For the two men vying to become the next mayor of Manitou Springs, infrastructure is a key issue, a Gazette survey found.
John Graham, who once ran a local newspaper, and Alan Delwiche, the chairman of the Manitou Springs Planning Commission, will face off in the Nov. 5 election. The winner will take over from Mayor Ken Jaray, who isn't running for a second term.
Graham owned and operated the weekly Pikes Peak Journal for 18 years. In 1997, he sold the newspaper to a Texas-based company, which later shut it down. He also worked as a software engineer.
Delwiche has served on a variety of boards and commissions, including Manitou’s Housing Advisory Board. He began his career as a software developer working for a small local government and later owned a business.
The Gazette surveyed each candidate on problems faced by the community of roughly 5,300 people, which has seen everything from fires and floods to parking crises brought on by peak tourism season.
Here's how the contenders responded:
THE GAZETTE: What's the most pressing issue facing the city, and how do you plan to address it?
GRAHAM: Manitou Springs has a number of critical problems, but our aging infrastructure is certainly a standout. Several times a week, our city crews respond to water and sewer problems – frequent reminders that we have neglected the basics. Historically, we have tried to address this, but our efforts have frequently been derailed by budget problems or distracted by other issues. We need to budget wisely and stay focused on improvements.
DELWICHE: We must find a better balance between commerce and safe, livable neighborhoods. While lots of tourists are good for business, excessive, poorly-managed traffic is degrading the quality of life for many citizens. We are at risk of seeing the attractions on Ruxton Avenue overwhelm the entire city transportation infrastructure. We must assert our rights and engage in respectful, productive negotiations with other stakeholders (Colorado Springs, Cog Railway, CSU, Incline Friends, others) to reduce the traffic, parking and congestion challenges caused by these attractions. Incline fees or reservations, remote parking, early morning parking fees and more citywide shuttles are all part of the solution.
THE GAZETTE: What policies or projects do you propose to ensure that Manitou Springs is well equipped to handle the wave of tourism it sees every summer?
GRAHAM: The chief problems are parking and traffic and these are greatly aggravated by the intense use the Incline gets. Incline use – upwards of 350,000 trips annually – is far heavier than the predictions of four years ago. When the Cog Railway reopens in 2021, it will roughly double that volume. What is challenging now will only become more difficult unless we manage this smartly. Parking should be increased, probably with a parking garage. Our existing shuttle service is key to reducing traffic. The Incline should be managed with a fee to help cover related costs. These are no longer summer-only issues, but have grown to become year-round problems.
DELWICHE: We must implement strategies that reduce the number of vehicles in the downtown core without sacrificing clientele for our businesses. Encouraging a culture less reliant on vehicles and more reliant on alternative modes of transportation is a good start. We should invest in surface lots on the east, west, and north edges of town and provide frequent, reliable shuttle service and safe bike routes throughout Manitou. The creek walk trail is essential. It should be a high priority project.
THE GAZETTE: As housing costs continue to rise across the Pikes Peak region, how will you work to ensure that rents and home prices are attainable in Manitou Springs?
Graham: Manitou’s Housing Authority Board is addressing this and the city’s Urban Renewal Authority is also factoring affordable housing into its plans. Although the city does not supply housing, it should work at controlling the related expenses of utilities and taxes. We must avoid "hidden" long-term costs we cannot afford. All housing – affordable and otherwise – depends upon having a well-managed budget and reliable infrastructure.
Delwiche: I will support and encourage the re-purposing and rehabilitation of existing buildings. I will encourage the Manitou Urban Renewal Authority to use their proceeds to incentivize the development of mixed-use projects with a residential component. I will support current efforts by the Housing Authority Board to identify high impact changes to city code/city requirements to reduce the regulatory barriers to building affordability. To prevent the loss of existing workforce housing, I will not support any increase in the current 2% cap on short-term vacation rentals.
THE GAZETTE: What role should the city play in stimulating economic growth, especially along Manitou Avenue's eastern corridor?
GRAHAM: Although the city provides financial support to the Chamber of Commerce, this relationship might be enhanced to promote more effective year-round marketing, particularly to the Colorado Springs and Denver markets. The Incline brings a lot of people to Manitou, but they typically are not big spenders and they need parking and shuttle services, which the city has been subsidizing. That strategy has reached its limit and demands rethinking. Regarding the eastern corridor, Manitou’s Urban Renewal Authority is making progress on this, suggesting a likely mix of retail and residential uses and replacing blighted properties.
DELWICHE: We must use both monetary incentives and regulatory relief to attract the type of development that we need. Some of the considerable funds accumulated by the URA should be used for public/private partnerships focused on mixed-use development that will include attainable housing as well as commercial amenities.
THE GAZETTE: What distinguishes you from your opponent?
GRAHAM: I grew up amid the family business, the Pikes Peak Journal, Manitou’s weekly newspaper. I’ve seen the fiber of Manitou across many years and from a variety of perspectives. I’ve seen it in community events and its people, in good times and bad, all with its many quirks and idiosyncrasies. To me, Manitou is all these things and will temper my sense of actions and the future.
DELWICHE: I have been involved with our city affairs for over two decades through participation on city boards and commissions. Besides giving me a great understanding of the limits and opportunities of our municipal government, I have gained a first hand understanding of the issues and concerns faced by each of our neighborhoods. As chair of the planning commission, I have demonstrated that I have the ability to stimulate productive, respectful dialog that leads to constructive decisions and outcomes.