Mayoral Candidates

Mayoral candidates answer questions about the cwater situation, parks and open spaces and fire at a forum Tuesday.

Eleven of 12 candidates vying to become the 42nd mayor of Colorado Springs spoke at a forum Tuesday to address land conservation, outdoor recreation and water.

Hosted by the Palmer Land Conservancy and KOAA News 5 at Ivywild School, candidates answered questions about the critical water situation, parks and open spaces and fire protection. All competing in the crowded mayoral race to replace term-limited Mayor John Suthers were in attendance, except for John “Tig” Tiegan, who had a work commitment.

There was underlying agreement among candidates Tuesday regarding the critical status of the Colorado River, the beauty and revitalization of parks and open spaces and fire mitigation, but previous career decisions and some political motives were called into question during the forum.

Sallie Clark was the first to address her plans for parks and recreation, saying as mayor she would look at the budget and find money to maneuver over to parks. Clark shared plans to reevaluate development park fees she said were reduced recently. “Several folks up here (candidates) voted actually in favor of reducing those parkland fees,” she said.

Yemi Mobolade also said voters could expect a financial investment in the parks under his mayorship. He said he wants to push the budget back up to 8% from 5% after it was reduced, and further reconsider financial support from there, in conjunction with an effort to address the city's aging infrastructure.

Andrew Dalby said the parks budget was not restored after it was cut over 10 years ago. “There are a number of people on this stage who were in City Council in 2008 and since then. They voted to cut the budget and never brought it back. The general funds is double what is was in the budget crisis of 2010 when they killed the parks, and the funding is not where it should be,” he said.

Jim Miller shared ideas to clean up parks, including addressing homeless populations by keeping convicted felons in prison if they would otherwise be unhoused and introducing opportunities to purchase ice cream and hot dogs for revenue.

A ballot question on extension of the TOPS sales tax, which provides revenue to be split among parks, trails and open spaces, is on the April ballot. The dedicated tax has funded the purchase of large parcels like Stratton Open Space and is expected to raise about $12 million in 2023, according to data from the city.

Wayne Williams joined fellow candidate and City Council member Tom Strand in supporting the extension of the TOPS tax through 2045, calling it a "critical funding source."

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However, Williams and Strand had opposing opinions on the approaching the city’s water issue, voting differently on a water ordinance that passed last month requiring Colorado Springs Utilities to have 128% of the water needed to serve existing city demands, and any projected need of future subdivisions before property is allowed into the city.

Strand, who voted against the ordinance, spoke against it at Tuesday’s forum, citing a need for more scientific evidence of where the city is headed. “We’re doing a study now that should take about nine months to see exactly where we are, whether we need this buffer of 28%, or whether or not we’re overreacting, and it’s going to negatively affect our ability to build, annex and have more housing,” he said.

Water was also addressed by other candidates in conjunction with another top issue: growth.

“I’m not willing to allow us (Colorado Springs) to continue to grow until we are absolutely able to make sure we that we have an adequate water supply to be able to support our community,” said Darryl Glenn, who wants to build an enforceable standard into the code. “I find it ironic that all these other forums we keep talking about affordable housing, and everyone wants to build, build, build, build. What good is building if you don’t have water, and you don’t have the ability to protect your property?”

Christopher Mitchell also spoke on growth and his plan for graduated growth planning as it relates to the water supply. He wants to evaluate development and every aspect of planning together comprehensively, rather than compartmentalizing issues like water.

Candidates with government and city experience called on previous experience addressing water issues in the city. Clark said she worked on the Fountain Creek Watershed, Flood Control and Greenway District Legislation Southern Delivery System. Williams said he worked on an initiative for the city to upgrade farmers’ irrigation systems and buy back the water that was saved.

However, Lawrence Joseph Martinez criticized politicians among the candidates who are asking for votes despite previous career moves. “To be a career politician, and not take care of the problems back then that we have now, just amazes me. They knew we weren’t going to have water. They knew we were running out of space,” he said.

As a citizen, he also called for more public access to things like Utilities meetings. “We should all be allowed to be part of the decisions that are made,” he said.

Kallan Reece Rodebaugh joined Martinez in calling for better fire education to protect the citizens of Colorado Springs. Many candidates commented on the “not if, but when” status of impending fires and fire season in the Pikes Peak region. Rodebaugh pledged to work with firefighters on the issue.

Two candidates addressed concerns over the influence of developers in the mayoral election. Dalby, who said his home in Mountain Shadows was threatened by the Waldo Canyon fire, said some candidates may not want to address fire mitigation because of developers who contributed to their campaigns.

“There are people here who — they received a quarter-million, half-million dollars from developers. They are dead-set against getting adequate evacuation. They’re absolutely in favor of getting densification on the west side where that sort of evacuation might cause loss of life, because somebody is offering them something in exchange,” he said.

Longinos Gonzales Jr. agreed, sharing his stance on developers and this election. “This election, this vote is critical. I want to make sure that a decision is made by residents, not developers, so do the research and see who has been a voice and an advocate,” he said, after claiming that a “handful of developers are trying to buy the election.”

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