The Gazette editorial board has issued report cards on the City Council and the mayor of Colorado Springs. We entertain no illusion that all or most readers will agree with our assessments and look forward to publishing opposing views.
Mayor Steve Bach
Economy and jobs: B
In a state of the city address in August 2012, Mayor Steve Bach asked community leaders to help increase civilian employment in the region by 6,000 new jobs each year over the course of three years. The goal was considered pie-in-the-sky. By June of 2013, the region's economy had generated 5,788 new civilian jobs, but sequestration helped reduce the number to 4,039 before the end of the year. Along with the City Council, the mayor was instrumental in securing a lease agreement between the city's Memorial Health System and University of Colorado Health, which paved the way for a new branch of the university's medical school and a new children's hospital. Bach fought to continue funding the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance and the Convention and Visitors Bureau. He has pledged to make Colorado Springs the most business-friendly city in the United States. He has been a leading proponent of City for Champions, a proposal to leverage existing tourist assets. Bach persuaded state government to rebate $120 million in taxes to help pay for it. He was instrumental in forming the Pikes Peak Mayors Caucus, which has been effective in moving forward several initiatives important to the region. Though Bach cannot control federal government and a great variety of economic factors, the city's unemployment rate remains too high. Achieving the full 6,000 new jobs would have earned the mayor an A in economics.
Colorado Springs Airport: A
Bach appointed new management, which was badly needed and a task force, composed of some of the region's most successful business leaders, to reverse the downward trajectory of the Colorado Springs Airport. He was instrumental in attracting a major airline. He has routinely spent time at the airport to greet and thank travelers who use it. There is a plan in place and progress is being made. His commitment to making the airport competitive with nearby Denver International, the fifth busiest in the country, is not in question.
Public safety: A
While reducing civilian staffing throughout city government, Bach has added 75 firefighters and 75 cops and community service officers. He has increased downtown patrols in response to business leaders who claim customers fear the area. Bach added surveillance to downtown and has increased law enforcement in southeast areas of the city in response to high crime rates. Bach successfully advocated spending $10 million in city reserves - after increasing reserves through efficiencies to a historical high of $53 million - for urgent flood mitigation projects after the Waldo Canyon fire. His 2014 budget includes money to replace aging patrol vehicles.
Bach, along with other mayors throughout the region, was instrumental in securing money to pay for pending improvements to the Cimarron and I-25 interchange that have been on the drawing board for 40 years. Bach has nagged state transportation officials to spend a proportion of money in the Pikes Peak region that better corresponds with the area's population and the tax revenues it generates. Bach ended the Front Range Express (FREX), which had Colorado Springs subsidizing intercity bus service for Monument, Castle Rock and Denver. By ending FREX, Bach freed up funds to restore intracity evening, holiday and Sunday bus service. After Bach ended FREX, state transportation officials began working to restore service in a manner that does not impose unfair costs on Springs taxpayers.
Bach has cooperated with the City Council in restricting retail recreational marijuana sales and in prohibiting the drug at the airport and in all municipal buildings.
Political prowess: D
Despite an impressive record of achievements, Bach has garnered a reputation for not working well with others. His full-speed ahead approach to achieving goals often leaves other leaders feeling left out and/or disrespected. One Bach advocate suggested a fundraising event to pay for sending the mayor to charm school.
Overall performance: B
As the first full-time, executive mayor of Colorado Springs, Bach has come on strong as a municipal reformer. He inherited a city government in battle with the public. Public servants had shut off one-third of streetlights, stopped watering grass in parks, removed garbage cans from parks, allowed street medians to go unattended and engaged in every "we'll show the public" Washington Monument tactic imaginable to get back at voters for declining to raise taxes. We even had a City Hall public relations campaign designed to make Colorado Springs look bad in the national press. If Bach had average diplomacy and coalition-building skills, he would receive an A in overall performance.
Note: Colorado Springs typically has mail-in ballots. We are working in a similar fashion, publishing a sample report card on page A23 in Sunday's print edition of The Gazette that you can buy today. You can clip and return the report card to us with your grades of the mayor and City Council.