In their first joint appearance as the final two mayoral candidates, Steve Bach and Richard Skorman squared off at high noon Friday, courtesy of the Downtown Rotary Club.
Each candidate spoke for about 15 minutes, and they offered sharply contrasting views of the city and its problems.
Skorman stressed his long experience in government as well as in private business. In a clear jab at his opponent, he said that this is not the time for “on-the-job training,” since the mayor will have to hire a chief of staff, new department heads, and prepare a city budget within weeks of taking office.
He also countered Bach’s oft-repeated assertions that there are “huge efficiencies” that can be easily achieved by reforming city practices.
“There are 1,623 city employees,” he said, “and more than 1,200 are in public safety. Look at the Parks department; it’s gone from 60 employees to 13, from a $19 million budget to $3 million. There aren’t any magic bullets out there — there’s not $30 or $40 million you can pick up.”
Skorman was nevertheless sharply critical of the city’s sluggish, rule-bound bureaucracy, citing a restaurant owner who had to spend $8,000 and wait six months for permission to “move the barstools from one side of the bar to another.”
He also referred humorously to the scurrilous accusations made in a telephone push poll this week.
“They say I denounce corporations — as my wife Patricia said last night, we’re incorporated, so I must be denouncing myself.”
Speaking immediately after Skorman, Bach stressed his experience as a Colorado Springs businessman, his role in helping start the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corporation four decades ago, and his long involvement with community nonprofits.
He cited many of the findings of the City Committee to bolster his case for savings through efficient and businesslike operations. He also noted that the city is losing young professionals, who are key to the region’s future vitality.
“They’re the people who will lead our businesses, give their time to our nonprofits, and create jobs,” he said. “We can’t afford to lose them.”
In response to a question from the audience, he pledged to hire a chief of staff who would function as the city’s chief operating officer.
“The person I will hire,” said Bach, “will be someone who has been recently successful as a COO in in a large corporation in a turnaround situation.”