Colorado Springs businessman Greg Basham, who's running for the City Council District 1 seat, says now is the right time to step away from his job temporarily to do his civic duty.
His son is in the Navy, his daughter in college and the Champion Glass division he manages is "where it needs to be," Basham said. Serving on the council has "always been on my mind."
"This is the right time. I think we have the right leader - perhaps the best mayor we could ask for. We have a great plan to bring business in. And I also think we have money coming our way; I think we'll see reinvigoration of the Department of Defense," he said.
But while the military is the major economic power in the city now, it's time to pursue business diversification, said Basham.
As for incumbent District 1 Councilman Don Knight, he said, "I don't know anything Don Knight can't do. Our backgrounds are different. I come from a pure business background," and Knight retired from the Air Force and working for the defense industry. "Government does things one way; business does them another," Basham noted. "You can't turn government into a business, but you can use some business ideas."
He cited a number of issues the city must address, though, before new businesses will flock here.
◘ Long-neglected stormwater infrastructure "has to be addressed," particularly since the city is being sued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state health department.
"The City Council can either step up and put something (in a fee program) together or put it to a vote of the citizens. I would love to put it to the people, but if they said no, what would we do? Let's put a fee through the City Council for a temporary fix for a couple of years so we don't go deeper (into neglect). We need this issue handled. The reason I don't recommend a permanent fix, I don't think we have a solid plan in place" on how much money is needed, a level that could change depending on the lawsuit's outcome. "Then we can present it to the people in an honest fashion: Here's exactly what we're going to need."
◘ Crumbling roads "have scared off business, scared off people." A sales-tax increase through the 2015 Ballot Issue 2C has helped, but more work is needed.
◘ The police force has the lowest per-capita coverage of any city on the Front Range, Basham said. "We need to address our police," because you can't attract new business without a well-staffed police force.
◘ Young people must be trained and retained in Colorado Springs, by matching education with business's needs. "What part of educating our youth isn't everybody's job?" he asked. With new breweries popping up around the city, for example, "what about opening a brewing school?"
Basham, a long-time member of the Housing & Building Association, has won endorsements from the HBA and from Colorado Springs Forward. But he said people shouldn't assume those endorsements will translate into blind support for developers.
"My business does not interact with developers. We don't work on new developments. I'm thrilled they support me; the developers are part of this community also." But, Basham said, "Everytime I make a decision, I'll have only one consideration: Is it best for this city? I will never make a decision to help a company out. Not every decision is going to benefit everyone."
As for the city-owned Colorado Springs Utilities, Basham said it's a great asset and questions about changing its governance from the City Council's current oversight is "on the back burner." City leaders should work with Utilities to bring in new business, and having reliable and competitive utilities will continue to help attract new employers, he said. "Sell 'em? No we don't."
He said he'll continue to run his own business but: "I'll put in the time the council needs. My business runs very smoothly; I've got great people."