Lathen draws a crowd for mayoral announcement

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Lathen jumps into the mayor's race in an industrial setting. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Lathen jumps into the mayor's race in an industrial setting.

Amy Lathen
launched her mayoral campaign on Monday evening at Qualtek Manufacturing Inc.'s facility on North Nevada Avenue, or as she said, "where the jobs are being created."

Lathen spoke to a crowd of about 140 people who munched on meatballs, cheese, fruit and chips and were entertained by a small musical combo. The master of ceremonies was Byron Embry, a motivational speaker who gave the event a revival feel, further enhanced by an opening prayer given by pastor Steve Holt, who asked God to be with Lathen.

Lathen, an El Paso County commissioner who will be out of a job in early 2017 due to term limits, kicked off her campaign for the $96,000-a-year mayor's gig by making promises to the business community and, well, making more promises to the business community. Her 20- to 25-minute speech was loaded with deferential statements to business.

She devoted exactly two paragraphs within a five-page, single-spaced speech to the parks system, and then quickly moved on to land-use planning and, again, hammered on removing "regulatory burdens" from business and promising to "resist regulatory overreach and peel back bureaucratic business-busting policy."

Specifically, Lathen wants to abolish the city's business personal property tax, which she said brings in $1.9 million a year. The county phased out its BPPT in the 1990s, a decade or more before Lathen came to office in 2008.

She also promised tax relief and regulatory relief for business and, while praising the military, said she would work to diversify the economy.

She even framed her support of nonprofits in terms of business. "I will focus on our vibrant nonprofit industry as the vital partners and economic drivers that they are. Our nonprofits and faith-based organizations fill gaps in service delivery, which we cannot fill, and those partnerships are not only invaluable to our community but must be fostered and enhanced."

As for governing, Lathen, without naming him, lashed out at Mayor Steve Bach, who hasn't announced his plans.

"I will not push people out and pay them hush money if they disagree with me," she said, a reference to Bach's use of severance pay to rid the city of dozens of workers, most recently former city attorney Chris Melcher.

"I do not believe that the strong-mayor form of government ever intended for there to be a holy war between City Council and the Mayor's office," she said to much applause. "I do not believe that the strong-mayor form of government describes a dictator form of government, and I believe that we all deserve better."

She then borrowed from contender Mary Lou Makepeace's candidate announcement, saying, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result." (Makepeace said on Nov. 12: "We keep doing what we've always done and foolishly expect new and different results. Some people call that insanity.")

Lathen proposed that city elections no longer be held in April in odd-numbered years but rather in November to save money, though she didn't offer data to support the money-saving motive. Moving the election to November undoubtedly would give city elections more of a partisan flavor, which would suit Lathen just fine. A staunch Republican who leans toward tea party values, she's provided a constant drumbeat of criticism of Democrats, President Obama specifically, and has voted to reject federal money. She was introduced at her launch party Monday night by Bob Gardner, outgoing Colorado House member who used to serve as the El Paso County GOP chair.

Did we mention that city races are supposed to be nonpartisan?

Anyway, Lathen will get plenty of support from county employees, a bevy of whom showed up for the announcement, including County Administrator Jeff Greene.

Attorney General John Suthers, who finishes his second term in January, also is running for mayor and will make his formal announcement after completing his AG term.

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