Editor's note: This is the fourth installment in a six-part series on the Colorado Springs City Council races ahead of the April 6 election.
Councilwoman Yolanda Avila, a retired criminal defense investigator, will face Regina English, a business owner, nonprofit founder and doctorate student, in the race to represent District 4 in southeastern Colorado Springs.
The candidates are competing to represent a more liberal area of town, with a higher percentage of minority residents and higher rate of poverty.
Avila is one of three incumbents defending her seat on the nine-member board. The three at-large members -- Wayne Williams, Bill Murray and Tom Strand -- are not facing re-election this year.
The woman elected will take on issues such as an underfunded parks system, pandemic recovery, urban growth, the call for police reform, and an ongoing push to legalize recreational marijuana sales, among other challenges. The candidates shared their thoughts on these issues to help guide voters' decisions.
Avila said she is the first representative for her district in a long time to care about the community, and she's fought for issues beyond the day-to-day work of the City Council, including a advocating for a health clinic in the district, working on vaccine equity and getting involved with mental health promotion during the pandemic.
"It wasn’t until I came on that I put on a magnifying glass over southeast (Colorado Springs) and the social determinants of health," she said. Social determinates of health such as lower wages, transportation options, access to green spaces and access to health care among other factors can contribute to shorter life expectancies.
Avila said on the council she has successfully fought for better bus service, major improvements to Panorama Park and the first urban renewal projects in her district, she said.
She would support asking voters to increase funding for parks and continue to fight for basic services in southeast Colorado Springs parks, including restrooms, shade pavilions and trees, she said.
When it comes to growth, she would like to see better management that ensures residents can evacuate safely during a wildfire, she said. To provide more affordable housing, she would like to make sure that a portion of every housing project is set as aside as affordable, she said.
Avila fought for a stronger Law Enforcement Transparency and Accountability Commission and called the current system somewhat watered down. The board is examining department policies and might recommend changes to the council. However, she said the commission is providing some accountability regarding police outreach to the community.
Placing a question to legalize recreational marijuana sales is not her priority, but she would support a question and work on regulating those sales, restricting how many stores are allowed and where they can open.
English said she would bring a new perspective, ideas and leadership to the seat. She would also collaborate with her fellow officials in a meaningful way, she said via email.
To encourage pandemic recovery, English would work on more grants for small businesses, tax incentives, job training and mental health counseling. The city does not provide job training or counseling directly.
She would also like to invest more dollars in affordable housing and roads, she said. She would also work on helping small businesses expand and improving school districts.
Police accountability would be one of her priorities, and she would like the city to form an oversight committee that would hold the department accountable for "unethical policing and failure to deescalate before they shoot."
"A badge to protect and serve is not a license to kill!" she wrote, in response to Gazette questions.
She would also like to see more rigorous training along with a mental evaluation before anyone can become an officers.
On park funding, English would support asking voters for a sales tax increase and believes the community would back it, if they understand how the money will be used and proper oversight is in place.
She would also support asking voters to support recreational marijuana sales in town.