Colorado Springs mayoral candidate questionnaire: Longinos Gonzalez Jr.
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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 Colorado Springs mayoral seat. The short biography below is gleaned from the candidate’s responses (if submitted), their websites and other sources.
Longinos Gonzalez, Jr. is a current El Paso County Commissioner. He's also a former teacher in Harrison District 2, an Air Force veteran and a graduate of the Air Force Academy. Gonzalez said he is running for mayor "to give back to the community," and because he believes in public service.
Recent media coverage places Gonzalez at a Moms for Liberty meeting. The group advocates for "parental rights," and according to Sixty35, has a local anti-LQBTQ history. According to the article, Gonzalez said "he wasn't aware of their background," but allegedly ignored a question about distancing himself from the group.
In the news:
Role and vision
What is your elevator pitch for why voters in Colorado Springs should choose you as the next mayor?
I’m running for mayor because I believe in service to others and giving back to my community. I did that in the military, being a teacher, a church volunteer, and as a County Commissioner. I have a record of being an advocate and voice for our residents and our small businesses and doing the right thing for our community. I’ve demonstrated the type of leadership needed as mayor during COVID and in emergency response, such as during the Carson-Midway fire and the 117 fire, and in advocating for our community and businesses at the state and federal level. As a retired AF officer and AF Academy graduate, current commissioner, businessman and former teacher, I have the experience, leadership skills and values to best lead our great city forward. Remember to vote for Longinos Gonzalez Jr for Mayor of Colorado Springs.
What do you see as the role and/or function of city government?
I believe that government's #1 job is public safety and its primary functions include public safety (police, fire and emergency management), maintaining our roads and infrastructure, and land use and land management (ie. approving/disapproving developments, etc., and managing our parks). And doing so in a manner that is efficient for our residents and taxpayers.
What is the number one challenge facing the next mayor of Colorado Springs, and how would you address it?
I believe addressing rising crime is our number one challenge. Public safety is government's #1 job, and that every resident should feel safe and be safe in their home and in their neighborhood. And I have the hands-on experience working side by side with law enforcement during my military career and locally on the city’s Public Safety Sales Tax Oversight committee for 6 years with the police and fire chiefs to best address concerns. Our community deserves excellence in meeting critical service needs such as police and fire, and emergency response. The city’s homicide rate increased 22% last year and the previous police chief acknowledged below average call response times and drop call numbers. We can do better, and I WILL ensure that we do. I will address our police staffing shortages with better retention and recruiting as we’ve done at the County where we’re back to our authorized strength. Through a salary review, improved training, and bringing our police department and our community together to increase collaboration, pride, and confidence within our force, we will correct the manning shortage and bring crime down. I am already known for my work on local public safety forums addressing crime and I will continue those efforts.
What is your vision for Colorado Springs in the next 25 years, and what realistic policies do you propose to get us there?
I look for a Colorado Springs to remain the great city that it is, and one that has addressed our current public safety, water, and affordability concerns, so that we are the city residents desire to live, work and play. I will improve funding for our public safety and roads so we are a community families and residents feel safe and proud of. And have in place, long-term water and growth master plans that have been developed over the course of my first two years as mayor with local stakeholders, and public input. And I want to to so in a manner that maintains the heritage and culture of the Pikes Peak region so we aren't just another Denver or metro city. To ensure we maintain that current culture, I will also advocate for our improving our parks and open space by better funding it through the general fund.
Law enforcement / Public Safety
What is the most pressing public safety issue facing the city and how would you address it?
Our greatest public safety issue is the increased homicide rate in the city, as well as call response times and the growing threat of fentanyl drug deaths that has started affecting even our youth. Public safety is government's #1 job, and combatting the rising crime rates in our city will be my top priority. I have the most hands-on experience working side by law enforcement from my military career and being on the city’s Public Safety Sales Tax Oversight committee where I worked with our police and fire chief. The city’s homicide rate increased 22% last year and the previous police chief acknowledged below average call response times and drop call numbers. We can do better, and I WILL ensure that we do. I will address our police staffing shortages with better retention and recruiting as we’ve done at the County where we’re back to our authorized strength. Through a salary review, improved training, and bringing our police department and our community together to increase our department’s ability to combat crime. I will also be the voice and advocate fighting against any state bill that would negatively affect our ability to combat crime. I am already known for my work on local public safety forums addressing crime and I will continue those efforts as mayor.
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’m pleased that citywide the audit showed minor or no racial/ethnic disparities in use of force and our force is doing well overall. However, it did still find in more detailed analysis of Black and Hispanic individuals compared to White individuals, that Black and Hispanic individuals were significantly more likely than White individuals to have force used against them when they had no reported impairment and that overall there was use of force against Blacks (22.8%) at a level higher than their local population proportion. I will ensure the department reviews those aspects and if issues are found that we correct it. I believe those reviews need to be transparent and am supportive of the findings that recommend improved training for our police officers. I have also been supportive of bringing our law enforcement leaders with our community and stakeholders to better improve dialogue that results in increased collaboration, morale, and confidence in our police department and our city. I have already participated in two such forums last year. Once as a moderator and once as a panel participant representing El Paso County. I have great faith in our law enforcement, but we can definitely improve and should.
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?
The relationship has been strained over the past couple years and that relationship and trust needs to be rebuilt. I believe I can be the leader and advocate for both our law enforcement and our community. I have already been that advocate for both, in my current role of county commissioner and my work in the southeast part of our city and among our minority community. I have the experience that will be valuable in rebuilding that trust as I've served on the city's Public Safety Sales Tax Oversight Committee (which supports our police and fire departments) and my work with community partners. We absolutely need to bring our community and stakeholders together to rebuild that trust and confidence within the public and the morale within our department ensuring they know we have trust in them. I will also support improving training for our police force and increasing transparency throughout all our city departments.
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 believe it has been a good addition and that it provides for increased public input to the mayor, city council, and our law enforcement leadership. It can be a valuable tool that recommends changes or improvements and promotes the dialogue I mentioned early that can help improve the relationship between our community and our police department and first responders.
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 will bring the stakeholders and community members together, and I will fully participate in those town halls personally. I do believe the notification software as well as safety and evacuation modeling needs to be implemented and utilized in the city's land use recommendations and decisions. These discussions, transparency, utilization of the new software, and taking public input seriously will help build confidence in residents that we are looking out for the safety and considerations of residents.
How do you define sustainable and responsible growth, and is the city successful in growing responsibly and sustainably?
We need to balance the need of our community to grow and meet those housing and work-related demands, while also taking into account issues related to water sustainability, sprawl, and a desire to maintain the character of Colorado Springs. I don't want us to become Denver, but the great city we are. I will hold stakeholder meetings with the city, county, water districts, developers, and public input, and develop long-term land use/annexation, and water master plans to ensure the city is successful in growing responsibly and sustainably.
What different approach would you take, if any, to help address housing affordability?
Addressing housing costs and long-term growth is one of my stated top three priorities. I have already called for stakeholder meetings that includes the city, county, and residents to develop a city and regional strategic growth and water plan. I also have the experience with my time on the County Housing Authority of promoting strategies and programs for entry level housing, such as grants, turnkey programs, and sponsoring private activity bonds that cuts the cost of construction. I will cut the red tape that slows the building process. That will save time and cut costs. I will also be a voice that opposes state bills that would add costly regulations to housing and result in increased housing costs. And by making data-driven, growth decisions we can take advantage of infill areas of the city and strategically plan growth areas to our east near essential services, such as fire and police stations, and utilities, that reduces new infrastructure costs and helps keep housing costs down.
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 define infill by developing our available areas within the city boundary and be also expanding the use of mixed use spaces for commercial/retail and housing, where appropriate. By utilizing infill projects to expand our housing and commercial needs, we can help keep costs to development down because infill takes advantage of existing roads and infrastructure as well and utilizing nearby existing first response (police and fire stations) and utilities access. My priority will be to prioritize infill first and use annexations where it is appropriate and can efficiently use or connect to existing essential services and utilities.
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 attended the first meeting at CSU on this issue and it was clear that the data used was not properly researched but submitted as a draft by a single developer who is most likely to benefit the most long-term over its passage as many believe it creates a de facto monopoly for that developer. I had requested that a final vote on the ordinance be tabled until meetings of stakeholders could be convened to discuss the plan and its potential effects on water and housing affordability, and an already existing city/county annexation agreement. When asked, the CSU CEO admitted they did not know if the ordinance would negatively affect housing costs. It was also clear that the CSU board did not bring up all the information known to them at that first meeting, but brought up at later meetings after the public and media inquired further. That lack of transparency is a concern for me as well. Until those type questions are addressed and the question over whether this proposal was purposely moved along to benefit one developer, this ordinance should not have had a final vote.
How do you balance maintaining the character of Colorado Springs with the need for development? What is the character of Colorado Springs?
We need to balance the need of our community to grow and meet those housing and work-related demands, while also taking into account the type of city we want to remain and how we want to preserve the character and culture of our community. I don't want us to become Denver, but the great city we are. I believe our character is one based upon our Western heritage, support to others, and one that preserves our great outdoors and open space assets. Clearly growth will happen but I will ensure that development is compatible and harmonious with the surrounding neighborhoods. Public input is a critical input to any such land use and development decisions.
Transportation / Infrastructure
What is the most important infrastructure project needed in Colorado Springs right now, and how would you address it?
Widening of Marksheffel through the northeast part of the city is a growing need and vital to address the North-South congestion issues we continue to see in the city, particularly during "rush hour" traffic. A second priority should be completing the N Powers extension and connection to I-25. We should utilize PPRTA III to fund the projects and look for matching funds from the federal government as was done by El Paso County in other road projects.
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?
I believe our congestion issues are largely North-South "rush hour" congestion issues that absolutely need to be addressed and planned for in our long-term, strategic transportation plans. As a member of PPRTA, I have been proud of our efforts to increase routes for our city residents, but we need to ensure our public transportation more efficiently utilizes its funding.
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?
I'm all for expanding those activities as they do benefit our community but I oppose the use of "road dieting" to achieve that. The concern I and many residents have raised before, is the city wanting to "road diet" areas of the city that do not necessarily increase those activities but it does add to the congestion of our roads by reducing the number of available vehicle driving lanes. More time spent driving and stuck in traffic is a detriment to efficiency for residents and workers, and adds to the amount of emissions given off by our vehicles.
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?
Yes. I graduated from the AF Academy and retired back here specifically because of my love for this region and the beauty of its outdoors. I have been an advocate for maintaining and protecting our valuable parks and open space assets and as a County Commissioner expanded the number of open space and recreational areas for our community. As mayor, I would continue to be that advocate.
What do you see as the current state of economic diversity, and where does the city have the opportunity to grow?
I believe we need to expand economic base to include additional manufacturing and higher tech companies that bring higher paying jobs. We still have an opportunity to expand in additional defense-related and healthcare related sectors. As a former chair of the Workforce Center Consortium Board, I have the most experience in working to match our employers with the appropriate labor pool, and will continue my efforts to work to better train and educate our workforce to best meet those growing sectors.
Is the city doing enough to address the issue of people experiencing homelessness? What, if anything, would you do differently?
We need to better address homelessness from multiple sides. It is a public safety and rule of law issue. It is also a public health and wellness issue, as many homeless suffer from mental health or drug and alcohol dependency. Housing affordability also plays a role. In all cases, we need to bring stakeholders together – government agencies, nonprofits and faith-based organizations, our Public Health Department, and our law enforcement to ensure the safety of all our residents, and also help the homeless seeking assistance get matched up to the services they need and are eligible for. We’ve seen too many fires, crime, and other incidents at camps and surrounding neighborhoods, so we must continue to expand our camp cleanup efforts. And in helping those in need, I advocate for our homeless veterans in my role on the Colorado Board of Veterans Affairs and at Mt Carmel, and for those needing mental health or substance abuse support through my role on the Board of Health and the newly formed Regional Opioid Council. And I’ve supported the expanded role of our local Rescue Mission. Collaboratively, we can help better support those in need while also ensuring the safety of our residents.
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)?
I have always voted to return funds back to residents when there is a TABOR excess. With the coming economic slowdown and potential recession, the need to ensure residents keep more of their own money and return TABOR excess back to residents continues to make sense.
Who are your top three campaign donors?
Myself (over 85% of my campaign funding), Kevin O'Neil, Schmidt Construction
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?
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