The daily Gazette has added a helpful (I have to admit, grudgingly) feature for the city election this year. Questions about controversial issues have been periodically posed to each of the City Council candidates (including at-large, which we Westsiders get to vote on). As a result, we now know, for example, about their stances on closing the Drake power plant and allowing recreational marijuana stores.
Drake is the downtown, coal-fired plant that provides a third of the city's electrical energy.
The following at-large hopefuls showed at the very least a lack of enthusiasm for keeping Drake open: Yolanda Avila, Vanessa Bowie, Jesse Brown Jr., Glenn Carlson, Tom Strand and Nicholas Lee.
Those liking Drake's cost savings and/or unconvinced of a pollution need to close it sooner: Merv Bennett, Longinos Gonzalez Jr., Al Loma, Bill Murray, Vickie Tonkins and Jariah Walker.
As for marijuana, the past council voted against it, as did most governments in the state and all of them in the region except Manitou - although when Amendment 64 passed statewide in 2012, the majority of the Springs voters did say yes.
These are the at-large candidates who told the Gazette they were ready to allow pot shops (albeit with regulations): Avila, Bowie, Brown and Carlson. Undecided, but leaning that way: Strand. These are the candidates who would like to see an election on the subject: Lee, Murray, Tonkins and Woyte. Wanting to wait and see how it's working in other towns: Walker. Against reconsidering the matter: Bennett, Gonzales and Loma.
Note: The Westside Pioneer asked the same question of the six mayoral candidates. Replies came back from only two of them. Tony Carpenter said he is "100 percent for it [pot shops] because the citizens already voted for it. I think it's a waste of time having them vote on the same thing twice." The other reply was from Amy Lathen's camp. A spokesperson provided the following statement: "The business community and the military community have expressed grave concerns over recreational marijuana proliferation. Amy supports all citizens' constitutional right to possess and use up to an ounce of recreational marijuana; however, she would veto recreational marijuana operations within city limits if City Council approved it."
I'm providing these results mainly in an informational spirit. We all have our opinions, but I think everyone can agree that both these issues are crucial to the future of this city. My opinion? Keep Drake open, taking advantage of its low rates, as long as it's provably safe and healthy. (And Colorado Springs Utilities - also friendly to wind and solar - says it is.) Remember, there's no turning back. Environmental lobbyists, prodding like-minded federal officials, have made it impossible to build any new coal-fired plants.
As for marijuana, maybe a citywide election would decide things once and for all, but I dread a Colorado Springs where it's easier for teens (or those even younger) to access the stuff. The standard argument that “they'll get it, anyway” seems specious and selfish - especially knowing how much more potent the drug has become these days, the adverse effect it can have on kids' developing brains, the cynical attempts to market it to them (edible-pot gummi bears?) and the clear signs that such problems are already on the rise, thanks to medical marijuana.
Don't forget to vote - unless you disagree with me. Ha ha.
(Posted 3/14/15; Opinion: Editor's Desk)
Kenyon Jordan is the editor of the Westside Pioneer.