Election: Mayor, 7 council seats, 2 ballot items

       April 5 at 7 p.m. is the deadline to submit ballots in the Colorado Springs municipal election.
       The postmark date doesn't matter. Mailed ballots missing that cutoff won't count, according to the City Clerk's Office.
       City voters will be choosing a mayor and seven City Council members and deciding on two ballot issues.
       Eight are in the mayor's race: Steve Bach, Brian Bahr, Mitch Christiansen, Kenneth Paul Duncan, Tom Gallagher, Buddy Gilmore, Dave Munger and Richard Skorman. Phil McDonald, a previous candidate (who also participated in the Organization of Westside Neighbors' February candidate forum) has dropped out.
       One of the council races - Lisa Czelatdko vs. Michael Merrifield - is District 3, which includes much of the Westside, including Old Colorado City. Czelatdko is a civic volunteer who has not run for office before, while Merrifield served eight years as a state representative (stepping down after 2010 because of term limits). Last fall, he was defeated in a run for El Paso County commissioner.
       Another district race is District 2, covering the northeast part of the city.
       In a district race, only voters living within its geographic boundary can vote for its council representative.
       The other council race is at-large. All city voters can participate, with the top 5 (out of 16) being elected.
       In all, there could be seven new council people, plus a new mayor. The only incumbent running for the same seat is Jan Martin (for a second term at-large). Sean Paige was appointed as the District 3 councilmember in 2009, but is running at-large this time. Gallagher is an at-large councilmember now.
       The only councilmembers not running this time are Scott Hente, District 1 (just north of District 3); and Bernie Herpin, District 4 (southeast part of the city). Both were elected to four-year terms in 2009.
       The contests have been mostly free of mud-slinging, with candidates focusing primarily on how they'd improve the local economy.
       One of the ballot issues, if passed, would change the term length of the two lowest of the elected at-large vote-getters from four years to two. The purpose of the issue is to increase the number of council districts from four to six in 2013, with the new boundary lines based on population.
       The other ballot issue would allow the mayor to attend council meetings. This is normal procedure currently, but under the “strong mayor” charter change that city voters approved last fall, the new mayor is to become more of a chief executive officer - the current city manager job will be eliminated - for the city than in the past. The charter also allows the new mayor to be paid more, from the present $6,250 a year to $96,000.
       Both the issues were put on the ballot by a vote of the current City Council, prompted by current Mayor Lionel Rivera, who said they would help the city in adusting to and carrying out the strong-mayor charter changes.
       In the mayor's race this election, the winner must garner at least 50 percent of the vote. If that does not occur, a runoff election will occur between the two candidates receiving the most votes, according to the City Clerk's Office.

Westside Pioneer article