Council foes Heimlicher, Gardner reply to questions

       In this year's mail-in city election, voters in the southern part of the Westside have the choice between incumbent District 3 City Council member Jerry Heimlicher and challenger Dave Gardner.
       The Westside Pioneer asked each candidate to respond to four questions:
       1) Does growth pay for itself?
       2) Illegally camping transients (a segment of the homeless population) are becoming permanent fixtures along Fountain Creek and other places. Is this acceptable to you, as a citizen and a council member? Explain.
       3) Colorado Springs Utilities' customer rates recently rose dramatically. The federal/state government trend is to favor renewable energy over coal, which will be more expensive and likely cause rates to go up even more. What should City Council do?
       4) The downtown and Old Colorado City are both viable on-street commercial areas, yet there is a perception on the Westside that the downtown gets preferential treatment. Can you speak to that?
       (Responses below.)

Jerry Heimlicher

Jerry Heimlicher 1) Growth. New home buyers pay for all of their streets, utilities, waste systems, parks and fire and police substations. New buyers also pay a share of costs for renewing aging roads, sewer and water lines and electric and gas in older areas like Old Colorado City thus not charging the areas actually getting the upgrades for all of the costs. All new homeowners are not from outside the city. In fact most of our growth comes from internal birth rates exceeding death rates. Another change made by the City Council for the last two years is to require new developers to donate land, landscape, install equipment and maintain parks forever. Renewing older parts of town is another kind of growth that is a top priority of mine, as in the renewal efforts for South Nevada Avenue. We now see what no growth can result in.
       2) Transient camps. I am responsible for restoring Keep Colorado Springs Beautiful to the 2009 budget. The clean-ups will resume early in April after the citizen meeting on March 31. I am the only council member to get involved in this issue, and that is appropriate since most of the problem is in the district I serve. We have to protect the constitutional rights of the homeless, however, the rights and safety of those who live in close proximity to homeless camps also must be protected. I am a board member of Homeward Pikes Peak, with the goal of getting people out of camps for job training and temporary housing. Citizens are paying three times as much to allow homeless camps to exist than it will cost us as taxpayers to find temporary housing for them. This is not acceptable to me, and I have been and will actively try to change it.
       3) Renewable energy. We must find a way to move toward renewable sources of energy in a manner that will not put all of the costs in the short term. The conversion to more renewables has begun and must continue to reach the maximum level of achievement possible. In the near term, CSU is working with the higher educational community to develop new scrubbers for the coal plant emissions at the Drake Electric Plant. These scrubbers have the potential of cleaning up the emissions to such an extent that we can improve emissions and spread the cost of renewable sources over a longer period of time to allow renewable sources to be perfected and less expensive. There are still major concerns over wind since there has to be a back-up system in place to cover the periods of calm winds. The new water pipeline will actually produce hydroelectric power as the rushing water produces energy.
       4) Old Colorado City. I recognized early in my term that Old Colorado City was being treated as a step-child to downtown and I got directly involved. I have highlighted this time and time again and have taken action on such things as free parking at Christmas, new street lights downtown, vendor overuse of Bancroft Park, the renewal of the Carnegie Library, improving Territory Days for the local residents and plans for Highway 24. I have established relationships with the local merchant associations, the Organization of Westside Neighbors and individual citizens, who alert me to concerns and then I act on their behalf. I am changing this perception by removing any preferential treatment to be one of the key responsibilities of the District 3 representative to City Council. I have and will continue to work with all westside organizations and citizens to make sure preferential treatment does not exist in favor of downtown.
Dave Gardner

Dave Gardner 1) Growth. My opponent repeats ad nauseum that growth pays its way, but his deceptive generalizations don't survive close inspection. Growth in our city creates costs faster than revenue to cover them. National studies show residential subdivisions rarely provide enough tax revenue to cover the cost of serving them. There used to be economies of scale - where the bigger we got, the less it cost per household to provide city services. But we are beyond that. Each new gallon of water we provide is the most expensive water in our history. Costs of mitigating transportation gridlock, declining air quality and stormwater runoff, for example, increase exponentially as our city expands. And since we cling to the superstition we'll profit from growth, we also subsidize growth heavily, which both accelerates the unprofitable growth and robs our community of resources that could otherwise be spent dealing with growth impacts.
       2) Transient camps. Homeless camps do cause me to worry about safety of citizens, and they have a negative impact on the character and enjoyment of our community. However, I don't believe the solution is to simply disrupt the camps, causing them to scatter. Moving them around the community doesn't solve the problem. Could we establish a camp that would suit the needs of these campers without the drawbacks that keep them out of our shelters, and at the same time address citizens' safety and quality of life concerns? I wonder if there are some innovative solutions we haven't tried, yet. It's time to think outside the box.
       3) Renewable energy. The transition to renewable energy has to happen, and when all the costs are considered, it will save our citizens and our community money over the long haul. Our best hope for rate relief is to give the citizen-owners of our utility a chance to vote on assumption of the huge debt to construct the proposed water pipeline (SDS), which will cost over $2 billion with interest. Because of SDS, water rates are forecast to continue increasing sharply. This project is massive (78 million gallons per day capacity). To pump that water 53 miles uphill day after day, it will use enough electricity to warrant its own power plant. Though the pipeline is only needed to supply water for future expansion of our city, the lion's share of the cost will be paid through your and my utility bills. Let's invite Banning Lewis Ranch to pay for SDS.
       4) Old Colorado City. Downtown is well-organized and well-funded, and part of that is because of the power and resources that come with its larger scale commercial real estate. I love Old Colorado City as much as I love our downtown. They both have a lot of charm and are attractive to residents and tourists alike. I've made it clear I want to lead our city in shifting focus from subsidizing big real estate projects to promoting and really serving the interests of our unique, locally owned businesses. I believe these businesses will be the true source of our vitality, prosperity, quality of life, and ustainability. Our competitive edge will not come from looking just like every other sprawling suburb in every other city. As our citizens come to appreciate the power of a localized economy, we'll be able to put Old Colorado City on an equal footing. This will be a top priority.

Westside Pioneer article