Last November the voters of Colorado Springs approved by a large margin a new city charter to change the city form of government from a council-manager form to a council-mayor form. The new mayor to be elected in the May runoff election will be the chief executive officer of the city with enhanced powers and responsibilities.
The debate between the candidates in the May election should be focused on the many troubling issues facing our city and region, including unemployment, attracting new businesses and jobs and maintaining essential city services. Initial comments by the candidates reflected a desire to run clean and honest campaigns. The hopes of that being realized through the runoff election have been officially dashed with the latest Richard Skorman campaign ad that aired for the first time on the April 20. The ad states, “If we give developers the keys to City Hall we’ll get more sprawl, traffic congestion and neglected neighborhoods.”
Really? Is this where this election is now descending? The Skorman ad includes a series of sounds bites and flashes of rooftops, traffic on I-25, the scar on the mountain and claims of sprawl. Today’s voters have far more serious issues on their minds like paying bills and providing for their families. With an unemployment rate in the range of 9.5 percent, the residents of our community have more pressing concerns than growth. The homebuilding industry and the jobs created thereby provide important jobs, and the health of the homebuilding industry is a key indicator of the economic health of a community as has been illustrated by the depressed state of homebuilding. Plus there are human consequences to the depressed state of the homebuilding industry. There’s nothing like seeing your friends and neighbors laid off from their jobs such as framers, painters, landscapers, consultants and sales associates, to see how homebuilding and development are significant and important parts of any economy. Thousands of jobs have not only been lost in the industry, but also in the supporting employment bases like restaurants and retail.
Sprawl might have been a catchy phrase years ago before the economic downturn, but the realities of existing government regulation, oversight and approvals have now been recognized as impediments to the positive realities of growth and development, job stability, job growth and tax base. Around the country and here, municipalities are looking at ways to streamline the development and building process in an effort to revitalize a key economic engine for recovery: homebuilding. The local debate on sprawl by Skorman is contradictory to the national movement of encouraging growth and development.
And by the way, I live only two miles from the last image of sprawl shown in the ad, in a neighborhood of the rooftops surrounded by neighbors that I care for, parks and open space within walking distance and the excitement of more new business and attractions opening in the near future. I chose to live there and don’t appreciate the negative connotations the ad attaches to the environment in which I chose to raise my family. That “sprawl” of which Skorman complains consists of homes just like mine, in communities just like mine, where real people raise their families, go to jobs, attend schools and contribute to the vibrancy of the community.
After the disappointment wears off of realizing that one of the candidates appears to be abandoning the desired discussions of what is best for the city and where we need to be heading as a community, you have one chance to send a strong message that this is not a topic relevant to this time and place — vote for Steve Bach. —
Kyle Campbell is President of the Housing & Building Association of Colorado Springs.