Since posting, we heard back from Richard Skorman on the matter. He clarified that though the Gazette was eager to reference a message he sent to former Studio A64 owner K.C. Stark asking for a list of marijuana business owners to seek campaign donations from (and saying he was having some difficulties raising funds), Skorman hasn’t received any donations from the industry. “I told Wayne Laugesen (of the Gazette) that,” he explains, “which is why [the editorial] made me so mad.”
Skorman also noted that the Gazette omitted the part of his post to Stark that references the reason why he’s been having some trouble raising money. He says he’s heard from numerous supporters who’ve given to his past campaigns that they’re reluctant to give this time because of the influential feathers he ruffled during the Strawberry Fields ordeal.
“Both times [the Gazette] published the post they left out that part,” Skorman says. “And I resent that they say I’m anti-home building. It’s absolutely not true. I talk about affordable housing and attracting millennials a lot, but I do think developers should pay their way. The reason police and fire are so stretched right now is because of our stormwater burden and I don’t want that to happen again. It’s not ‘anti-home building’ to say we need to make sure everyone else doesn’t end up paying for it.”
The argument laid out by the Gazette was reductive to the point of insulting. The editorial board chose two policy distinctions between the candidates and held them in isolation to make sweeping generalizations about what each man represents.
Fowler, with his background in and support from developers and builders, is the candidate of homes. Skorman, with his willingness to allow local retail marijuana sales to fund public safety needs and openness to accepting donations from the industry, is the candidate of pot.
Got it? Let’s review. Fowler = homes, Skorman = pot. Now, because you, dear member of the reading public, are supposedly incapable of independent, nuanced thinking, let’s have the Gazette editorial board remind us that homes = good and pot = bad.
“Colorado Springs needs developers and homebuilders,” begins their glowing assessment. “Without them, we will never get affordable homes needed in the community's core to attract and retain young professionals who desire to live here and start families. Without them, we can't attract desirable primary employers who pay wages that boost the tax base. Without them, we'll have a hard time keeping graduates of our local colleges and people leaving military service. Without the work and investment of developers and homebuilders, our children must look for more affordable cities to call home as they become young adults.”
So, without developers, your kids will move away. But with pot, your kids will get fucked up.
See here: “We don't need streets lined with commercial pot shops selling a recreational drug that is increasing demands and costs in public safety, mental health services, homelessness and neighborhoods full of illegal grow houses.”
Now, allow us to correct the Gazette's record on this inane equation.
Let’s start with the premise that Skorman is “the pot candidate.” In response to the Indy’s campaign season questionnaire, five other candidates said they’d be willing to let voters decide on retail pot in city limits. And you don’t see anyone going around calling Helen Collins the pot candidate.
As for campaign cash, the editorial referenced a private message online in which Skorman asked someone in the marijuana industry for a list of cannabis business owners so he could reach out to raise money. Latest reporting shows he's pulled around $35,000 so far this campaign season, though no listed donors appear connected to the industry. Which means, no, he's not in the pocket of “Big Marijuana.”
The topic of special interests is indeed relevant though. For the Gazette to publish rave reviews of developers’ choice candidates is their prerogative. But, for there to be no disclosure of the paper’s own interests in that realm goes beyond innocent oversight.
The daily paper’s owner, billionaire Philip Anschutz, has major land and property holdings in the region — most notably in this context, The Broadmoor hotel. Recall that last year, The Broadmoor executed a controversial land swap with the City wherein it acquired a tract of public land in exchange for several parcels owned by The Broadmoor and a promise to take better care of Strawberry Fields than the city was able to.
Who fought the swap tooth and nail? That’s right, Richard Skorman — longtime parks and open space advocate with a proven record of caring about those issues enough to actually work on them. If he were truly “the pot candidate,” wouldn’t we have seen him leading campaigns, forming nonprofits and filing lawsuits on behalf of, say, local cannabis clubs?
When reporting and editorializing the Strawberry Fields story, the Gazette failed to mention its owner’s direct stake in the outcome. So, perhaps it should come as no surprise that when smearing the swap’s most vocal opponent, still no such disclosure appears.