After months of cajoling by supporters to jump back into the political arena, former state Rep. Marcy Morrison just couldn't pass up the challenge.
The longtime Republican public officeholder has announced plans to take on Manitou Springs Mayor Nancy Hankin in the November city election. The city's three district representative seats are also open on the seven-member board.
Morrison, a 35-year resident of Manitou, an eight-year state representative and former county commissioner and school board member, has been out of her last political office less than a year.
"I guess on the 12-step program for recovering politicians I probably reached step five," Morrison joked. "I was doing very well -- I wasn't going up to the Legislature except on business and I was feeling no pangs of regret, and then I fell off the wagon."
Both Morrison and Hankin, who has served on the City Council for 10 years, including one term as mayor, cite the need to develop secure economic development prospects as a key issue facing Manitou.
Hankin cited her role in bringing a working trolley to town and a banner program along the town's main street as major accomplishments. She is also, she said, taking a lead role in team building and "strategic visioning" on Council.
By contrast, Morrison said she brings to the table the ability to communicate -- and expertise from working closely with numerous government agencies. She was recently awarded a prestigious national award by the American Medical Association for her inroads in broadening health care access as a state legislator.
The hottest issue in Manitou, however, is undoubtedly that surrounding the Red Rock Canyon controversy. As mayor, Harkin has recently come under fire for her perceived alignment with the company that wants to develop the property, just south of the Garden of the Gods, into an upscale development with a golf course.
Many Manitou residents have been critical of plans to develop the 787-acre parcel and want it preserved as open space.
Earlier this summer, city administrators explored the possibility of granting the developer water taps as part of an easement exchange deal with the town. The plan was never developed and this week Hankin denied supporting plans for development. Her own position, she said, is to remain neutral.
"It is the responsibility of those who have the money -- TOPS in this case -- to purchase land for open space and work with the developer for the best deal that can be made," she said.
Hankin has contacted Colorado Springs City Councilman Richard Skorman to talk about Red Rock Canyon but has not, she said, worked closely with key parties in an effort to push forward preservation efforts.
"[Colorado Springs' Trails, Open Space and Parks funds are], at this point, the best source," she said. "If we want to preserve land for open space, the best way to do it is to purchase it -- if you feel strongly about a property, you have to be willing to pay for it."
But Morrison cited her own abilities to work closely with various government agencies to move projects forward in the interests of citizen representation. She is currently working closely with county and state agencies to protect another parcel -- the state-owned Section 16 property west of Colorado Springs.
Six years ago the Section 16 property was threatened with possible development and may be threatened again because the lease on the property will soon be up for renewal. Morrison pointed out the entire staff of the State Land Board that oversees the lease is new to their jobs and her institutional memory has been invaluable in communicating the history of the property.
And, with the Red Rock Canyon property, Morrison said, the city needs to be much more of a player than it has been in negotiating the future of the property.
"I'm not criticizing the present mayor or Council, but there's always a lot on their plate and it's good to have a different perspective, have a broader perspective," she said.
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