Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Suthers survives a 'constitutional challenge'

Posted By on Wed, Mar 25, 2015 at 11:34 AM

click to enlarge John Suthers makes his pitch to a roomful of people who deplore taxes and worship guns. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • John Suthers makes his pitch to a roomful of people who deplore taxes and worship guns.

Not all campaign events are held in big auditoriums with cameras rolling and media asking pertinent questions.

Some take place in living rooms, back yards, coffee shops and bars. Such as the campaign appearance of mayoral candidate John Suthers last night at a Liberty First meeting at the Dublin House, a bar in northeast Colorado Springs.

Liberty First is a "grassroots freedom movement," according to a banner hanging over the stage. "It does not take a majority to prevail ... but rather an irate tireless minority, keen on setting brush fires of freedom in the minds of men," the banner states, quoting American Revolution figure Sam Adams.

This is a group who cheers when someone announces that March 23 was the 240th anniversary of patriot Patrick Henry's famous call to arms speech in which he said, "Give me liberty or give me death."
click to enlarge Sherrie Gibson making her pitch. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Sherrie Gibson making her pitch.
The crowd of about 50 seemed to groove to a short appearance by Sherrie Gibson, who's running for the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners District 2 seat, now held by Amy Lathen, who's running for mayor against Suthers and four others.

Gibson says she wants to improve trust in government by narrowing the government's focus to roads, bridges and public safety and promotes "pragmatic, conservative solutions."

The Liberty First meeting, remember, was the setting for Rep. Doug Lamborn's infamous remark urging military generals to resign in protest of President Obama's foreign policy.

So while Suthers is conservative, he appeared to be a bit tense as he approached various people before he was called to the podium to speak.

If there were any headlines from the evening, they were:

Suthers says he won't run for governor, a rumor that's been floating around. "If I was going to run for governor, I would have run against Bill Ritter in 2006," he said. If I were going to run for U.S. Sentate, I would have run against Michael Bennet in 2010." He went on to say that one of two things will happen in coming weeks to determine his future: He'll either be elected mayor or he'll join a local law firm. Asked about that as he was leaving, he says he's talked with several firms but that none of those talks will impact which firms get hired by the city, should he become mayor. "I would not favor any law firm," the former Colorado attorney general says. (Mayor Steve Bach favors Hogan Lovells, as we've reported.)

Standing before an anti-tax crowd, Suthers didn't get a single boo or hiss when he talked about a possible tax increase to get the city caught up on an enormous backlog of road, bridge, stormwater and other infrastructure projects. He said any proposal, though, should state exactly how much money is needed, what projects would be done and contain a termination date. "It's a trust-building thing," he said.

While other mayoral appointees might be circulating their resumes in anticipation of a new mayor who will keep them or fire them, Airport Manager Dan Gallagher can rest easy. While praising steps to attract business to the Colorado Springs Airport enterprise zone, Suthers said, "Dan Gallagher is doing a good job out there."
click to enlarge Suthers chats with Liberty First member David Kelly. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Suthers chats with Liberty First member David Kelly.
He spoke in great detail about various Supreme Court decisions involving the 2nd Amendment, noting that it was his job as attorney general to defend laws adopted by the legislature and signed into law by the governor. "The rule of law means that not everybody gets to decide what the Constitution means," he said. "I'll enforce the law until the court says it's not the law."

Suthers restated his position on City for Champions, saying the downtown stadium portion of the tourism package poses "a serious viability question," he said. "If there's any burden on the Colorado Springs taxpayers, this is a matter that has to go to the voters." In a related comment that's been an issue in the downtown stadium debate, he said he opposes the use of eminent domain — the taking of private property for a public purpose — to acquire land for economic development.

Ironically, after I got home from the meeting, I saw a television ad for mayoral candidate Mary Lou Makepeace, who has firmed up her position on the downtown stadium. She previously said it needed further study and public input. In the ad, she says it's time to "get the stadium off the table." Later in the ad, Makepeace, who served as mayor from 1997 to 2003, says she's is ready to hit the ground running. "We don't need another mayor who needs on-the-job training," she says.

Others running for mayor are Joel Miller, Lawrence Martinez and Tony Carpenter

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