When they were elected as Colorado Springs City Council president and president pro tem, respectively, Keith King and Merv Bennett vowed to cooperate with Mayor Steve Bach, but also to make the Council a strong panel. And a day later, on April 17, King and Bennett joined their seven colleagues in voting as the Colorado Springs Utilities Board against continuing a $500,000 study — championed by the mayor — of selling or leasing the city's power utility.
Shooting down the study will probably not be this Council's last reversal of a previous action. For instance, as of press time members were poised to repeal the solar-garden subsidy approved April 9. (Seven Councilors on Monday sponsored the resolution, which was scheduled for a vote Tuesday afternoon, after the Independent's deadline.) The measure promised the addition of 10 megawatts of solar power, but would cost ratepayers $22 million over 20 years.
King, a former state legislator, says in an interview that he's already met with each Councilor to determine their priorities and what they want to accomplish.
"Anytime you change a major structure of an organization, you sit down and look for ways to collaborate," he says. "You figure out ways to disagree but not be disagreeable, and find out the priorities for this group of people. How do we work together to reach those goals? How do we focus our energies, so that we have an opportunity to go forward?"
King has scheduled a Council retreat for May 10 and 11 at a place to be determined, which will be open to the public. He says his own goals are to explore regulation of recreational marijuana, to work on economic development so that graduating college students can find opportunities here, and to "fight viciously" to keep utility rates low "so we can have job creation."
All signals point to a vigorous schedule — one King says he's capable of keeping despite having Parkinson's disease.
Parkinson's is a motor system disorder, which stems from the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Primary symptoms are tremor of the hands, arms, legs, jaw and face; stiffness of the limbs and trunk; slowness of movement and impaired balance and coordination. Progression of the disease varies.
"It has not disabled my ability to accomplish what I want to accomplish," King says in an interview, adding the symptoms are under control through medication.
To assure the disease won't interfere with his Council duties, King submitted to cognitive tests last week, he says, and reports, "I tested totally normal. I passed them with flying colors. I've never hidden [the diagnosis]." He also provided two letters from physicians and one from his friend, Steve Durham.
Dr. Richard Vu writes in an April 9 letter that King has a "mild" case that's been under "excellent control," adding, "Mr. King's Parkinson [sic] disease will not in any manner affect nor interfere with his service and performance as city councilman."
Dr. Laurence Adams, with Colorado Springs Neurological Associates, says in an April 11 letter that King was diagnosed in November 2010. "You have very little motor abnormalities, limited tremor, limited rigidity, fairly normal gait and balance at this point," Adams states in the letter to his patient, and adds, "you have absolutely no evidence of cognitive impairment."
Durham's April 10 letter calls King, a legislator from 1999 to 2011, "one of the hardest working members the General Assembly has ever had."
"This is a non-issue," Durham writes. "If Sen. King becomes Council President, this will have absolutely zero effect on his performance."