At the close of the west-side town hall meeting Feb. 19, Mayor Steve Bach asked, "Would you like to do this again sometime?"
Applause and cheers erupted from a standing-room-only crowd at the Old Colorado City History Center, a reaction similar to others Bach has received at town halls and public appearances.
Colorado Springs' first "strong mayor" captured 57 percent of the vote in the May 2011 mayoral run-off, and has built an even greater following since, according to a recent Luce Research poll commissioned by the Independent. About 10 percent greater, judging from 300 likely voters surveyed from Feb. 1 through 4.
The poll showed 67.3 percent of respondents with a favorable impression of Bach, versus 22.3 percent with an unfavorable impression. Nine percent were unsure, and 1.3 percent hadn't heard of him or refused to answer the question.
Meanwhile, City Council got a weak endorsement, with only 44.3 percent having a favorable impression. Also, the April 2 ballot measure to raise Council pay from $6,250 to $48,000 was slammed by up to 74 percent of those polled, depending on how the question was asked.
Among other results from likely voters, about three-quarters of whom were 55-plus (see "Mature themes," News, Feb. 13):
• U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, who won his fourth term in November, earned a favorable rating from 52 percent of respondents, while 36 percent expressed disfavor.
• Allowing hydraulic fracturing by oil and gas drillers within city limits was opposed by 51 percent, with 45 percent supporting it; 4 percent were unsure.
• A majority — 60.3 percent — said things in their part of Colorado Springs are moving in the right direction; 26.3 percent said they're moving in the wrong direction, while 13 percent weren't sure or didn't know; .3 percent refused to answer.
The differences in city leaders' ratings didn't surprise Richard Skorman, the former Councilor who ran against Bach two years ago and has since headed a Parks Solutions Team for the mayor. "After the Waldo Canyon Fire, there were a lot of positive comments in my world," Skorman says of Bach. "People thought he was doing a good job."
In addition, Skorman notes, Bach helped resolve high-profile issues such as parks watering and reseeding, and reversed other measures Council took when revenue plunged amid the recession.
Council's low approval rating, Skorman says, is due to infighting marked by split votes.
Neighborhood activist and long-time volunteer Jan Doran echoes Skorman on that point. And she thinks the regard for Bach, with whom she's tangled as a member of the Regional Stormwater Task Force, stems mostly from his pledge to not increase taxes or propose new ones.
"We have that fairly large part of our population that think all taxes are bad," she says, "and when they see someone who wants to prevent more taxation, they think that's good and don't evaluate the whole story."
Asked for his take, Josh Dunn, associate professor of political science at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, points out that a single executive tends to have a built-in advantage over a legislative body. "It's easier for the mayor to not project confusion and uncertainty," he says. "You see it from the presidency and Congress on down."
But, he notes, "there's a lot of residual distrust of Council," citing the controversial 2009 deal to retain the U.S. Olympic Committee's headquarters and the 2007 action to impose a stormwater management fee on property owners. Opposition to a pay raise for Councilors, he says, likely is tied to that distrust.