This 2007 Colorado Springs city election had the potential for a mayoral race that would have been historic, riveting and delicious.
Lionel Rivera, seeking re-election to a second term, facing his ideological and philosophical opponent, former Vice Mayor Richard Skorman.
This was the race we and many others across Colorado Springs had hoped for this year. It truly would have created a hallmark choice for the voters, giving a fresh and exact measure of the city's increasingly progressive mood and expectations.
Alas, Skorman didn't even finish his last term on Council, leaving in early 2006 to work for new U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar.
That left nobody qualified enough, organized enough or connected enough to give Rivera a legitimate challenge this year. He has three opponents Mike Coletta, Tony Carpenter and Tony Tyler but although Coletta and Carpenter have offered some appealing insights, no one has gained any serious traction.
Rivera doesn't need our endorsement in this race. He will win handily. But the absence of a stern test does not equal a mandate. Not after last summer, when Rivera sought the Republican nomination to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Joel Hefley. Rivera finished fourth out of six with 7,213 votes, just 12.9 percent of the Republican primary total.
We hope that after that experience, Rivera understands he'll never be the darling of the Christian right.
We support him for a second term as mayor, not so much for what he has done since 2003, but for what he is capable of achieving in the next four years. We hope that Rivera, as the titular head of our community, realizes he has the potential to set a new tone not only for how our city operates, but also how others perceive the Springs around the state, across the nation and internationally.
It's important, now more than ever, for Rivera to take advantage of his experience and knowledge, to show his leadership and help the Springs shed its entrenched, ultraconservative, self-righteous and intolerant image. We hope Rivera, in his final term, will be more inclusive, more forceful, more open-minded.
You could call that an endorsement.
We would rather call it a challenge.
Following are the five ballot issues with our recommendations. Further explanations of each issue accompany this package:
Issue A (removing references to City Treasurer): The city does not have a treasurer anymore, and this is a housekeeping measure. We recommend a yes vote.
Issue B (amending term limits for mayor): This enables the mayor to serve two full terms, sit out and return, as is the case for the rest of Council. We recommend a yes vote.
Issue C (pay raise to $12,000 a year for mayor and Council): This is a much-needed increase from the current $6,250 a year. At the very least, serving on City Council requires 20 to 30 hours a week. By not paying a meaningful amount now, only retirees and the wealthy can seek to serve on Council.
City Council oversees a multibillion-dollar enterprise not only the city government itself, but also Colorado Springs Utilities, Memorial Hospital and other huge departments. It's well worth the investment for the city to pay enough that regular people can seek to serve. In fact, we wish Council members' pay was tied to what a starting schoolteacher earns, or the lowest pay for a full-time city worker. (Voters should remember that the five El Paso County commissioners, with a smaller staff and budget, are paid $63,000 a year.) We recommend a yes vote.
Issue D (removing references to city manager overseeing Memorial Hospital): The hospital already is an independently run, city-owned entity, so the intent is to reflect reality. But the hospital board and CEO, in this case Dick Eitel, must be clearly accountable to the citizens of Colorado Springs.
Specifically, while this would reflect the reality of how our hospital is actually governed, we also urge Council to mandate that the CEO give an annual "state of the hospital" presentation, followed by a public forum where councilors and citizens can ask questions and have them answered. We recommend a yes vote.
Issue E (granting a cable operating license to Porchlight): Cable television no longer is a natural monopoly in the Springs. This invites competition, at least in some areas, and city staff appears to have handled the negotiations thoroughly. We recommend a yes vote. Negative ads might resurface
The Morley family's attack ads against City Council incumbents Randy Purvis and Larry Small continued on the radio through Thursday, despite reported promises that they would be cut off three days earlier. The ads will have run for 10 days in total.
Small and Councilor Jerry Heimlicher say they spoke with brothers Jim and Mark Morley to urge them to stop their ads, which Heimlicher called "a bad reflection on our community." Wednesday's Gazette featured a full-page ad paid for by the Housing and Building Association, the Chamber of Commerce, the Pikes Peak Association of Realtors and the Downtown Partnership, urging the Morleys to stop the "abhorrent campaign ads."
Jim Morley said one TV ad had been pulled, but he continued running radio ads regarding Purvis' and Small's yes votes on the stormwater fee.
The Morleys, a powerful developer family, also contributed $37,232 in the most recent reporting period (March 6-19) to incumbent Tom Gallagher ($25,508), Dave Martin ($8,232) and Bob Null ($3,492). The recent donations make up about half of the $75,000 that Jim Morley has said he will spend on the municipal election.
Mark Morley does not rule out the possibility that more anti-Purvis and Small ads could pop up on the airwaves. "I hope they do," he says, adding that the Morleys' next steps will depend on what other political groups undertake.
In our March 15 issue, the Independent provided endorsements for the ongoing city election. For those preparing to complete their ballots, here's a recap of our positions:
Mayor: Lionel Rivera is our choice, with a challenge to be a stronger leader in his second term.
City Council at-large: Jan Martin and Tom Harold, full endorsements; Randy Purvis and Larry Small, best other options.
Ballot issues: We recommend "yes" votes on all five, including increasing pay for City Council members; welcoming another cable company; changing mayoral term limits; and two housekeeping measures.
Ballots: The city mailed ballots March 14 to registered voters. If you did not receive a ballot and believe you are eligible to vote in this election, call the City Clerk office at 385-5901. You are an active voter if (a) you voted in the November 2006 election or (b) you registered to vote or updated your registration after the November 2006 election but no later than the registration deadline of March 5.
Reminder: There will be no voting at polling places on the election day, April 3. There is no early voting at any locations.