This truly is a year like no other. Come April 1, Election Day, Colorado Springs voters will select an unprecedented seven new people that will either lead our fast-growing city into the future -- or back to the past.
To add to the suspense, for the first time this year voters will pick their new leaders via an all-mail election ballot.
Colorado Springs is in the throes of an ongoing economic downturn, massive job layoffs, water shortages, drought, rising crime, a decade-long affordable housing shortage and alarming budget shortfalls that have already resulted in painful cuts to basic infrastructure, arts and culture, public transit, and innumerable other programs that depress our quality of life.
The Colorado Springs City Council is composed of a mayor and eight council members. Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace is term-limited from running again, and four current Council members have abandoned their elected seats in efforts to replace her. Only one incumbent, Richard Skorman, has opted to seek reelection. With seven open seats, a dizzying 27 people -- mostly men -- are running for office. It is safe to say that everyone is promising the moon and more.
Fortunately this year there are good, even great candidates running, folks who see the big picture and also understand that serving in office is a requirement in setting not only policy, but also the tone of the city.
This year the Independent committed to an exhaustive endorsement process that included formal interviews with 17 of the 27 candidates running.
Mayor: Ted Eastburn
Our mayor is the titular head of our city -- who not only chairs council meetings, but also inspires us, and perhaps most important of all, pulls our city together in times of crisis.
Our unequivocal endorsement goes to Ted Eastburn, a cardiologist who has served four years on Council. We can cite no better example of Eastburn's ability to react instinctively and with passion than his presentation at the Firefighters Memorial ceremony immediately after the tragedy of Sept. 11. (You can read his speech in the Independent's online archive at
While serving on Council, Dr. Eastburn, 49, has often been the lone voice raising tough questions, challenging the status quo, requesting additional information and insisting on thorough public dissemination. All the while, his style has been decidedly nonantagonistic.
We are convinced that Eastburn's leadership and creative problem-solving will be crucial for several key issues we face.
Water: Eastburn's prescription for aggressive but sensible water conservation efforts as well as his nonaggressive but firm commitment to develop win-win water compromises with Pueblo, Aurora and Western Slope communities is the only workable approach. We can count on him to forge important and long-neglected alliances with these other interests.
Health Care: Approximately one-fifth of our nonmilitary population in the Pikes Peak region lacks health insurance. Making matters worse, premiums are expected to continue to increase at double or even triple the annual inflation rate. Dr. Eastburn's medical background in private practice and in the military and his intimate ties to powerful allies in Washington D.C. place Colorado Springs in a unique position to explore and develop immediate local solutions to our national health-care crisis.
Tourism and the environment: Colorado Springs is the largest city in the nation that borders a national forest, and we have the potential to be a leading fishing, hiking, biking, rock climbing, cross-country ski and fitness destination. Eastburn, an avid cyclist and outdoorsman, is committed to developing the backside of Pikes Peak into an area that rivals Moab, Utah as an eco-tourist hub, and in doing so generate thousands of tourism related jobs.
Traffic: Eastburn wants to build an interconnected network of pedestrian and bike trails, using local, state, and federal dollars. This plan would help reduce congestion and pollution as well as help get our community in shape.
Eastburn is not beholden to any special interest, and his willingness to listen to all viewpoints has earned him endorsements from across the ideological spectrum, from the Pikes Peak Sierra Club to high-profile developer Doug Stimple. Past and current Chamber of Commerce presidents support him, as does the Colorado Springs Employee Association, the Voters Network, black activist Rev. Promise Lee, and El Pomar Foundation's Bill Hybl.
Eastburn is uniquely qualified to unite our city for the challenges ahead.
Contact info: 471-2803
City Council, Dist. 1: Tim Oliver
A former Assistant attorney general and a retired MCI manager, Oliver realizes that the city can be smart and responsible in its growth, and at the same time recruit and develop new jobs and business.
In addition to sustainable growth, Oliver, 60, identifies water conservation, transportation, traffic and wildfire danger as top concerns. He is heavy on accountability and honesty, and his approach is refreshing. If elected, he would potentially support an independent oversight panel that would investigate complaints against police. He also points out that, in building this city, we must follow the guidelines as outlined in our comprehensive plan.
Currently the president of High Plains Unitarian Universalist Church, Oliver is also active in numerous civic activities, including The Colorado Renewal Energy Society and Meals-on-Wheels. He epitomizes the best qualities of a citizen legislator and deserves your vote.
Contact info: 590-1060
City Council, Dist. 3: Lauren Arnest
In this election, one candidate stands out as being completely different, a breath of fresh air -- Stanford University-trained lawyer Lauren Arnest. A co-founder of Pikes Peak Green Party, Arnest, 48, is an unabashed liberal who believes we need to increase taxes to support our city's arts and cultural soul and feed and house those in need. She supports considering New Deal-type government projects to put people back to work and a living wage ordinance to ensure that workers earn enough to live on. Arnest also makes a compelling case that too much of our economic development is geared towards luring large corporations to Colorado Springs and giving them inappropriate tax breaks. Many of these companies, Arnest notes, often leave town at the advent of economic downturn or when another city makes a sweeter offer. Arnest wants the city to focus more of its development efforts to helping nurture small, locally owned businesses.
Because of her lack of financial resources, Arnest is a longshot in this five-person race. But she deserves your support -- if nothing else to send the message that not everyone in this community believes that all government is bad and all its workers lazy.
Contact info: 473-3219
At Large: Richard Skorman
Before he was first elected to the City Council four years ago, Skorman, the owner of downtown's Poor Richard's restaurant, toy store and book store, was a tireless community activist and helped lead the successful campaign to enact the Trails, Open Space and Parks ballot measure.
Once in office, he worked hard to preserve the Stratton Open Space and is now helping spearhead the current effort to preserve Red Rock Canyon as open space. Skorman, 50, is sensitive to the needs of our environment -- as evidenced by endorsements by the Sierra Club and Voters Network -- and able to consider the broader picture. His consensus-building style has also secured the trust of many of the city's business leaders -- as evidenced by endorsements from the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and the Home Builders Association. During the past 18 months, Skorman has developed a more forceful voice on Council and has the entrepreneurial skills needed to push progressive policy initiatives. He has expressed a strong desire to truly tackle the city's long-festering affordable housing crisis, as well as programs to combat domestic violence and remain a champion of sound growth management policies.
Skorman's calm demeanor coupled with his sharp intellect make it essential that he be returned to office.
Contact info: 578-1550
At Large: Larry Small
Retired electric engineer Larry Small served on the City Council for two years during the early 1990s at a time that Colorado Springs was pulling itself out of a bad economic slump. Smalls detailed knowledge of the city government is impressive, as is his style: smart, earnest, a straight shooter and a big-picture guy. While we disagree with his positions on some social issues, his support for sensible city policy, including supporting the recently adopted streamside ordinance and a willingness to consider reestablishing a sales tax to help pay for infrastructure cannot be discounted. Further, Small, 60, understands that a city that wants to be accessible to residents must have decent mass transit. Small likes to call himself an ordinary guy. But it is clear that he understands the need to balance sometimes-conflicting interests. Most importantly, his prior experience on Council, combined with decades of management experience, poise Small to help guide the city through what is likely to be a rough patch. Contact Info: 599-9481 firstname.lastname@example.org
The following two at-large candidates for at-large seats did not earn our full endorsement, but are head and shoulders ahead of the rest of the candidates running.
At Large: Randy Purvis
When Randy Purvis served on the City Council for 12 years beginning in 1987, his colleagues were often mystified over which side he might take on a given issue.
Purvis, an attorney, concedes that while in office he did his best to resist categorization, opting instead to review individual issues as they were presented rather than subscribing to a preset ideology.
That style of independent thinking can be refreshing, though in Purvis' case, it did not result in an ability to claim many victories.
This year, Purvis, 45, is focusing his campaign on the bread-and-butter issues that have emerged as critically important: the economy, jobs, water and capital improvements.
However, reminiscing over the fast growth of the '90s, Purvis has also matured when it comes to the importance of balancing basic services with quality of life. He offers praise for efforts to revitalize downtown and is concerned about society's increasing disconnect from family, friends, neighbors, and our democratic structures.
With 12 years of experience and institutional memory, Purvis is well qualified to serve again.
Contact info: 633-5175
At Large: Mark Entrekin
Entrekin, 44, currently heads a local telecom company and has been active in numerous civic projects. Twice he has run unsuccessful campaigns for the Colorado Legislature as a Democrat, but heartily rejects labels. "I am an intelligent conservative," he claims.
By way of example, Entrekin supports gun rights and the arts, and has expressed a desire to concentrate on improving airport services and efforts to build a convention-type civic center downtown.
Like many of the other candidates, Entrekin has a steep learning curve ahead of him to fully comprehend the size and the scope of the city he hopes to help lead. But we believe he has the potential to grow into an effective City Councilor.
Contact info: 548-9114
This year voters will be asked to extend the Trails Open Space & Parks (TOPS) measure, a 0.1 percent sales tax to preserve open space and build trails and parks.
Since voters initially approved the initiative in 1997, TOPS has generated more than $51 million. That amount includes about $25 million generated directly from the sales and use tax (10 cents for every $100 of taxable items purchased) and leveraged an additional $26 million in donations from citizens, private foundations and the State of Colorado's Great Outdoor Lottery Funds (GoCo).
The TOPS program is coordinated by the city's parks department and overseen by a volunteer Working Committee. So far, TOPS money has built 16 regional and neighborhood parks, playgrounds and ball fields; it has been used to complete 40 miles of walking and biking trails; and has preserved 3,129 acres of strategic open space for recreational uses as well as to protect our water supplies.
If extended, TOPS funds will be used to pay for dozens of additional parks, playgrounds and soccer and baseball fields. In addition, an interconnected hiking and biking trail network is slated, as are continued efforts to forever preserve such treasured open space, hiking and picnic areas as Red Rock Canyon, Union Meadows and Jimmy Camp Creek.
Where do I go to vote? The April 1 city elections will be conducted by mail ballot only. No polling places will be open, though there will be three drop-off locations if you choose not to send the ballot by mail. The locations are the Sand Creek police substation, 4125 Center Park Drive; the Falcon substation, 7850 Goddard St.; and the City Clerk's office, 30 S. Nevada Ave.
How do I get a mail ballot? All registered voters who cast a ballot in last November's county elections will automatically receive ballots via U.S. mail. The ballots will be sent out March 11. Other registered voters must obtain a special form from the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's office, at 200 S. Cascade Ave., and bring it to the City Clerk's office, in order to obtain a ballot.
What if I'm not registered? You're out of luck. The deadline to register was Monday.
What if I'll be out of town? You can make a signed, written request to have your ballot sent to an address other than your home address. The request must be received by the City Clerk's office by March 25.
When must the ballot be in? All ballots must be received at the City Clerk's office (by mail or drop-off) or at one of the other two drop-off locations (drop-off only) no later than 7 p.m. on Election Day, April 1. Simply having the ballot postmarked by April 1 is not sufficient it must be in the hands of election officials by the deadline.
Where can I get more information? Call the City Clerk's office, 385-5901, or visit www.springsgov.com (click on "city elections").
SOURCE: City Clerk's office.