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Most candidates use Westside forum for perceived solutions

       A late-February forum at the Westside Community Center sharpened Westsiders' focus on the candidates for at-large City Council.
       The election will be April 7, with mail-in ballots being sent out in mid-March. The mayor must win with 50 percent of the votes - if that doesn't happen, a runoff will occur between the top two May 19, according to city election information.
       For at-large council, the three receiving the most votes April 7 will win. They will join the existing six councilmembers who represent geographic districts of the city.
       All the candidates (mayor as well as council) are running for four-year terms. The mayor receives $96,000 a year, the councilmembers $6,250.
       The forum did not feature major announcements, shouting matches or allegations between candidates. The bulk of the criticism was directed at the last four years of city politics, in which Mayor Steve Bach and council have been at odds and the city has reportedly lagged behind the state in terms of income and employment growth.
       Candidates offered a variety of solutions - mostly conceptual, some moreso than others. The word “collaboration” got the biggest workout. Several contenders projected themselves as the ones who could lead the way to agreements/compromises on tricky issues, bringing about results that would prove advantageous to the city's future, acceptable to both branches of government and popular with the community.
       Here are capsules on each of the candidates, chiefly drawn from what they said at the forum, with support info from their handouts and websites:

At the candidate forum Feb. 24 in the Westside Community Center... Candidates for Colorado Springs mayor listen to a question from moderator Chuck Graybill (not shown). From left are Joel Miller, Tony Carpenter, Amy Lathen, John Suthers and Mary Lou Makepeace.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Tony Carpenter - personal bits: 41-year city resident; manager at a local car dealership. Third time he's run for mayor. Elected experience: None. Position on key issue(s): Pledges to represent citizens, not special interests. Offers general concept of less government leading to prosperity, with mayor as a strong leader. Defining comment: “I will lead by example. I can't make City Council agree with me. Why should I try? I represent you [the citizens].”
       Amy Lathen - personal bits: lived in Colorado Springs 30 years, attending schools here. Resided for a time on the Westside. Elected experience: county commissioner since 2008. Position on key issue(s): Emphasis on regional approach to city issues, in part to reduce redundancies. To help with communications, would move mayor's office from City Administration Building (a block away) to City Hall, where City Council offices are. Defining comment: “When we work together [mayor, council and other governments in region], we have efficiencies.”
       Mary Lou Makepeace - personal bits: Worked abroad in early career, visiting 30 countries in all. Moved to Colorado Springs in 1971. As initial executive director of Community Council of the Pikes Peak Region, helped start city's first homeless shelter. Teaches science at UCCS. Elected experience: City Council for 12 years, then mayor for 6 years, ending in 2003. Position on key issue(s): Stress on cooperation, diversity. Believes her previous council/mayor tenure set a successful model for prosperity. Defining comment: “I am the only one [candidate] with municipal experience and mayoral experience.”
       Joel Miller - personal bits: Air Force Academy graduate. Former assistant professor in Academy's Astronautical Engineering Department. Permanent Colorado Springs resident since 1998. Pilot for FedEx Express. Elected experience: City Council, 2013-2014 (district representative - he resigned to run for mayor). Position on key issue(s): Council needs better access to city staff (the opposite of it's been with Mayor Bach, he said); also, he would like to scale back city government, believing that would help private sector flourish. Defining comment: “I know what it's like when you have the wrong person in the mayor's office.”
       John Suthers - personal bits: Grew up in Colorado Springs. Formerly district attorney for El Paso and Teller counties, executive director of state Department of Corrections and U.S. attorney for Colorado. Elected experience: State attorney general since 2005. Position on key issue(s): A top priority is to meet with council to work out strategic plan and any differences; cites his experience as CEO for larger enitities than city government. Defining comment: “A year ago, I thought I'd be going into a lucrative private practice, but something changed. I saw the divisions at city hall.”
       Lawrence Martinez - Did not attend forum and did not respond to follow-up e-mail.

At the candidate forum Feb. 24 in the Westside Community Center... The first five at-large City Council candidates who fielded questions. Standing to speak at right is Bill Murray. The others (from left) are Nicholas Lee, Glenn Carlson, Yolanda Avila and Merv Bennett.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Yolanda Avila - personal bits: Attended Washington Elementary (a former Westside school) and was teacher's aide at Bristol Elementary; in California, worked as public defender's office investigator; after degenerative eye disease in late '90s, became disability advocate. Elected experience: None. Position on key issue(s): Need for collaboration in general; for electricity, sees a need for “other energy sources” than coal. Defining comment: (As a councilmember), “I am you; I represent the whole community.”
       Merv Bennett - personal bits: has lived in Colorado Springs 42 years; retired as CEO of local YMCA in 2011; lived on Westside past nine years; served on several volunteer boards. Elected experience: At-large City Councilmember since 2011. Position on key issue(s): Is “known for collaboration” with mayor and council and will continue that; also following Westside's No Man's Land infrastructure project and other issues there. Defining comment: “I've dedicated my professional life to serving Colorado Springs.”
       Vanessa Bowie - Did not attend forum.
       Jesse Brown Jr. - personal bits: pastor who moved here in 1990 with the African Methodist Church, now with Christ Temple Community Church; assists with local NAACP; was member of city's charter review committee. Elected experience: None. Position on key issue(s): Conceptual support for everyone working together for good of whole community. Defining comment: “We need to get rid of 'us' and 'them.' It's time to get back to the intent of General Palmer and work for the good of all people.”

At the candidate forum Feb. 24 in the Westside Community Center... The second set of at-large City Council candidates, in a jocular moment between questions (from left), Jariah Walker, Joe Woyte, Longinos Gonzales Jr., Jesse Brown Jr., Tom Strand and Al Loma.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Glenn Carlson - personal bits: lifelong Colorado Springs resident. Colorado College graduate; co-owner of physical therapy business and tech industry manager. Elected experience: None. Position on key issue(s): Priorities include collaborating, establishing trust; reaching out to business and (for electric power) moving away from coal to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Defining comment: “If a business is interested in coming here and we need somebody to get on the plane to greet them, I'll get on that plane.”
       Longinos Gonzalez Jr. - personal bits: grew up in central California, where parents were farm laborers; Air Force Academy graduate, served in military intelligence, 1992-2012, including supervising a cadet squadron; licensed science teacher. Elected experience: None. Position on key issue (s): Concern that budget was balanced this year by taking money from reserve funds; supports annexing unincorporated No Man's Land areas if property owners OK with it. Defining comment: “My first priority is the budget.”
       Nicholas Lee - personal bits: 30-year Colorado Springs resident; career in informational technology (technician and manager); sociology instructor at UCCS; has helped with business start-ups. Elected experience: None. Position on key issue(s): conceptual belief that city has declined and that collaboration and sometimes compromise are necessary to move city forward. Defining comment: “I want a city as great as when I was growing up here.”
       Al Loma - personal bits: 17-year city resident; Army veteran; pastor at Victory Outreach; drug rehabilitation specialist. Elected experience: District 11 Board of Education member, 2009-2013. Position on key issue(s): City budget can be trimmed - he pointed to $25 million in D-11 budget cuts during his school board tenure; would favor No Man's Land annexation if cost/benefit provable. Defining comment: “I don't want to kick the can down the road. I want to catch the can and stomp it.”
       Bill Murray - personal bits: Stationed in Colorado Springs from 2000-2003 with the U.S. Space Command (intelligence analyst) as part of 30-year military service; retired here in 2008. Previously ran for at-large council in 2011. Elected experience: None. Position on key issue(s): Stimulate job growth, end bickering, reduce utility rates, take action on stormwater needs, make use of modern fiber technology. Defining comment: “We should have meetings at night so we can understand what the community is saying.”
       Tom Strand - personal bits: Westside resident; retired Air Force Academy lawyer - began career at Peterson Field in 1975, returned here in 2005; member of Human Rights Commission, Restorative Justice Council and Global Village Academy Charter School. Elected experience: District 11 Board of Education member, 2009-2013. Position on key issue(s): look for innovative ways to fund about $1.2 billion in city infrastructure needs (including neighborhood adoption possibilities). Defining comment: “I've been a leader in all I've done in my life.”
       Vickie Tonkins - Did not attend forum.
       Jariah Walker - personal bits: native; attended West Middle School and Coronado High; real-estate agent; member of board of Leadership Pikes Peak and Family Connections/KPC Kids Place. Elected experience: None. Position on key issue(s): City has fallen “10-15 years behind,” with key infrastructure needs; West Colorado Avenue deserves to be an enterprise zone (cites festive events, tourist-related sales-tax income and local history). Defining comment: “I think the Westside can act as a model for the rest of the city.”
       Joe Woyte - personal bits: Air Force Academy graduate, 1996; worked for Air Force through 2002 and defense contractors since then; member of city investment advisory committee. Elected experience: None. Position on key issue (s): OK with No Man's Land annexation and West Colorado enterprise zone concepts - “there are stretches that are worn down”; opposes downtown stadium (part of City of Champions plan, proposed by outgoing Mayor Bach); wants council meetings at night. Defining comment: “I believe in servant leadership.”

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