for running. The opposition has been challenging, he said, and he has struggled with whether he should drop out of the race. He said he thinks he brings diversity to the table, though, and running for office despite his record sets an example for others who have troubled pasts.
“I’m definitely a lot of hope and inspiration for people in District 4,” he said.