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/on council and what qualifications would you bring to the position?
I love Pueblo and want to see it thrive. I was born and raised in Pueblo and practiced law here for 40 years before being elected mayor. I was elected to the Board of Water Works for 14 years and served as President of the Board for 6 years. I have held leadership positions throughout my career including Chairman of the Board of the Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Action 22. I was instrumental in changing our system of government and I understand how the system works.
What makes you proud to be a Puebloan?
The resilience of the people of Pueblo make me proud to be a Puebloan. We have a proud history and heritage. Our ancestors came from all over the world to make the steel that built the American west and we still have that can do attitude.
What endorsements do you hold?
International Association of Firefighters, Local #3, Colorado Professional Firefighters, Southern Colorado Labor Council, Letter Carriers, Local #221 and Conservation Colorado are some of my 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?
With respect to the bust of Christopher Columbus, the city has endeavored to mediate a resolution without success. While there are strong feelings on both sides of the issue, most Puebloans are satisfied with the status quo.
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?
Shortage of housing is the biggest challenge facing Pueblo. I am working with developers to create market rate, workforce and affordable housing. The city is working to acquire property that can be made available to developers for affordable and workforce housing. We have implemented a vacant property ordinance that will address the blight in our neighborhoods and put those vacant properties back into productive use.
How might you seek to combat the rising cost of living?
The rising cost of living is the function of supply and demand. Very little can be done at the local level beyond encouraging more supply and educating citizens to be wise consumers.
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 would continue to work with our partners at PEDCO and with our existing employers to create more job opportunities. We need all kind of jobs, from entry level to emerging careers. My goal is to create an economy in Pueblo where every young person who wants to stay in Pueblo is able to have a job or career that will allow them to support and raise a family.
How do you plan on improving public safety?
Under my leadership and in joint support with the PD Command Staff, we implemented proactive programs: (1) We established a Directed Investigation and Community Engagement (DICE) team. The DICE team combats lower level crime such as loitering, trespass, suspicious persons and they work to provide resources to homeless individuals. They have responded to more than 2700 calls in 2023. (2) We hired six Community Services Officers that have responded to more than 3500 calls in 2023, allowing patrol to provide more focused response; and (3) We have implemented Solutions Outreach Services with Health Solutions so that mental health professionals, EMT and peers now respond to some calls that were previously handled by police officers. Since January 1, we have diverted 16,000 calls from patrol officers allowing them to concentrate on more serious matters and engage in community outreach. We are establishing a real time crime center system that will provide immediate technological assistance in identifying perpetrators and investigating crimes with faster and directed response times. The real time crime center will be operational by spring 2024.
What do you see as the primary contributor to the issue of homelessness in Pueblo and how would you address it?
As Mayor, I support our community organizations that provide services to those experiencing homelessness. Addressing the unhoused requires a multi faceted approach but the number one condition afflicting the homeless in Pueblo is mental health disorders. The providers made the decision to close our local civil commitment beds and many of the homeless are not receiving treatment for their mental illness. We must be much more aggressive in our outreach efforts. Homelessness is not a crime nor is it an excuse to commit crimes with impunity and homeless individuals who commit crimes will be held accountable. I believe the city’s role is to coordinate and convene providers to make sure that services are being provided and not being duplicated.
How do you feel about the current relationship between city council and the mayor's office? How would you work to foster that relationship?
This has been an unusual year owing to the fact that two City councilors led the petitioning effort to do away with the strong mayor system and four City Councilors are running for mayor. We have had a successful relationship with City Council as evidenced by the fact that in 2022, 271 of 273 ordinances introduced were passed. Once the election is over I expect that interactions will improve. During the last two years, my chief of staff has spent hours, every two weeks with the President of City Council reviewing the agenda for the upcoming meeting. I have an open door policy with respect to the community and the City Council and regularly share and exchange ideas on matters of importance.
What is the image of Pueblo? What should it be? What are three steps to get it there?
In some respects the image of Pueblo is the “tale of two cities”. I am fortunate as the mayor to welcome groups and conventions to Pueblo and they are universally impressed with our city and its amenities. Some of our residents have different opinions and long for the city they grew up in. The city and county have cooperated with the Chamber of Commerce to create Pueblo Shares which promotes positive images of Pueblo.
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