9 questing to be ‘strong mayor’

       Nine candidates are vying for the position of Colorado Springs mayor in the April 5 election.
       The post has taken on more significance since city voters approved Issue 300 in November, which changed the city charter, effective after this election.
       The new, so-called “strong mayor” will have more power and more responsibility than past mayors, along with a bigger paycheck ($96,000 a year as opposed to the current $6,250). The new office-holder will essentially replace the city manager as chief executive officer of the city, with the added power to veto any council ordinance (a 2/3 vote of the nine-member council would be needed for an override). The potentially visionary duties of the city manager, including proposing a budget and a “strategic plan” for the city, will also belong now to the mayor.
       The position is considered demanding enough, according to Issue 300, that the mayor can't hold any other job.
       Offering to take on that challenge are (listed alphabetically) Steve Bach, Brian Bahr, Mitch Christiansen, Kenneth Paul Duncan, Tom Gallagher, Buddy Gilmore, Phil McDonald, Dave Munger and Richard Skorman.
       Only Gallagher (currently) and Skorman (previously) have ever served on City Council.
       At press time, all the candidates above (except Bach) had agreed to participate in a forum for all candidates (including City Council ), sponsored by the Organization of Westside Neighbors Thursday, Feb. 24 at the Westside Community Center. (See story, Page 7).
       Note: A majority vote is required to elect the new mayor. If none of the nine gets 50 percent April 5, a runoff will be scheduled from the top two placers, according to the City Clerk's Office.
       As a way of introducing the mayoral candidates to Westside residents, the Westside Pioneer asked them to provide basic background information about themselves:
       Age.
       Family status.
       Main career.
       Time lived in Colorado Springs.
       Part of town residing in.
       Also, they were asked to answer two questions (125 words or less for each):
       1. Summarize how you would change Colorado Springs.
       2. Summarize how you see the Westside - particularly in terms of its historical value - fitting into your plans.
       The responses to these requests from each candidate start on this page and the next.


Brian Bahr
       Age: 40.
       Main career: Although my education is in accounting and information systems, 11 years ago my wife and I started a homebuilding company that has grown into one of the more successful companies in Colorado Springs.
       Family status: My wife and I celebrate our 17th anniversary this year. We have five children ages 7 to 14, four of them born in Colorado Springs.
       How long in Colorado Springs? We moved here right after graduate school in early 1995.
       Part of town you live in? North end of the city.
      
       1. Change Colorado Springs?
       We live in a beautiful city that we love. Many things are going well, and yet there are areas where we can be even better. All it takes is vision and leadership. My vision for Colorado Springs is a world-class city with a strong economy, where good jobs are plentiful, where city services are exceptional , and where taxpayers are treated like valued customers. In my vision, bold competition allows our city to do more with less, stretching every taxpayer dollar to deliver higher quality service at a lower cost. In my vision for our city, we help the next generation of Colorado Springs, investing in our youth by teaching them the time-tested values of honesty, hard work, and respect. Learn more at SpringsMayor.com.
      
       2. Westside fit?
       From small businesses to community parks and from tourist attractions to tight-knit neighborhoods, the Westside is a special, unique part of Colorado Springs. We must honor our past, including the rich heritage of the Westside, while embracing a bold vision for an even better future. As mayor, I'll make sure we serve the citizens with exceptional customer service. We will prioritize existing revenues on essential city services, such as police and fire, repairing our crumbling infrastructure and maintaining our parks. The Westside residents and businesses will benefit from this focus on the basics with lower crime, better roads, and a stronger economy.


Steve Bach
       Age: 68.
       Main career: Commercial real estate broker.
       Family status: Married to Suzi for 27 years. Two grown children.
       How long in Colorado Springs? 45 years, including a stint at Fort Carson.
       Part of town you live in? Briargate.
      
       1. Change Colorado Springs?
       I will transform city government so that it works for everyone again - without increasing taxes. I will lead the way to create stable, well-paying jobs by getting the economy going again and keeping it vibrant. This will be done in part by cultivating goodwill with our existing primary employers and by inviting other compatible companies to locate here. And I will build alliances with the state and other Front Range communities to protect our interests. Working together, we CAN get Colorado Springs back on track again.
      
       2. Westside fit?
       I support the historical areas of the Westside and see their value to a vibrant economy. Histor-ical districts are best served when government at any level stays out of the way and allows local, private organizations to make their own decisions.


Mitch Christiansen
       Age: 64.
       Main career: independent real estate broker with background in farming, carpentry, homebuilding, wastewater treatment plants, pipelines, dams and bridges.
       Family status: Married to Sue for 42 years. Two children, Jenny and John, with five grandchildren.
       How long in Colorado Springs? 18 years.
       Part of town you live in? Rockrimmon area.
      
       1. Change Colorado Springs?
       I anticipate making changes to Colorado Springs after I first determine every revenue stream, every cost, every liability and every asset. To attempt to make changes before having this information would be foolish. My second step would be to have City Council rescind its authority over CSU and MHS and place them under the city umbrella again. Appoint a board of directors made up of business people that have knowledge in those areas. Council needs to govern, not attempt to run a utility. As I continue on I will analyze every aspect of city operations and functions from the bottom up. Find out what is the problem, if any. I will eliminate redundancy, make efficiency the goal.
      
       2. Westside fit?
       The Westside is very unique in its character, but has some serious problems to be resolved. Those problems cannot be easily resolved as the city and county are divided by a state highway. It will take considerable effort to move the state in a direction of cooperation and funding to fix the street and drainage issues prior to its being taken over by the city or county. I would think it would be beneficial for the city to annex the unincorporated area so that full services can be provided uniformly. The solutions will not happen overnight yet they need to be placed in the system to be taken care of. Dollars can be found for many other items; they can be found for these issues.


Kenneth Paul Duncan
       Age: 48
       Main career: Cus-tomer service in one form or another. I am presently unemployed.
       Family status: Married with three daughters, one from my first marriage and two from my present marriage. My oldest daughter is 21, the next is 16, and my youngest is 14.
       Time in Colorado Springs: A total of 20 years, but this latest stretch has been 16 years.
       Part of town you live in? Southeast side of town, near Hancock and Academy.
      
       1. Change Colorado Springs?
       The change I think is most important, and the one I may have the best chance of bringing to fruition, is to stop spending every dime we take in. In other words, we need a savings account to be built in the good times in order to help us through the down times. We MUST stop spending every penny we make. My next goal will be to be a national leader in the way we pay our city employees, from the police and fire departments on through to office personnel. I am proposing pay freezes and salary caps and asking all employees to pay more of their health insurance premiums. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.
      
       2. Westside fit?
       I see the Westside like this. Who we have been is who we should strive to be. Resourceful, Strong, Resilient, Friendly, and Leaders. I would like to see the Westside retain its historical look and flair. However, I do not want to relegate it to a tourist area only. It would be great if the Westside could pull in citizens from our area all year long. I would love to hear what the Westside wants.


Tom Gallagher
       Age: 49.
       Main career: Surveyor with a very diverse skill set.
       Family status: Married to Laurie for 26 years. Three children, Samantha (25), Tommy (20) and Pauline (12); and a granchild, Dominic (7).
       How long in Colorado Springs?
       I celebrated my 1st birthday at Ent AFB in 1962. I returned to Colorado Springs in 1982 for a short time, left for Montana where I found my wife Laurie, and I made Colorado Springs our home in 1984.
       Part of town you live in? Ivywild.
      
       1. Change Colorado Springs?
       I'm not trying to change Colorado Springs. I want you to believe in Colorado Springs. I want you to believe in the inherent greatness of this community. We are a can- do community that has been caught under the crushing thumb of a bureaucratic culture of can't. It is time to throw off the chains of defeatism and rise to the challenge of being the best town in America. This is Colorado Springs, that shining beacon of light and hope that the rest of the world looks to in times of trouble. This is the town that sets the standards the rest of the nation follows. That is our history, that is our destiny. This is Colorado Springs... Where Freedom Rings.
      
       2. Westside fit?
       In order to know where you are going you need to know where you come from. The Westside is that anchor point. It is a community with a strong sense of neighborhood identity and pride. From the Golden Cycle smokestack to the historic district of Old Colorado City, it is a place where our early history still lives and thrives. It is also the model of successful collaboration be-tween city government and the people it serves. Old Town was successfully rejuvenated by creating incentives to motivate the individual property owners, rather than the typical government-controlled practice of Urban Removal that blighted the Lowell neighborhood for almost 30 years.


Buddy Gilmore
       Age: 57.
       Main career: Business owner of a small defense company.
       Family status: married to Lee; two daughters (April and Andrea) and seven grandchildren who all live in Colorado Springs.
       How long in Colorado Springs? 23 years.
       Part of town you live in? Briargate.
      
       1. Change Colorado Springs?
       The first thing I would change is to make our city more business friendly. That means elimination of the business personal property tax. This tax is punitive to small businesses, like beauty salons and restaurants, and a serious consideration for manufacturers who consider moving to our city. I will streamline the regulatory process by placing a business impact statement on new and existing regulations. I will work to bring our community together, creating a greater sense of civic pride. An example of that is “Countdown to the 4th”, which is an effort I am spearheading to prepare our city for the visitors we will have here this July for the U.S. Women's Open.
      
       2. Westside fit?
       I would ensure the Westside has a major role in planning and participating in events like the “Countdown to the 4th” above. West Colorado Avenue has a “feel” unlike any other area in our region. It could be a focal point for attracting people to our city. I would work with Westside leaders to take ownership of efforts promoting our western heritage - not only for this 4th of July, but also participate in our “quick-reaction” group, designed to respond quickly when we have important visitors to our region, such as companies considering relocation. I will work with Westside citizens and county commissioners to resolve problems associated with the stretch of Colorado Avenue between Old Colorado City and Manitou Springs.


Phil McDonald
       Age: 40.
       Main career: Small-business owner.
       Family status: My wife Pamela and I have been married for a little over four years. We have three sons - 12 years old, 3 years old and 20 months.
       How long in Colorado Springs? I am nearly a lifelong resident. I resided a short time in Alamosa when I attended Adams State. I also lived in Florence for a few years, but commuted to Colorado Springs for work.
       Part of town you live in? Central Colorado Springs.
      
       1. Change Colorado Springs?
       I want to increase the quality of life for our community members by streamlining city government, in addition to creating a sound economic environment through increased job growth and transparent fiscal spending. I am in favor of revitalizing our downtown and urban renewal. I am not in favor of urban sprawl. I am also in favor of reviving our parks, medians, and neighborhoods reflecting the great pride we have in our city.
      
       2. Westside fit?
       I believe in preserving the historical value of our downtown and Westside areas. I want to ensure that those communities are able to maintain the classic atmosphere that draws our beloved tourists, small businesses and potential future residents. I believe that our Westside is key in bringing tourism to our city and I want to ensure it continues to thrive.


Dave Munger
       Age: 65.
       Main career: Retired business owner who created and managed a company which served Fortune 500 corporations, institutions of higher education and government agencies. Now active in several appointed civic positions.
       Family status: My wife, Paula, and I have been married for 41 years. We have two grown children: Kimberley and Christopher.
       How long in Colorado Springs? Over six years.
       Part of town you live in? The Old North End.

       1. Change Colorado Springs?
       My plan for Colorado Springs is three-fold. I will help to grow jobs by implementing a plan to make Colorado Springs the most business-friendly city in the West, working with both governmental and non-governmental organizations to attract and retain good jobs for our residents. Additionally, I will work to restore trust in government by holding open and honest two-way conversations with the public when important decisions are made and making sure the tenor of the political conversation is collaborative rather than argumentative. Finally, I will work to advance our community by ensuring that those people who will be affected by decisions are major players in the decision-making process. Together, we can move Colorado Springs in a new and prosperous direction.
      
       2. Westside fit?
       The Westside is one of Colorado Springs' most iconic neighborhoods, a great example of a vibrant urban area. As a city, we must recognize the importance of preserving the value we all receive from the Westside, especially with regard to livability, history and tourism. The city must be helpful to the Westside's local retail merchants and to its overall attractiveness as a tourist destination. As part of my first 100 days business improvement plan, I will create a business round table to advise me on how to encourage business growth and how to better promote Colorado Springs tourism.


Richard Skorman
       Age: 58
       Main career: Bus-iness owner
       Family status: wife Patricia Seator, dog Zeke.
       How long in Colorado Springs? Since 1970.
       Part of town you live in? Southwest
      
       1. Change Colorado Springs?
       The biggest issue facing our community is jobs. Unemployment is too high and we've been labeled the worst city for finding employment. I believe there's more to a great city than just jobs and the economy, but when those areas are struggling, everything suffers. That's why I've developed Opportunity Springs, my plan for creating jobs and rebuilding our local economy. Among my specific proposals:
       - Make job creation the top priority.
       - Grow local businesses through “economic gardening.”
       - Invest in and promote our greatest assets - trails, open space, outdoor recreation, amateur sports, health and fitness.
       - Stabilize public services and make them sustainable for the future.
       - Improve our image at home and around the country.
       Details about Opportunity Springs are available at SkormanForMayor.com.
      
       2. Westside fit?
       The Westside is the glue that ties downtown to Manitou Springs not only as an historic district, but also as a pedestrian and bicycle corridor. So the health and historic preservation of the Westside is very important.
       That heritage is also an important part of our city's image, which is a priority in my plan. Nationally, we need to be known for what makes us a great place to live and work. And our history is one of our strengths.
       Over the years, I've done a lot to support the Westside. TOPS and the purchase of Red Rock Open Space, the Historic designation of Old Colorado City, the Mesa Open Space on Utilities property, and I supported keeping Fire Station 3 in its present location.