KRCC News sent detailed surveys about some of the most critical issues facing city leaders, to the candidates running for the Pueblo mayoral seat. Read their responses below.
The responses have been lightly edited for clarity.
Role and vision
Why do you want to be mayor and what qualifications would you bring to the position?
Pueblo is facing some big city problems and we are at a critical juncture. If elected as Mayor I will implement my plan to turn Pueblo around by addressing our skyrocketing violent crime, out-of-control homelessness, and blighted neighborhoods. Restoring public safety will be my highest priority if elected. "What I am really trying to do is sound the alarm," Nicoll said. "If we don't address these issues, I think Pueblo is going to decline to the point where we start losing population. Some people have already begun moving to safer and more prosperous communities. We desperately need a mayor with a solid strategy for addressing these issues. If left unchecked, our city will no longer be able to attract economic development opportunities. Pueblo will be faced with a population decline as our citizens flee to safer more prosperous cities. I will work to turn Pueblo around and address these core problems.”
What makes you proud to be a Puebloan?
Pueblo’s greatest assets are its people. We are a friendly diverse population that values family and community, and we are willing to help one another and our neighbors. We are a community that sees 300 days of sunshine with close proximity to the mountains, lakes and rivers. Pueblo has excellent water resources at the confluence of the Fountain Creek and Arkansas rivers. We have access to transportation at the intersection of I-25 and Highway 50 that brings many travelers through our city. We are at the intersection of Burlington Northern and Union Pacific railroads to provide easy access commercial rail shipping. We have an airport with an FAA tower that can handle large commercial, military, and private aircraft. Pueblo is located at an opportune geographic location that attracts many corporate jets for service and refueling. We are a city known for the oldest steel mill west of the Mississippi that has been in existence for over 150 years. Pueblo voters have repeatedly taxed themselves to improve economic development with the ½ cent sales tax that continues to create new jobs for our citizens. This helps us compete with other cities that do not have this in place. We are the location of major corporations to including CS Wind, EVRAZ, Trane– Ingersoll Rand, United Technologies, PWAG Chains, We have top notch higher educational institutions like CSU-P and PCC. We offer many outdoor recreation activities (fishing, kayaking, bike trails, hiking, camping, hunting, mountain biking, etc.). Pueblo has a thriving arts and culture community with the Sangre de Cristo Arts center and many local galleries, museums, and studios.
What endorsements do you hold?
I was asked to run for mayor by community members and some of leaders of the faith community. I’m not seeking endorsements from Pueblo City Unions. I’m concerned that this creates a conflict of interest for the mayor who is responsible for negotiating the city union contracts. My opponents Nick Gradisar and Heather Graham have both accepted endorsement from City Fire and Police Unions respectively, and I am calling for them to recuse themselves and return any money they may have received due to this obvious conflict of interest. We are still interviewing for various community groups offering their endorsements.
Do you support the statewide initiative Prop HH?
Do you support the statewide Prop II?
Should Pueblo go back to a city manager-run government instead of maintaining a strong mayor?
Should the city move the bust of Christopher Columbus?
Do you support the expansion of bike routes?
What is the biggest challenge facing Pueblo you plan to address as an elected official? How would you address it?
Pueblo is facing some “big city problems” and we are at a critical juncture. If elected as Mayor I will implement my plan to turn Pueblo around by addressing our skyrocketing violent crime, out of control homelessness, and blighted neighborhoods. Additionally, Pueblo has some major issues that we must work together to resolve to move our city forward. As mayor I will lead and address these challenges head on. Pueblo has seen limited population growth in recent years, when compared to other regions of Colorado. We must identify new growth industries to participate in that will stimulate economic growth. We must attract new populations that will relocate to our city. I plan to focus on education and workforce development to create a strong modern workforce with the ability to attract high paying jobs in growth industries like technology and cybersecurity. We must deal with our high electricity rates, and work to achieve excellence in our school systems. We must also deal with crime and the perception of Pueblo as a city with crime problems. We must deal with homeless issues and drug addiction problems that have spiraled to new levels in our city.
How might you seek to combat the rising cost of living?
I will seek to cut property taxes for city residents by promoting a reduction in the mill levy. My economic development plan will grow our economy to combat inflation by creating economic opportunities. I will create a technology center of excellence that is built around our university and community by training a ready workforce in high-demand technologies. We will build a future workforce by marketing the city as technology hub that is more affordable than other Front Range cities. My plan is to create new opportunities by focusing on high-performing diversified economic sectors such as technology, cybersecurity, healthcare, and renewable energy to create bold new opportunities for our city.
What kind of new employment opportunities should local government work to attract? What should they pay and how would you work to attract and/or create them?
I will bring forward the Nicoll Plan to generate achievable economic growth for Pueblo. I work to stem the tide of losing our best and brightest young people who leave our city after graduation. My plan is to create new opportunities by focusing on high-performing diversified economic sectors such as technology, cybersecurity, healthcare, and renewable energy to create bold new opportunities for our city. I will work to make Pueblo safer by putting more police officers in the neighborhoods, step up patrols and improve response times. I will forge close alliances between city government and our local educational institutions to promote excellence and opportunities in new growth sectors. I will work to attract new people to Pueblo from population segments that are identified as growth trends by creating new opportunities for entrepreneurs, small business owners, and baby boomer retirees. I will continue to work for transparency and provide strong ethical leadership. I will bring forward a tourism plan that will make Pueblo known as a friendly city for RV tourism and capitalize on the crossroads of I-25 and highway 50 to attract new visitors to our city.
Our companies that we recruit should pay a livable wage that falls within the parameters that match Pueblo’s cost of living, particularly with the cost of inflation. I won’t put an exact number on it, but we shouldn’t spend economic development tax dollars on low-wage jobs.
How do you plan on improving public safety?
If elected to be mayor, I plan to work closely with City Council to focus more city resources on public safety and rebuilding Pueblo’s Police Department. Our mayor has not collaborated well with city council and has been unable to successfully grow and maintain our police department after we all taxed ourselves to hire more officers to protect the city.
I will work openly and collaboratively with council to strengthen our Police Department to a size that can effectively provide our citizens with the protection they deserve. I will work to increase our police department’s capacity to allow for more patrols in Pueblo’s neighborhoods and business districts to help prevent crime from occurring.
Our city must provide better protection for local businesses from the rampant theft and shoplifting that we all have witnessed firsthand. This issue has plagued our city’s shopping districts and I will enact a new get-tough policy to take on shoplifting head on. I will increase patrols in shopping districts with the ability to serve as a rapid response safety patrol to deal with shoplifting as it happens. We will no longer allow shoplifters to walk out of stores with armloads of stolen property unchallenged. I will also seek tougher prosecution measures and increased penalties for shoplifting and theft crimes.
What do you see as the primary contributor to the issue of homelessness in Pueblo and how would you address it?
- Cause: Drug addiction, mental illness, and economic refugees. Another top priority will be to focus the city’s attention on addressing homelessness and the affordable housing crisis that has plagued Pueblo in recent years. Our city must invest housing dollars where they are meant to go and complete projects to build more affordable housing in our city.
Our homeless problem is completely out of control, and I will work to address it on multiple levels. We must create shelters where homeless individuals can get the help they need. We will provide one-on-one counseling to help assess their issues and provide support. If we can identify the cause of their problem, we can work to address it. At the same time, we must enforce restrictions on illegal camping, enforce existing loitering rules, and address panhandling. While on city council I helped to pass city ordinance restricting panhandling from public medians. However, it has largely gone unenforced. I will work to enforce this existing law and ask city council to further restrict panhandling donations from moving vehicles and highway ramps as a matter of public safety.
How do you feel about the current relationship between city council and the mayor's office? How would you work to foster that relationship?
It is currently dysfunctional. The City Council has largely been ignored by the current mayor. How would you work to foster that relationship? I will meet with council members in pairs on a recurring basis and work to increase transparency as mayor and include the council on more internal decisions. Additionally, I will seek out council to gather their goals as individual council members and find some initiatives that we can collaborate on so that they are empowered as elected officials to bring forward their agendas that better represent their neighborhoods and the city residents.
What is the image of Pueblo? What should it be? What are three steps to get it there?
Our image has declined greatly, especially on the Internet. We need to recapture our image by redefining our city. What are three steps to get it there? Address out of control crime, homelessness, blighted buildings and clean our city. I will work to rebrand the city and launch a marketing campaign that will help to change our image.
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