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Richard Skorman banking on experience in bid to rejoin City Council in District 3 race

March 8, 2017 Updated: March 8, 2017 at 11:59 am
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Richard Skorman Monday, February 6, 2017. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

Longtime Colorado Springs businessman and former Vice Mayor Richard Skorman has faced some speed bumps during his quest to rejoin the City Council.

He was delivered more than 1,000 misprinted campaign signs dubbing him "Chard Skorman." He also faced initial fundraising challenges he attributes to his more than yearlong battle with the city over its Strawberry Fields land swap with The Broadmoor. But as of March 1, Skorman had a healthy $34,919 in campaign donations - third most among the 14 candidates.

Skorman cites his experience as a veteran former vice mayor and two-term councilman in his contest for the District 3 seat against political newcomer Chuck Fowler.

A newcomer could struggle if the council has significant turnover in the April 4 election, said Skorman, who lost to Steve Bach in a 2011 race to become the city's first strong mayor.

With five of nine seats contested, and District 2 to be filled by a newcomer who is the sole candidate, months of orientation would be needed if multiple incumbents are ousted, the candidate said.

Skorman said it took him almost two years to "get comfortable" on the council and Colorado Springs Utilities board.

"That's what worries me about a new council," he said. "Institutional history is important. There's a lot of great opportunities right now if we have a council that will make the right decisions."

Such turnover would come as Colorado Springs is on the cusp of energizing downtown with a U.S. Olympic Museum near Vermijo Avenue and Sierra Madre Street and planned renewal of downtown's southwestern quadrant.

Skorman said the museum is important to further cultivate the city's Olympic brand and fitness-and-outdoors culture. That image is also crucial to his aim to attract more millennials to make the city their home.

The city needs better high-speed internet service, a more bicycle-friendly Pikes Peak region, and expanded and improved trails, said Skorman, long-time co-owner with wife Patricia of Poor Richard's Restaurant, Poor Richard's Books and Gifts, Little Richard's Toys Store and Rico's Cafe and Wine Bar, all on North Tejon Street downtown.

He said those developments and the 2016 arrival of the National Cybersecurity Center could be a catalyst to bring tech-minded people to the area.

"That's what is going to grow our economy in the future," Skorman said.Skorman, who also served twice as chairman of the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments, said making the Fort Carson Army post more technology-centered also could enhance the city's image and boost the economy. He sees the base as too "focused on infantry."

"That's not the kind of wars we're going to fight in the future," he said, noting a shift to unmanned vehicles and other tech strategies.

Skorman has fought for outdoors interests as a citizen and public official. He helped found the Trails, Open Space and Parks ordinance that commits sales taxes to buy and maintain those assets. He recently resigned as president of Save Cheyenne, the group suing the city over the swap of a 189-acre intermountain meadow to The Broadmoor, a case dismissed by El Paso County District Court and now before the Colorado Court of Appeals.

"Nine out of 10 people will say they come here because of the outdoors," Skorman said.

Skorman recently solicited donations from marijuana business owners to help fund his campaign.

He supports allowing recreational marijuana sales as a way to increase city revenue. "We should dedicate (revenue) to drug and alcohol issues or public safety."

He chuckled when asked about the 1,000 mucked-up campaign signs naming him "Chard Skorman."

"It certainly wasn't what we expected," but the printer's refund paid for 500 more "Richard Skorman" signs. He and his team decided to use the marred signs anyway, referring to "Chard" as "the healthy choice."

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The Gazette's Billie Stanton Anleu contributed to this report.

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