candidate forum (copy)

Colorado Springs City Council President Tom Strand started his run for mayor Monday. He joins four other candidates in the race.  (File photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

Colorado Springs City Council President Tom Strand joined the race for mayor Monday and promised to increase support for public safety if elected.

The city needs more police, increased fire protection and upgrades to emergency management, Strand told a small crowd gathered at Memorial Park. 

"I think everybody is on edge and they feel nervous and insecure," he said in an interview. 

In light of the recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 19 students and two teachers, he said he would like to see the police plan for similar attacks so the community can be prepared. He said he would also ensure the police force is increased from about 730 officers to 850, two new needed fire stations are built and the wildfire evacuation plans for the community are updated. Those are all goals he said he can achieve without raising taxes on the community. 

Mayor John Suthers' administration has authorized funding for about 800 officers total; the Springs Police Department is in the process of hiring and training about 70 officers. 

Strand said he would work to increase retention and recruitment efforts at the department by showing officers they are appreciated and working on more on-the-ground hiring efforts in other cities. The department also needs to implement the recommendations in the recently completed Transparency Matters report, to ensure officers are better trained to use force, he said. The study found officers feel under trained. 

To improve safety, the city must also address a shortage of 911 dispatchers, Strand said. He noted the last time he called dispatch to report a downed power line, he waited seven minutes for someone to answer — a long time if someone is in a true emergency. 

The regional emergency management department also needs more staff and updated communications equipment, he said, so the community can be better prepared for a disaster. 

"It is not if we are going to have a wildfire, it is when we are going to have it," he said. 

He said he would work with the community members who have called for updated wildfire evacuation plans to build consensus on the best approach. 

The City Council may pass new impact fees on development that could help fund construction for needed fire and police stations in new areas of town. 

As a possible recession looms, Strand said the next mayor will likely have to contend with tight fiscal constraints. He said he would rely on grants and public-private partnerships to help pay for public safety needs, not a sales tax increase.

The housing shortage also needs attention and Strand said he would look to cut the fees for hooking up to utilities to help make building more affordable.

He would bring seven years of experience on City Council to the job and a voting record that reflects moderate values that aren't far left or far right, he said. 

"We are going to make things better and safer. I am not going to be pulled to some radical side," he said. 

Strand is the fifth candidate to get into the race; he joins Councilman Wayne Williams, County Commissioner Loginos Gonzalez, former councilman and County Commissioner Darryl Glenn and entrepreneur Yemi Mobolade.

Suthers is term-limited and cannot run again. The person elected will be the third strong mayor in the city's history, responsible for running the city services. 

Contact the writer at mary.shinn@gazette.com or (719) 429-9264.

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