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Richard Skorman's unfinished story 

Between the Lines

Richard Alan Skorman's political career has taken one more unusual turn, almost like his own version of Back to the Future. Or is it?

In the past week, word came that the former vice mayor, longtime businessman, civic leader and activist will run for the Colorado Springs City Council in the upcoming April 4 election, pursuing the District 3 seat being vacated by Keith King.

So what's the deal here?

Perhaps Skorman simply feels he can have more influence on Colorado Springs' immediate future by returning to City Council, where he served from 1999 to 2006. Who knows, maybe he sees this as the best approach for his battle to ensure that the city makes no more land-swap deals (like Strawberry Fields last year) in the future without voter approval. There's always a possibility Skorman wants to position himself for another mayoral run, especially if John Suthers decides not to seek a second term in 2019.

Any of those factors might be in play as Skorman seeks a four-year term to represent the District 3 area of west-central and southwest Colorado Springs.

Then again, something else might be at play here, which makes plenty of sense to this 64-year-old writing about another 64-year-old. Perhaps Skorman, who always has loved a good movie, simply is trying to craft his own storybook ending. After all, for more than a decade, his scripts haven't always led to happy conclusions.

When Skorman stepped down from City Council in 2006, something about that situation didn't feel right. He left to become then-U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar's regional director, and Skorman was a year away from being term-limited out of his at-large Council spot. But still, it wasn't a fitting exit.

Five years later, Skorman tried again, putting up a strong campaign in the race to determine Colorado Springs' first "strong" mayor. Skorman won the primary election but lost the runoff to Steve Bach, and again, the final chapter didn't feel right.

Back in the spotlight again last year, Skorman led the fight opposing the city's controversial land exchange with The Broadmoor. But though legal challenges continue, the outcome hasn't gone his way.

So maybe we have another version of the old cliché: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Or in this case, rejoin 'em.

Skorman has learned from past elections. He knows how to mobilize support across the city, as he did in his Council victories of 1999 and 2003, then coming close in the 2011 mayoral race. He also played a major role in two successful Trails and Open Space (TOPS) ballot measures, the first in 1997 and then a renewal in 2003, extending the tax through 2025.

But there have been missteps, especially in that runoff against Bach, which began with polls suggesting it could go either way. A pivotal moment came in the finalists' climactic TV ads. One showed Skorman in suit and tie, standing on the steps of City Hall, out of character for the kind of mayor he had talked of being. Meanwhile, another ad showed Bach and his wife hiking in Garden of the Gods, effectively neutralizing the open-space issue that had been one of Skorman's strongest assets.

Now, Skorman has to see this Council campaign as a chance to start anew. He's at his best when others recognize him for developing Poor Richard's into a long-successful business complex, when he's respected for championing all outdoor and recreational causes, and when he helps galvanize community pride and broad-based support for important issues.

If it all ended today, Skorman likely would be recognized as having more impact on Colorado Springs than any non-mayor of the past half-century.

But that's apparently not enough for the Ohio native who came to Colorado College, graduated in 1975 and stayed to make this city his home. Instead, he still feels compelled to push the same themes as he did in his 2003 Council race: "To keep us on a positive course to increase traffic mobility, promote smart growth, conserve water, maintain good public safety, protect water quality, preserve open space, add nonstop flights at the airport, maintain an outstanding workforce ... promote economic development, develop affordable housing choices."

Those themes are as relevant now as they were 14 years ago.

And by returning to the ballot with all that expertise, Richard Skorman has just made this 2017 city election a lot more fascinating.

  • Richard Skorman has just made this 2017 city election a lot more fascinating.

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