Lack of District 3 race not slowing Heimlicher down
District 3 City Council member Jerry Heimlicher is running unopposed for re-election April 5.
“I take it as an opportunity,” he told the Westside Pioneer recently. “I'm still going to appear at all the candidate forums and interviews for endorsements. I'd like to have a lot of votes. I'd see that as a vote of confidence for the job I've been doing.”
Being unopposed means that instead of telling people why they should vote for him, he can explain the issues he expects to focus on during his coming four years in office, he said. Several of these are listed as “priorities” on his website (jerryheimlicher.com), but during an interview with the Pioneer he focused particularly on an area his website had not yet listed - tourism.
“My concern is that tourism did not rebound last year the way we'd hoped,” said Heimlicher, whose council district includes the older Westside. “There was low occupancy at many hotels.” Keeping in mind that tourism brings in 20 percent of the city's annual sales-tax revenues, he said his goal is to “create new reasons for people to come to Colorado Springs, in addition to the natural attractions we have.”
He recited several ideas in this regard:
· Underline the local presence of the Olympic Training Center - Rename Confluence Park (just east of I-25) as “Olympic Park” and create there an “Olympic Walk of Fame,” including plaques for all the American Olympic gold medal winners since Jessie Owens in 1936. For immediate impact, Heimlicher proposes inviting all the American 2004 gold-medal winners from Greece to Colorado Springs this summer to dedicate their plaques on the “walk” or to leave hand or footprints in fresh concrete for posterity. Additionally, even if the convention center in the Confluence area winds up being denied, Heimlicher would like to see an Olympic hall of fame included in a nearby office building that will have space dedicated to the Training Cen-ter.
The councilman said he and Mayor Lionel Rivera have have already talked to Olympic Training Center officials about the park name and the walk of fame suggestions. An answer from the center's board is expected by April.
· Support a large memorial commemorating the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks - According to Heimlicher, the International Firefight-ers Association “is negotiating with the city to give us a statue of firefighters (based on the famous firefighter/ flag photo taken in New York on the day of the attacks) to put a statue here. They will do-nate the statue and all the maintenance,” Heimlicher said. “They just want a place to put it.”
The envisioned statue would be more than 30 feet high and sit on a 12-foot-tall base. “It's going to to be enormous,” he said. “Some are saying this is too big, but this is going to be a national memorial for 9/11. It is going to show on the base the name of every victim. So one of my priorities is to vote in favor of it, get city administration to find a place for it, then get City Council to make it happen. It would be a tourist attraction of significant magnitude.”
· Expand air service to Colorado Springs - Heimlicher would like to see more non-stop flights into and out of Colorado Springs. He said primary efforts in this regard are being focused on Southwest Airlines.
· Disbursement of revenues from the lodging and rental tax (LART) - This is the sales tax that's paid chiefly by tourists (2 percent on hotel bills, 1 percent on rental cars). Currently, two-thirds of the returns go to the Convention and Visitors' Bureau and the other third (about $1 million) to the city's general fund, where it's typically used to pay costs for the Pikes Peak Highway. Heimlicher's plan is to give that $1 million also to the Convention and Visitors' Bureau, thus beefing up local tourist- attraction efforts, and try to find money for the highway elsewhere in the general fund. “I think LART should only be used for tourism,” Heim-licher said.
A Westside-specific issue for the councilman is animal services, which is handled by Colorado Humane Society through a city contract at 610 Abbott Lane (near Eighth Street). He said he will urge fellow council members to vote on the next contract. Based on established policies, the current two-year agreement was made by the city manager in 2003 without council approval. The result has been “significant savings” to the city and a “good job” of animal control, Heimlicher said, but added that there have been problems with aspects the contract did not address, such as adopting and caging animals and CHS working in the same building as the former contract-holder (Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region, which handles county animal services).
“My feeling is, we (City Council members) have gotten so many phone calls from the public on this issue, this is one time I want to micromanage,” Heimlicher said. “I think I will have zero problem getting nine votes (from the council as a whole) for that.”
Westside Pioneer article