Colorado Springs District 3 council candidate questionnaire: Michelle Talarico
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KRCC News sent detailed surveys about some of the most critical issues facing city leaders, to the candidates running for the District 3 seat on the Colorado Springs City Council. The short biography below is gleaned from the candidate's response, their website and other sources.
Michelle Talarico is the co-owner and sales director for Picnic Basket Catering, Cravings Five Star Events and Buffalo Gals Grilling Company. She has lived in Colorado Springs for more than 40 years.
Talarico graduated from Colorado College.
She has served on the boards of various non-profits including the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Colorado Springs Leadership Institute, Colorado Springs Diversity forum, and Care and Share. She was given the 2021 Athena Award by the Colorado Springs Chamber and Economic Development Corporation which honors community and business leaders who encourage women.
Talarico's endorsements include Colorado state Sen. Bob Gardner, the Downtown Partnership of Colorado Springs, and the Pikes Peak Association of Realtors.
Talarico was accused of lifting a statement from a blog and passing it off as her answer to a question on a candidate survey from Springs Taxpayers United. She told Sixty35 she copied parts “because it was well written.”
The candidate elected to the City Council District 3 will serve for two years. The seat is unexpired as current councilor Stephannie Fortune has chosen to step down for health reasons. District 3 covers southwest Colorado Springs and part of downtown. Fortune was a controversial appointment to the seat in early 2022, after longtime councilman Richard Skorman stepped down.
In the news:
Role and vision
What is your elevator pitch for why voters in Colorado Springs should choose you as the next District 3 council representative?
I am a hard-working, small business person who has lived, attended school and worked in Colorado Springs for over 40 years. I love Colorado Springs and I am dedicated to helping our Community grow responsibly while protecting our valuable resources, our trails and open spaces and ensure the safety of our citizens. My top priorities are to work on a detailed fire evacuation plan as well as the addition of more firefighters and police protection while cultivating a better culture between the public and our law enforcement. I consider myself a champion for all small businesses and an advocate for attracting the right businesses to employ our workforce and contribute and enlighten our community. I have owned a successful catering company for 34 years. Starting with $300. each, my partner and I bought an existing delicatessen with a prayer, a song and a "think I can" attitude. We now employ over 100 full and part-time employees, facilitate over 2500 events and feed over 30,000 guests per year. We have given back in dollars, food donations and beverage services to hundred of nonprofits totaling 10% of our bottom line. I am a mentor, a leader and a doer. Relationships are key to getting things done. I have built many friendships, developing relationships both in the non-profit and the retail sectors and consider myself a bridge builder. I encourage community factions to find solutions by finding common ground. I am not right, or left I make decisions based on facts and what is right for our community. I am the right choice for District #3.
What do you see as the role and/or function of city government?
To do our job. We are a council of 9 who work for a strong mayor. We work to appoint people to important boards and commissions, we hear many propositions and ideas on land use issues, and we sit on the City Utilities board. It is our duty to follow the charter of City Council.
What is the number one challenge facing the next mayor of Colorado Springs, and how would you address it?
Crime and publics safety. We must get our arms around why our crime rates are so high, our traffic fatalities are so high, our rates of fentanyl deaths are so high etc. We need to add more police and fire departments and support the HOT and HOP teams.
What is your vision for Colorado Springs in the next 25 years, and what realistic policies do you propose to get us there?
Smart sensible growth, smart balance solutions for our homeless, making sure we allow those that deserve to make a profit do so, but always be keenly aware of not creating or allowing monopolies. More land acquisition with open space. Increasing funding for parks.
Law enforcement / Public Safety
What is the most pressing public safety issue facing the city and how would you address it?
Fire evacuation plans and more fireman especially on their HOP team. Also we need to add at least 4 positions to our HOT team and fully hire 70 more officers for our police department. Additionally we need to revisit our contract and most likely discontinue with AMR. We can handle it better and more efficiently as a city. The response times are not sufficient for our outer lying areas.
What is your response to the findings from the audit on how the Colorado Springs Police Department uses force? What, if any, changes need to be made to the way CSPD operates?
I believe it to be unfortunate that initially the audit was delayed. as I was not a part of the audit team nor any task force I hope to safely assume that due diligence was used. However as a community member and a potential council member I also believe that there is always room for improvement with the way power and force is used. I believe training is a key component. If we expect these men and Women to be in harms way(potentially) we must arm them with tools other the guns and batons and tasers.
What do you think of the current relationship between the Colorado Springs Police Department and the public? Is it acceptable or should more be done, and if so, what?
I think we need more officers , and we need more neighborhood collaboration and reach outs. Townhalls should be apart of all we do. The public should always have access to our police. I believe the relationship is improving. As a council person I look forward to knowing what we as a city can do differently and better.
What do you think of the Law Enforcement Transparency and Advisory Commission (LETAC)? What would you do differently with this commission or its purpose if given the chance?
I love the vision, but I have to assume as it was approved by prior council 8-1 that they did their due diligence. with that said I will dig deeper into results. Has this commission achieved its vision, I would say we have work to do?
Emergency officials are implementing new notification software and other measures in the case of a wildfire or other hazard, but some residents say that isn’t enough. How would you address their concerns?
I would agree with "some residents", that it isn't enough. There will not be time to notify and implement this system unless we get into the parts of our city who are not English speaking, do not have phones, it is not as simple as a notification system. We have to model and plan for the next fire now. It is a constant that must be known by all residents. It's a tall task and I want to be able to know more and offer more solutions.
How do you define sustainable and responsible growth, and is the city successful in growing responsibly and sustainably?
I define sustainable and responsible growth as having all future data before you approve any plans and who has that luxury , no one! I think growth is inevitable and necessary or else our city dies. Have we been successful, I think we have had some wins and losses. At this moment in time without being on the planning commission or being on council , I have to say that I think we need to listen and learn more from qualified individuals on all aspects of growth. I do worry that we are growing to fast in some areas. I also worry about sustainability. As a business owner I support growth but as a community member, I look forward if elected to being more knowledgeable on this question.
What different approach would you take, if any, to help address housing affordability?
Insist that for every $2500.00 apartment being built the developers are responsible to build one that is under $1000.00. To inform all of our citizens about grants and opportunities for our older homeowners who are not selling their homes, but could with grant money remodel and improve the value and have someone paying them for the apartment or space in their home. Educate our young people about all the first time home owner opportunities there are.
Infill is identified in the PlanCOS master plan as a key strategy for the city moving forward, and yet, council is currently debating annexations. How do you define infill and how do you balance it with annexations?
I have mixed feeling about this question. I do believe we need to concentrate on infill but I also know that there are areas out east, specifically that could potentially allow for some developers to increase our affordability. I know we are a strong mayor city but it is our job along with our strong mayor to truly weigh all issues.
What do you think of the recent water service extension ordinance passed by council and signed by the mayor aimed at limiting annexations based on water supply? What would you have done differently?
I support the request for a study to be done. It was called for during deliberation by Nancy Henjum. I want to know more. I agree 128% is a start but is it enough? We don't know and I will be apart of finding out.
How do you balance maintaining the character of Colorado Springs with the need for development? What is the character of Colorado Springs?
It is pure beauty. It is parks and open spaces, it is Pikes Peak. It is The Broadmoor , it is Garden of the gods. It is Old Colorado city. We have to engage all parts of our beautiful city to keep it that way.
Transportation / Infrastructure
What is the most important infrastructure project needed in Colorado Springs right now, and how would you address it?
There are so many but I would say assuring our neighbors to the North that we will take care of listening and acting on the concerns of our residents who will be most effected by the new amphitheater, I am excited as a community member, but how are we going to address traffic in an already trafficked area. Obviously this was a tough decision for our current city council.
How do you feel about the transportation options currently available in Colorado Springs? What plans, if any, do you have to increase options for reliable public transportation?
Encourage Bus Tang, Celebrate and inform the Public about Pike Ride, Electric bicycles embrace our cyclists and continue to build safe connections between our parks and open spaces.
What are your thoughts about expanding the use of active transportation like bicycles or walking? Should it be a primary focus and if so, what should be done?
Information, maps, education, encouraging all of us to tell 6 people about these great options mentioned above.
Parks & Open Space, Economy & Other
General Palmer's original vision for the city of Colorado Springs was that of a planned community, built around its natural beauty and environment. Do you agree with that vision, and if so, how do you plan to stay true to it?
Absolutely. By passing TOPS, but in a perfect world increasing TOPS to at least double what it is. Also we must increase our city budget. It is ridiculously low for such a beautiful city and abhorrent that we have so many unused parks because safety or irrigation leaks.
What do you see as the current state of economic diversity, and where does the city have the opportunity to grow?
Attracting more cultural and arts business, we have made great strides but lets have more entrepreneurs start their business here. Let's' be known as that city. I am grateful for our military installations for many reasons but we need all sizes of business. I am an advocate small business. There must be a balance. I believe we need more manufacturing.
What is the most pressing issue of your district and how would you address it and advocate dealing with it?
Homeless and affordable Housing. I believe I have answered this question in my answer above but I primarily think we need to continue to collaborate on all sides of this issue with the many great nonprofits in this community. It is not one size fits all approach. I would work tirelessly to report back to my constituents and I will be actively engaged in both of these issues in my district.
How do you balance the needs of your district with the city as a whole?
As best as I can. I have to work with 8 other people but at the end of every day I am here representing the 80,000 plus that live in my district. I want to always be able to look them in the eyes and be honest with their concerns and fight for District 3.
What is your favorite part of living in District 3?
I am 1/4 mile from Bear Creek Regional Park, we can't just see the beauty of the mountains we are in the beauty. I also love the diversity, we have millionaires and some of the most downtrodden. I get to work with OCC and downtown, how lucky am I?
Is the city’s evacuation planning adequate to meet the specific needs of your district? If not, what should be done?
No I answered this above. Especially not in our density here in Skyway , most of the westside. It is not adequate!
Is the city doing enough to address the issue of people experiencing homelessness? What, if anything, would you do differently?
Continue to talk and collaborate with many partners do this work. it is not a one size fits all issue. I think we as a city are doing a good job but we have to continue to do better.
What is your stance on if and when to ask voters to retain funds that exceed the cap imposed by the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR)?
This is incredibly difficult and so complicated. There are good and bad things about TABOR, however we must re-look and decide . It is way too confusing and it (in my opinion) was built that way. I need to know way more to answer this question.
Who are your top three campaign donors?
I don't know the answer to that as we have some new funds that are just coming in.
Would you support city councilors receiving a living wage or salary as opposed to the annual stipend of $6,250?
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado Springs?
Would you support creating an independent board for Colorado Springs Utilities, rather than having council serve as the board?
Do you support Front Range Rail?
Do you support extending Constitution Avenue?
Is the city adequately addressing climate change and adaptation?
Do you support the ballot measure that extends the TOPS sales tax?
Note: Michelle Talarico is co-owner of Picnic Basket Catering, which is an underwriter of KRCC.
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