Editor's note: This is the final installment in a six-part series on the Colorado Springs City Council races ahead of the April 6 election.
Garfield Johnson, an Army veteran, teacher and entrepreneur, is challenging Councilman Mike O'Malley to represent Colorado Springs City Council District 6, northeast Colorado Springs.
O'Malley, a U.S. Department of Transportation advisor and former Navy Reserve captain was appointed to his seat in January after Councilman Andy Pico, who was term-limited, won a seat in the state legislature.
The two are competing to represent one of the city's fastest growing districts that has grown around several county enclaves. The man elected to the seat will face an underfunded parks system, rapid urban growth, an ongoing push to legalize marijuana among other issues.
O'Malley supports Mayor John Suthers and the city's current growth management, he said.
"It may not be popular to say how great the city is running. ... I think what they are doing is incredible," he said. But there could be new opportunities on the horizon.
President Joe Biden's administration is expected to boost federal transportation funding and he would like to make sure corridors like Marksheffel Road are ready for construction if funding is available, he said. The city could also investigate different materials to patch roads to ensure they hold up better during the winter freeze-thaw cycle, he said.
Colorado Springs could also diversify its economy as the nation, city and state shift toward more renewable energy production, he said. The city has plenty of space on its eastern edge for new industrial companies to manufacture windmill turbines or batteries, he said. The railway could also be an attractive feature for manufacturers that could help diversify the economy, O'Malley said.
To help with pandemic recovery, O'Malley supported the recent sales tax break the city gave to restaurants and would support additional aid, he said.
"We are methodologically going through everything we can possibly go through to help the people that need it," he said.
When it comes to managing parks, O'Malley would like to see management and landscaping strategies that reduce their reliance on water, a highly valuable resource in our arid climate, he said.
O'Malley is against sending a question on legalizing marijuana sales to the voters because he wants the city to stay in alignment with federal law.
His experience in marine engineering sets him apart from his opponent and will be an asset as a member of the utilities board, he said.
Johnson said on his website, he would like to see the city create a comprehensive growth plan that would lessen current traffic concerns and incorporate future city needs. He would prioritize roads on the east side of District 6 in particular to accommodate growth. He would also support expanding public transit service instead and outside city limits.
The city should provide incentives to use public transportation and to carpool to ease congestion, he said, on his website.
To help with pandemic recovery, Johnson proposes reallocating funds from the city budget and using state and federal funding for financial relief, such as business grants, emergency loans, and allowing for long-term payment plans for payments currently due.
Johnson would also like to work on diversifying the economy and lowering start up costs for new businesses, such as city fees.
When it comes to public spending, he would prioritize public safety and public works, his website said.
He would also strive to protect the natural beauty of the area.
Johnson did not respond to a request for an interview on where he stands on issues such as parks management and asking voters to legalize recreational marijuana sales.