Just because the federal government yells the loudest and embarrasses us the most, doesn't mean it has the most direct impact on our day-to-day lives. It's local government that stands as the foundation of American democracy. And it's decisions made at the city level that most directly affect us as residents.
This year, voters will be asked to choose three at-large City Council members from a slate of 11 and the city's chief executive from a field of four mayoral hopefuls. We composed candidate questionnaires and combed through reams of responses; heard from candidates and advocates on both sides of the ballot measure, and debated the issues among ourselves.
Here's what we think.
- Courtesy Martinez campaign
- Terry Martinez
When it came to City Council, two candidates immediately stood out. Our editorial board unanimously and enthusiastically throws its support behind Terry Martinez and Bill Murray.
And yet, two more divergent personalities are hard to imagine.
Martinez, a retired Colorado Springs School District 11 chemistry teacher and principal and now development director for nonprofit Concrete Couch, supports letting the voters decide on recreational marijuana sales within city limits and on any future sale of park land and open spaces. The Colorado Springs native is a strong advocate for proactively protecting our air, water, parks and open space, and endorses closing Drake as quickly as possible. We appreciate his positions on these issues.
Just as important, Martinez truly knows how to listen. He is a thoughtful, articulate and tremendously kind individual who would bring both administrative and coalition-building experience to the board. With many critical projects looming for the city, Martinez would be a calm voice and accessible ear for all city residents. His long history as an educator and administrator gives him the financial, managerial and very human experience required to understand constituents' needs.
Then there is Murray.
Here's the thing, we like that the incumbent is fearless in asking the tough questions that need answers. We like that he has a history of being a naysayer. And while Murray can come across as a curmudgeon, it is admirable that he is willing to push back and seek more information when he feels Council is headed in the wrong direction.
Murray raised the red flag over the Strawberry Fields swap, and told us if re-elected he would shepherd the Protect Our Parks measure onto the ballot. He has long advocated for asking voters to legalize pot sales within city limits. He envisions a 2024 timeline for the closure of Drake, but says the key will be making sure that the infrastructure is in place to prevent rolling blackouts. We like Murray's views and commend him for his fearless willingness to be who he is and to stand firm on critical issues.
- City of Colorado Springs
- Bill Murray
But is he going to be a coalition builder? Not so much. While he earned our nod for a second term, we would like to humbly suggest Murray read Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People before once again taking the oath of office.
The best of the rest...
And that's where things get fuzzy. The rest of the pack didn't offer a deeply prepared shining star about whom we felt strongly enough to offer a full-scale endorsement.
But we do feel comfortable saying that Wayne Williams is the best of the rest and worthy of a vote.
Williams is a perennial political figure here in Colorado Springs — a former El Paso County commissioner (2003-2011), county clerk (2011-2014) and most recently, the Colorado secretary of state (2014-2018). Clearly, he is experienced enough to be an effective councilor from day one, and his extensive connections in the state Legislature and across the nation would be a boon to the city.
Williams' candidacy, however, poses problems on several fronts. His wife, Holly Williams, is a newly sworn El Paso County Commissioner and we have serious concerns about the risks posed by that much power being vested in one family's hands.
Second, he all but announced he'll seek the mayor's seat four years from now, when incumbent John Suthers is term-limited. The city does not need Williams jockeying for the top while serving on Council ... that could be a recipe for disaster.
- Courtesy Wayne Williams
- Wayne Williams
It's also disconcerting that Williams is a career politician, rather than a constituent leader. And, even though The Washington Post declared Colorado — on Williams' watch — had the nation's most secure voting system, we still find it squishy that in that role he turned over Colorado voting records to Trump's ludicrous voter-fraud commission. Did he hand over any documentation that wasn't straightforward public record? Admittedly, no. But does the issue remain that he handed it over? Yup.
Nonetheless, Williams' strengths, knowledge and connections outweigh his weaknesses. Of the remaining candidates, he is by far the best and is thus our third choice.
Editor's note: The Indy discloses any real or possible perception of conflicts of interest, thus, we note that Indy Chair John Weiss' teenage son is volunteering for the Martinez campaign, and that Concrete Couch is the fiscal sponsor of our nonprofit sister publication, Southeast Express. The Independent donates office space to the Concrete Couch. Both Weiss and Express Founding Editor Regan Foster recused themselves from Martinez's endorsement interview.
- Matthew Schniper
- Mayor John Suthers
The mayor's campaign is a "race" in name only, and the reason why is as obvious as the endorsement. Mayor John Suthers.
After the discord of his predecessor's term, Suthers worked hard to gain the respect of City Council, and that has significantly reduced the dysfunctional cat fighting among our elected representatives. He has used his political skills to focus on winnable fights, and we applaud his leadership on the long-overdue stormwater issue.
That being said, we don't always see eye to eye. We wish the mayor were not so timid on all things marijuana, and he is far too beholden to moneyed interests for our liking. (See the Strawberry Fields land swap debacle.) But no other candidate has the leadership or administrative chops to lead our city, and with the renewal of critical programs like TOPS coming up before 2025, we could use his steady hand.
No, Suthers is not perfect. But he's earned a second term in office.
In the course of our endorsement interviews, we had the chance to meet with a lot of candidates. But two first-time hopefuls stood out and gave us hope for the future of our community: Council candidate Regina English and would-be mayor Juliette Parker.
These two women are a breath of fresh air compared to the predominantly middle-aged, upper-middle-class, white, male profile that is the face of Colorado Springs politics. Both have experienced and overcome poverty, both founded and guide nonprofits (English heads Be You/Yes M.A.A.M, while Parker is the chief of MENDA). Both are educated, articulate and charismatic, and both would bring some much-needed fresh perspectives to Council chambers.
But neither strikes us as ready... yet.
We wish that Parker, an affordable-housing advocate who is working to build a tiny-home village and whose knowledge of land-use issues impresses, had run for City Council this time around. That would be a better launching pad, since she has only lived in our city for two years.
And English, whose nonprofit teaches young women of color grace, poise and the vital role of civic engagement, needs to be a bit more up to speed on the issues before being elected to run our city.
But that's not to discourage. There is a history of strong leaders making first bids, boning up on the issues and coming back not just to participate, but to excel. We can't overstate the importance of these two candidates staying engaged: The city needs their type of leadership and participation.