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Geislinger wants Colorado Springs to invest in itself, serve all citizens

March 6, 2017 Updated: March 8, 2017 at 11:38 am
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photo - David Geislinger Thursday, February 9, 2017. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette
David Geislinger Thursday, February 9, 2017. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette 

Meet David Geislinger, soon to be the District 2 City Council member representing Colorado Springs' northern stretches.

Geislinger decided to seek the office when he saw no one else step up to replace Councilman Larry Bagley. Another candidate entered the race, but later withdrew - making Geislinger the only candidate.

The councilman-to-be said he'll continue to work part time as a chaplain at Penrose-St. Francis Health Services.

"I have to work," said Geislinger, who is married and has two children.

"I am very influenced by the Catholic social justice doctrine," he said. "It is a way of life and should influence what we do, how we behave and how we treat one another."

That helps to explain why Geislinger and his wife were at Acacia Park last April to protest the city's contentious sit-lie law, which forbids people from sitting or lying on streets or sidewalks in the downtown and Old Colorado City business districts.

"We were demonstrating that people can sit (on sidewalks) without obstructing other people," Geislinger said.

But he said a new law that forbids panhandlers and other pedestrians from standing on narrow medians in busy streets "makes sense from a safety standpoint."

So what would Geislinger like to do as a councilman? He'd like to change the city's self-image.

The former lawyer recalls how, when he worked with Mayor John Suthers in the District Attorney's Office in the late 1980s, the city had more than 300,000 residents but he thought the city was small.

"We are a big city. Nobody thinks of Atlanta as a small town," he said, though the Georgia city and Colorado Springs both have about 450,000 residents. "We're bigger than Miami, St. Louis, New Orleans. We have a responsibility to begin to govern our city as a big city."

The problem, "We haven't funded ourselves as we need to. We thought we could just get by."

That's related to the residents' well-known aversion to taxes, he said. And while he said he supports provisions of the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, which caps the city's tax revenues, he also believes citizens "need to approve tax increases."

"The City Council needs to be extraordinarily more vocal about our need to invest in ourselves. Businesses are not going to invest in Colorado Springs when the city won't invest in itself."

Part of that needed investment must be in low-income housing, he said.

But the "big three" issues that dominate the need for funding now are stormwater, infrastructure and public safety, Geislinger said.

In order to lure more businesses, "Why are we not showing off Palmer Park, the open spaces and recreational opportunities? These are the magnets that attract modern manufacturing and high-tech firms," he said. "The magnet repels when we're seen as intolerant, without a vibrant downtown, and as a city that doesn't provide low-income housing for low-income workers.

"We have the attraction we need to emphasize, and we have the repulsion we need to rectify."

He said he's "not a yes man" but is good at crafting compromises. "My decision-making paradigm is going to be based on serving the dignity of every single person in Colorado Springs."

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