The Next Mayor Of Colorado Springs: Who’s On The Ballot?

March 25, 2019
There are four candidates for mayor of Colorado Springs in the upcoming April 2nd municipal election. Clockwise From Top Left: Lawrence Joseph Martinez, John Suthers, Juliette Parker, John Pitchford.There are four candidates for mayor of Colorado Springs in the upcoming April 2nd municipal election. Clockwise From Top Left: Lawrence Joseph Martinez, John Suthers, Juliette Parker, John Pitchford. courtesy photos
There are four candidates for mayor of Colorado Springs in the upcoming April 2nd municipal election. Clockwise From Top Left: Lawrence Joseph Martinez, John Suthers, Juliette Parker, John Pitchford.

The city of Colorado Springs is holding a general election for mayor on April 2, 2019. There are four candidates in the race. 91.5 KRCC's Andrea Chalfin spoke with each of them, and condensed the interviews into the following highlights, including discussions on homelessness, the future of the city, and public safety, among other topics.

To navigate to a specific candidate, click their name below, listed in order as they appear on the ballot. Full interview audio is available at the end of each candidate's section:

Click here to view a sample ballot.

Click here for additional election information, including ballot drop-off locations and voter registration.

Click here for information on candidates running for three at-large seats on the Colorado Springs City Council.

Lawrence Joseph Martinez is running for mayor of Colorado Springs in the upcoming April 2nd municipal election.Credit Lawrence Joseph Martinez / courtesy photo
Lawrence Joseph Martinez is running for mayor of Colorado Springs in the upcoming April 2nd municipal election.

Lawrence Joseph Martinez

Lawrence Joseph Martinez has lived in Colorado Springs for more than 30 years. Martinez went to school in Pueblo and came to Colorado Springs to work in the nursing field. He’s an emerging leader with the El Pomar Foundation and has volunteered with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office for 10 years.

KRCC: What do you see as the primary issue facing the city right now and how do you propose to address it?

Growth. We are growing at such a rapid pace. We need to start filling all the empty space that's between north and south sides of town. We have so much room to grow there. If we allow ourselves to get too large without any type of rules on how we're going to govern this growth, we're going to outgrow ourselves. Some of those things are the roads, infrastructure and schools. There's also a changing atmosphere between those who live on the south end of town and the north end of town. Sometimes a lot of these people don't really feel like they're part of the city—especially on the southeast. One of the things you really need to do is unify. 

KRCC: The city has implemented new plans or ideas and strategies for addressing the issue of homelessness. Would you define the actions taken thus far as progress or as successful? And what more can the city do to address the issue?

I've seen the plans. I've gone out to the meetings in which they propose these plans. I don't agree with each step. I agree with affordable housing. I agree with affordable housing for the veterans. Veterans really should receive the greater portion of the programs. I don't agree with what they consider to be work education because, if I'm correct to assume with the talks that we've had, they're going to have them collecting trash. I don't know where you can really go and put on a resume “trash collecting for the city.” I think one of the programs they need to change is fire mitigation. We have fire mitigation problems everywhere. So why not take those who are capable, train them to become fire-mitigators up in the mountains? Go out to those communities, do that work get them certified and they'll have a job anywhere in the United States. That helps them to move forward. For those who don't want to participate, well we'll help you get to where you got to get.

KRCC: Colorado Springs in 10 years -- what does it look like?

It looks like a great place to live—everybody says hello to each other. It seems that we care now for everyone that's here. We're all worried about what their situations are. We're willing to all work together to make Colorado Springs one of the best places to live. There's affordable housing. Streets are taken care of. We're moving forward with our power situation. So, 10 years from now, those are my hopes and my dreams. I hope everybody has a place to lay their head, to feed their family, and to enjoy life.

KRCC asked each candidate to respond to a number of hot button issues for Colorado Springs. Here are Lawrence Joseph Martinez's responses:

Recreational marijuana

  • It's everywhere. Drive outside of Colorado Springs - you can find a store that will give it to you medically or legally. I am not for increasing usage—take what they're already giving. We should be taking that tax money. Pueblo uses it for their police department. We're going to use ours for the police department and fire department. They're the most affected by this problem that we have.

Drake Power Plant

  • They say 2035 is when they're going to decommission it. I say that's too long. We should do it by 2030. We should start taking a look at a plan now to start decommissioning parts of it that we really don't need moving toward the full breakdown. Also, where are we going to be getting power from? What's our future cost? And we need to start to look at where we're going to build the next one. The next one's going to be very, very critical because that one is going to be there for the rest of Colorado Springs. So, hopefully we can take care of it by 2030. And I believe we all can. But remember with any situation like that we are going to run into problems.

Bike lanes

  • If you use them, that's great. If you don't use them, I guess we have to deal with it. Everybody has a right to do something and Colorado Springs, once again, we welcome the retired and the 35-year-olds. Sometimes you have to have a little bit of everything just to make a great place to live. Let's take a look at what the usage is now. Let's take a look where it should be and where it should not be for those who don't like the bike lanes.

Affordable housing

  • What we need to do is talk to the realtors and the developers. We need to tell him, ‘look we understand the need to be making money, but there are times when you need to take a look at society and do what's right for society.’ We've got space— let's build some affordable housing there. Do it by rent and do it by income.

Growth 

  • Let's fill that infrastructure. My goodness! how close are we going to get to Castle Rock, then Denver? We need to make sure now that they're building up on I-25 toward Castle Rock that they don’t stop. They need to keep going. In fact, they need to start back over this way again. We need to increase in Pueblo as well. Let's fill the infrastructure. Let's make sure that we can also take care of who's going to be coming here to live.

Public Safety

  • Whenever these departments ask for more money, we need to give it to them. They're our first line of defense when you're in a problem, when your kids are in a problem, when your mother and father are somewhere. Public safety is number one. And once again I'm not harping, let's not everybody get high. All I'm saying let's get the tax money give it to the police. Give it to the fire department so they can have what they need.

Listen to the full interview with Martinez:

Listen

Lawrence Joseph Martinez • John Suthers • John Pitchford • Juliette Parker

John Suthers is running for a second term as mayor of Colorado Springs in the upcoming April 2nd municipal election.Credit John Suthers / courtesy photo
John Suthers is running for a second term as mayor of Colorado Springs in the upcoming April 2nd municipal election.

John Suthers

John Suthers is the current mayor of Colorado Springs, seeking his second four-year term. He was elected in 2015. Before being elected mayor, Suthers served as Attorney General of Colorado from 2005 to 2015. A lifelong resident of Colorado Springs, Suthers attended grade school in the city and graduated from St. Mary's High School.

KRCC: What do you see as the primary issue facing the city right now and how do you propose to address it?

I think we have to continue infrastructure development. We're in a period of growth in Colorado Springs and we can't adequately deal with that growth without adequate infrastructure. And it's just not Colorado Springs that I'm worried about. Frankly, I think there's indication that the folks in Colorado Springs will step up, will build the adequate infrastructure. I'm very concerned about the state of Colorado. You have to remember that Powers is a state highway, state Highway 94 East, Highway 24—those are going to be greatly impacted by Banning Lewis Ranch development and we've got to make sure that they've got the capacity to deal with it. And we're going to need some help from the state. I will spend a lot of time in the next couple of years, if I'm the mayor of Colorado Springs, bringing to the state the necessity of investment in infrastructure.

KRCC: The city has implemented new plans or ideas and strategies for addressing the issue of homelessness. Would you define the actions taken thus far as progress or as successful? And what more can the city do to address the issue?

I personally think we've made a lot of progress in the four years [since] I first became mayor. You know, the Rescue Mission campus was a little bit of a dream. It is now a full-fledged-campus being developed with comprehensive homeless services. They just broke ground on a major kitchen. The reason why that's important is that when that's completed the noontime meal will move from the Marion House down to the Rescue Mission and I think that will help the dynamics of the inner-downtown area. But now we are doing some things that I think we really need to do for quality of life purposes, not only for the homeless, but for the residents who could be adversely impacted. Number one, to legally enforce no-camping bans you have to have adequate low-barrier shelter beds. We now have that. We open another two hundred and seventy beds in the fall and we're at a point now...we can take all comers down at the Rescue Mission. Also, Salvation Army's been very helpful in that regard. I think the public wants that.

We've put on more police officers and the Homeless Outreach Team to not, you know, be a bunch of thugs or anything like that, but to work with folks and enforce the camping bans and try and get them into shelters. Secondly, our programming is improving one of the things in this initiative this year we're setting up a homeless court. People who are brought in a municipal court for camping violations for panhandling violations for the most part they can't pay fines—but we want to do something constructive. We want to refer them to a navigator who can help them with housing, substance use treatment, mental health issues and things like that.

KRCC: Colorado Springs in 10 years -- what does it look like?

It's bigger. Right now, we’re the 41st or 42nd largest city in America. My sense is in 10 years it may be the 35th or 36th largest city in America. My goal is to make sure it's still one of the most desirable places in America to live. That's what we're rated this year, and the question is can we be that in 5- 10 years? I think we've got to have the same focus that General Palmer did—let's build a city that matches our scenery. That's what sets us apart. We are surrounded by magnificent natural surroundings and we have to make sure we build a city that complements that properly. What I like to say is, let's continue to build a city that matches our scenery—a shining city at the foot of a great mountain.

KRCC asked each candidate to respond to a number of hot button issues for Colorado Springs. Here are John Suthers' responses:

Recreational marijuana

  • I'm opposed. A lot of people are in favor of it but I think the polling indicated that the vast majority of people in Colorado Springs now are against it and that's why the industry did not pursue a ballot initiative in November 2018. We'll see whether they feel differently in November 2020.

Drake Power Plant

  • I think we've got very good leadership in the Utilities department. I think they are working on a plan to close it earlier than 2035. We can't do it tomorrow. We need to do it in a way that is tolerable to ratepayers. I think frankly it looks to me it's going to get done in the mid 2020s.

Bike lanes

  • I just hope that we can get a little more acceptance on all sides of the issue, that bike lanes are something that a lot of our younger people moving to Colorado Springs and those living in the downtown area do see as amenity. I'm hoping we can make it a little less contentious. We want to listen to everybody, but we want to make sure it's a nice place to live for everybody.

Affordable housing

  • This is an area where the fact that we have room to grow will benefit us. We don't have to gentrify. We don't have to tear down existing affordable neighborhoods and build expensive housing, because we don't have those kinds of pressures on all our neighborhoods. We're still going to have affordable neighborhoods because we do have room to grow.

Growth

  • It's going to happen. You can't prevent it. This is the most desirable place in America to live, but it's got to be done smartly. And thank goodness for some of our predecessors and the amount of planning that went into water and key things like that--we can accommodate to fairly substantial growth. I just hope it comes at a pace that we can plan appropriately for.

Public Safety

  • Public safety is very important and has always been important in Colorado Springs. It always will be a high budget priority. And please don't misinterpret my opposition to the unionization of the fire department because I think that would lead to unionization of the rest of the city. My opposition to that isn’t any indication that I'm less than very, very supportive of our public safety folks.

Listen to the full interview with Suthers:

Listen

Lawrence Joseph Martinez • John Suthers • John Pitchford • Juliette Parker

John Pitchford is running for mayor of Colorado Springs in the upcoming April 2nd municipal election.Credit John Pitchford / courtesy photo
John Pitchford is running for mayor of Colorado Springs in the upcoming April 2nd municipal election.

John Pitchford

John Pitchford is a retired dentist, a retired U.S. Army Colonel, and a self-described anti-corruption activist.

KRCC: What do you see as the primary issue facing the city right now and how do you propose to address it?

Too much money is being diverted to special interest groups. For example, recently the city voted to give $39 billion in tax incentives to a Scheels department store and this proposed Air Force Academy Visitor Center and I just don't think that's a necessary thing to do. We need to properly fund our future infrastructure and growth. We're experiencing a tremendous amount of growth, but if you continue to divert sales tax revenue to just a few people we will end up being tax-starved in the future. And the problems we're facing today will continue. Problems with maintaining our infrastructure, for example, will continue and this is the most important thing we need to be thinking about.

KRCC: The city has implemented new plans or ideas and strategies for addressing the issue of homelessness. Would you define the actions taken thus far as progress or as successful? And what more can the city do to address the issue?

In Mayor Suthers' first year, there was not a plan. In his second year there was not a plan. In his third year there was not a plan. And now weeks before the election he has come up with a five- or six-point plan. I'm somewhat concerned about that and I believe it's somewhat disingenuous of him. The plan he has come up with has no deadlines for development and provides no funding. Now having said that, one thing I have to agree with Mayor Suthers on is that he says as mayor he cannot solve the homeless problem. And I agree with him. I myself will not be able as an individual to solve this homeless problem. This is an issue that is best addressed by the state and federal authorities. And that's where I will fight to solve the problem. We have a problem with psychiatric admissions in our state. And, until recently, we were not able to afford or accommodate any of the mentally ill except for those being placed there under court order pending psychiatric evaluations. I believe that's wrong. I believe we should provide more beds and more group homes for the mentally ill so they don't have to live on the streets and so they don't have to freeze to death on bus benches.

KRCC: Colorado Springs in 10 years -- what does it look like?

Well, I'd like for the city to look much like it did in the past. I do not want to see growth in the wrong places that blight the landscape, that take away the scenery, that take away the charm that brought all these people to the city in the first place. Ten years from now I'd like to see a city that's properly funded that's safe for its citizens and retains the beauty and charm that it always once had.

KRCC asked each candidate to respond to a number of hot button issues for Colorado Springs. Here are John Pitchford’s responses:

Recreational marijuana

  • We have a thriving recreational marijuana industry here in Colorado Springs. The only problem is it's unregulated, untaxed, and run by criminals. So, I'm very concerned that people believe that either voting yes or no on recreational marijuana is going to make much of a difference in that fact. This is this is a result of how we legalized marijuana to begin with in 2010, with the idea that people should be allowed to grow their own marijuana in an unregulated manner. We know that we have a huge problem with illegal grows here in Colorado and here in Colorado Springs. So, from that standpoint I would say let the people vote on recreational marijuana. But please understand it's not going to make that much of a difference in the amount of recreational marijuana available illegally in the city. That can only be taken care of by fully funding and staffing our police department, which has not been done.

Drake Power Plant

  • I would form a commission to look into Martin Drake. Martin Drake's big problem is it's an eyesore, it's coveted by developers, and a lot of people believe that it may be a source of serious air pollution. The big problem with Martin Drake, I think, is the Neumann scrubber issue. There's no real way to evaluate what amount of air pollution is coming from it and what I'd like to see are some real data on the amount of air pollution. If we are to keep Martin Drake open we need to know that this power plant meets EPA standards both the primary and secondary standards. This is what I would look into as mayor.

Bike lanes

  • I love the idea of cycling. There's lots of other ways to go about making the city bike friendly than the way they've done it. They put in a helter skelter plan of a bike lanes in the city that I believe have actually made it more dangerous for people to be riding bikes on the street. I'd like to see something a little more inventive done. I love the idea that the city is bike-friendly. I believe in our parks and trails system. I would work hard to make sure that it is a safe system for people riding bikes.

Affordable housing

  • I would love to be able to solve that problem, but this is an economic issue that has to do with how we build homes. If we actually want affordable housing we'd have to seriously alter how we regulate the construction industry and building of homes. Right now, I don't see that as happening, but I'd like to look into it.

Growth

  • I think every city needs growth. If you're not having growth, you end up being Detroit. So, we need to be looking at that. There's no reason that this city cannot have well-planned growth that benefits the majority of the people instead of a small percentage of people.

Public safety

  • Public safety is one of the number one priorities for me. I would ensure that we have an adequate police force and I would definitely ensure that our firefighters have the equipment and staff to get the job done. These are the people who risk their lives to save yours and the least I can do as mayor is to make sure they're fully staffed and have the equipment they need to operate with.

Listen to the full interview with Pitchford:  

Listen

Lawrence Joseph Martinez • John Suthers • John Pitchford • Juliette Parker

Juliette Parker is running for mayor of Colorado Springs in the upcoming municipal election on April 2nd.Credit Juliette Parker / courtesy photo
Juliette Parker is running for mayor of Colorado Springs in the upcoming municipal election on April 2nd.

Juliette Parker

Juliette Parker is a mother, small business owner, and founder of a nonprofit that is working to build tiny home villages for homeless veterans and families with children.

KRCC: What do you see as the primary issue facing the city right now and how do you propose to address it?

I think the primary issue is the fact that the voters aren't listened to. We have a bunch of issues: everything from infrastructure to affordable housing, to homelessness, to our roads, to our lack of broadband and fiber optics and technology, to a lack of low wage and minimum wage to mid-wage jobs. But all of it ultimately ties into the fact that our administration simply does not listen to us. They’ll sit there and they'll do things without asking us, or on the rare occasion they do ask us to vote on something, then they ignore what we wanted in the first place. So I think that it's really, really important -- that we have an administration that listens to the voters. At the end of the day, this is not the mayor’s city, it's not city council’s city, it is the voters’ and residents’ city and that's who needs to be in charge of it.

KRCC: The city has implemented new plans or ideas and strategies for addressing the issue of homelessness. Would you define the actions taken thus far as progress or as successful? And what more can the city do to address the issue?

So the city's homeless action plan is, if you read through it, it's really just a plan to make a plan, which is not actually a plan. They say, you know, ‘We want to come up with a plan to build 1000 affordable units a year instead of 500,’ but they don't have a plan to do that. My plan is to say [to developers], ‘Hey you guys, build me affordable housing and we'll reduce the fees so that you guys can either break even or make a profit on it.’ You can't ask developers, I mean we could ask them to not make a profit, but they're not going to do that, because they’re a business just like every other business. They're not going to do it out of the kindness of their hearts. So, you know, [the city] put the new shelter beds in. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, but the city paid $500,000 dollars for those beds, which on most nights go relatively unused. They had open beds most nights before they added them and they literally only added those new beds so that they could give tickets to people without getting sued by the ACLU. The tiny home village that I wanted to build for the homeless veterans and families with kids would immediately reduce the number of homeless on the street by at least 24%, probably closer to 36%, depending on how many couples and actual children were in each family that got housed.

KRCC: Colorado Springs in 10 years -- what does it look like?

Gosh, it depends on who gets elected. If I don't get elected, I imagine it'll be overrun with developer projects all over the place and all of us low-income people will be pushed out to Security and Fountain because we won't be able to afford to live here -- most of us can't afford to live here now. If I get elected, I would like to see us on a fiber optic, smart grid city system. I would like to have bigger companies come in that provide entry-level jobs that you can work your way up in. I would like to see digital art museums and bike trails that are safe for bikers and don't impede traffic. I'd like to see bus routes all over the city so that people can go without a car if they choose. I would like to make sure that our streetlights stay on and that our grasses get watered.

KRCC asked each candidate to respond to a number of hot button issues for Colorado Springs. Here are Juliette Parker’s responses:

Recreational marijuana

  • I think it should go on the ballot. I think it's the people's decision. If the people in the city want it, then great, let's go for it and use the tax money. If the people don't want it, then they don't want it, and we'll leave it alone. But at the end of the day, it's the voters' city and they should decide. It shouldn't be up to the mayor or city council or any one group or person. I want to put it on the ballot and I want to end this debate once and for all.

Drake Power Plant

  • I would like to have it shut down eventually, but I don't want to do it at the cost of utility bills. My utility bill is higher than I can pay right now. Every month I'm like ‘whoo,’ I can't imagine it going up higher. So would it be nice to shut it down? Yes, definitely. I'm all for doing that but I want to make sure we do it without costing everybody more on their utility bills...I would like to get some really on-point, brainiac people in that energy department to come in here and evaluate the system. I want to know what the status really is of Drake and I want to get people to come in here who have no interest, because it doesn't affect them at all, to tell us what we can do, what our options are to get Drake shut down without raising our utility bills.

Bike lanes

  • Bike lanes are a hot topic. The city should have asked beforehand. More people knew about that last bike lane info session than about any of the other bike lane meetings. You know, we had people living on Research [Parkway] who said, as far as they knew, there was no talk about a bike lane and then the next morning it was there. I think transparency and honesty and being upfront and being very vocal about what the city is doing is really important... I definitely think we need bike lanes we need other modes of transportation including buses and stuff like that but we've got to find a way to do it where it doesn't impede our drivers.

Affordable Housing

  • We need affordable housing. We are 36,000 housing units short for our population. It’s not just affordable, whether they’re for rent or for sale: houses apartments condos townhomes etc. I would like to work with developers and builders and figure out either giving them land that is actually blighted -- not pretend blighted -- or waiving their utility tap fees, permit these, etc. or some combination in trade for them building us units—whether their houses or apartments—that are actually affordable to someone who’s working a full-time minimum wage job. We have students, retirees, people on Social Security who can’t afford a place to live. 30 percent of our homeless— believe it or not—have full-time jobs but they can’t afford a place to live here.

Growth

  • Growth is good. I mean it brings us more sales tax. I think that we need to make sure we have a rock-solid foundation to handle that growth, which we don't have. We need to make sure that we have the [affordable] housing to put people in. We need to make sure that we have the jobs for people to fill. We need to make sure that our roads are adequate and safe for people to be driving on. We need to make sure that people who don't have cars have the means to get from point A to point B in the city. So growth is fantastic provided that we're ready for it, and I think that there are several things we need to do to really be prepared and handle the growth that we already have and that we're going to continue having.

Public Safety

  • We need more cops. And now we're adding 120, but that still puts us at close to 200 or so short for our current population. And they're saying that we're going to be bigger than Denver, population-wise, by the end of 2020, which means we'll be several hundred police officers short if we don't add more. I mean, part of the issue is pay, which I know we just voted to increase their pay which is great. It still could possibly be increased more. But then there are things that we can do, things that I would like to do, that don't cost more tax dollars. Things like giving our police officers, first responders, and firefighters things like free passes to Pikes Peak, free fishing licenses, free hunting licenses...I think that if we could find ways to help them de-stress and decompress in a way that doesn't cost tax dollars, then we could lower our turnover rate and keep more of the officers that we’re already paying to train.

Listen to the full interview with Parker: 

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Lawrence Joseph Martinez • John Suthers • John Pitchford • Juliette Parker

Abigail Beckman, Ali Budner, and Jake Brownell contributed to this online post.