Tony Gioia and his wife just moved and are expecting their first child, a daughter, soon. But Gioia is further complicating his life by running for an at-large seat on the Colorado Springs City Council.
Gioia said his love for the city motivates him. He had started to run for the District 1 seat against Councilman Don Knight in 2017. But he backed out, saying he didn’t want to split the vote against Knight with Greg Basham, whom he endorsed. Knight won re-election.
Now, Gioia said, “We decided to do all the life changes at once. It’s exhausting, but it’s fun. This is my home. This is where I’m going to raise my family, and they’re going to carry me out feet first.”
Despite the crowded race for three at-large seats, Gioia said he has a strong chance to win, touting his local experience, insight and ideas as assets.
Gioia, 42, was born in the Bronx to parents who moved West when he was 2. He said he’s lived in Colorado, New Mexico and New Jersey but far prefers Colorado Springs’ natural beauty, often-overlooked arts scene and conservative atmosphere.
“We take care of our own stuff, and we really don’t care for others telling us what to do,” Gioia said, citing the 2012 and 2013 Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires and the resounding support victims got from locals. “The community has such a big heart, we come out of the woodwork to help each other.”
Gioia said he spent four years in the Army, working as a paralegal. He later worked for the University of Phoenix before settling into a career as a Realtor. He also served six years on the El Paso County Planning Commission, leaving last year after hitting his term limit.
“I didn’t really know what I was getting into, but I learned a massive amount about land use, water law, good neighbors and developers,” he said.
Gioia currently serves on the city’s Citizen Transportation Advisory Board, which he said spurred the city to help Mountain Metropolitan Transit create bus routes to resources on the city’s north side.
“People who need to get to the hospitals the most have no way to get there,” he said.
So this spring, inaugural bus routes will provide access to UCHealth Memorial Hospital North and the Pikes Peak Community College Rampart Range campus, he said.
“Public process takes time, but it does work,” he said.
Affordable housing and homelessness are two of the city’s most pressing issues, Gioia said.
The city can offer developers incentives to build more affordable housing by reducing the cost to connect to utility lines, he said, estimating that cost at tens of thousands of dollars. And it can provide tax incentives to help developers entering the affordable housing market, he said.
Publicity also might work, Gioia said, such as giving city recognition to builders who offer affordable housing. “That’s worth something,” he said.
Gioia said he supports a housing-first approach to homelessness, but with strings attached. Those benefiting must be treated for substance abuse or mental illness, if applicable, and be actively seeking jobs.
Some might criticize that approach as handouts, he said, but it’s effective and would cut city costs incurred by the homeless population.
Gioia said he wants more diversity on the city’s public boards and commissions, which have grown somewhat “incestuous” over recent years.
“We need to get millennials involved. This is their city,” said Gioia, who helped found Colorado Springs Fresh Perspective in 2015 to encourage diversity on the City Council. “We need (millennials) staying and not leaving.”
Gioia also said he wants the coal-fired Martin Drake Power Plant downtown to close sooner than its 2035 shut-down date, but he says that closure still is likely a decade away.
He said he doesn’t support placing a recreational marijuana referendum on a city ballot, but he wouldn’t try to block a citizen’s quest to do so.
At-large Councilmen Tom Strand and Bill Murray are seeking re-election in the April 2 municipal election, and other candidates are former at-large Councilman Val Snider, who served from 2011-15; Terry Martinez, former Will Rogers Elementary School principal; former Secretary of State Wayne Williams; and former state Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt.
The city’s website says the ballot also lists Regina English, Randy Tuck, Athena Roe and Dennis Spiker as at-large candidates.