Candidate Name: Tracey A. Johnson
District: El Paso County District 2
Education: 1991 JD, University of Houston Law Center; 1985 BA in Political Science & Spanish, Rice University. Both institutions located in Houston, Texas.
Ensuring the reliably stable, safe delivery of El Paso County services is the chief responsibility of the Board of County Commissioners. Within that overriding mandate, I see two issues deserving particular attention: (1) managing growth and (2) implementing SB 217’s requirements for law enforcement accountability in such a way as to maximize harmony and respect throughout our county. In regard to the latter, my efforts will be directed toward support for a community-centric Sheriff’s Department that has ready access to all available resources necessary to the guarantee of the safety of county residents, including mental health tools and personnel. Growth must be balanced in such a way that partners booming neighborhoods with wise water conservation, an effective infrastructure, broadband internet access, and preservation of natural resources such as parks, open spaces, and the Black Forest.
Access to quality affordable housing is a crucial aspect in the development of sustainable communities. When housing prices rise as exponentially as they have locally, families and individuals in El Paso County (EPCO) will increasingly struggle to find and keep places to live, which also puts access to health care, education, and employment at risk. As President John F. Kennedy said, “For one true measure of a nation is its success in fulfilling the promise of a better life for each of its members.” EPCO Commissioners can and must take steps to stimulate or mandate affordable housing. For example, hinge approval of any new housing development upon the inclusion of affordable housing options within the project’s design, just as they would set aside land for schools and parks. EPCO must lead by example here before rampant growth limits our options to meet this need.
Each of the essential services identified is absolutely vital and their provision should be assured and strengthened; however, the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences has elevated broadly accessible health care to El Paso County’s (EPCO) top priority for the foreseeable future. Commissioners must address needs heightened by pandemic-related job losses which jeopardize existent transportation and health care delivery by increasing easy options for those applying for essential services, thus enabling them to remain sustainably productive members of our community. Doing this demonstrates the value each EPCO resident holds. I will make this an early priority if elected.
Simply put, everything. El Paso County (EPCO) is multifaceted and not solely defined by our economy or our infrastructure or our housing (although each strike eloquent notes in our communal symphony), but also by how we express ourselves. For the Pikes Peak region, this includes not only the arts, but our magnificent outdoor spaces. The glorious mountains, trees, and vistas that universally beckon people to settle here, contributing their own singular expressions which fully harmonize to create a rich cultural atmosphere that fosters an elevated quality of life.
To me, the shorthand “defunding” misrepresents the urgent examination of law enforcement policies and practices which crystallized in Colorado’s 2020 accountability legislation, SB-217. Assuredly, deputies must have readily at hand everything needed to safely utilize best law enforcement practices--including mental health crisis intervention--while respecting the dignity and civil rights of all citizens. Although we may disagree on policy, at heart we all want the same things: safe streets, equal justice, good schools, dependable economic growth. Let’s realize now MLK, Jr.’s clarion words, “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.”
Promoting job growth and sustainable development are not mutually exclusive. Commissioners must abide by existing mandates such as the Black Forest Preservation Plan, which ensure the beautiful natural setting that draws people and corporations here, is responsibly maintained. This is equally true for our parks and open spaces. El Paso County’s budget for the latter’s maintenance is miniscule for a county the size of Delaware. Continued and amplified efforts to bring clean energy companies to the county through tax incentives as well as redevelopment of urban areas furthers sustainable job growth and guarantees county residents a bright, prosperous future.
District: County Commissioner District 3
Education: Bachelor in Industrial Engineering, Masters in International Relations, Masters in Strategic Planning and Budgeting
Occupation: El Paso County Commissioner
I offer three pressing issues as the first will not be permanent: recovery from COVID, infrastructure, and public safety. For COVID, I will continue my work helping businesses re-open safely because if people don't have jobs, they can't put food on the table. As Chair of the Pikes Peak Workforce Center, we established a second site on North Academy that has helped thousands of people find jobs. This site is funded to mid 2021. Public Safety is also a priority for everyone so law enforcement AND public health must be funded. Prior to COVID, infrastructure was the top resident priority and this will continue as one of mine. We have been able to add millions a year to road repair, paving, salt trucks, etc. without raising taxes. Many road projects like West Colorado Avenue are now completed.
Affordable housing is really a ratio between housing costs and good salaries. Both must be addressed for maximum impact. While there are many public assistance programs, including some run by the County, having enough housing supply to meet demand is most important. As such, I have supported single and multi-family housing construction including use of Tax Increment Financing which has bolstered downtown multi-family construction and future plans (over 4,500 now). On job quality, I continue to support several PPWFC efforts to improve people's income. Most recent is in the medical industry with UC Health. Universally designed homes improve use and access. While DOLA has several programs, they are only one resource. HUD is another and I have met with Ben Carson multiple times to improve federal support. El Paso County administers, and I support, several programs funded by State and Federal resources including multi-family mortgage bonding, a housing trust fund,
I helped open a 2nd site for the Workforce Center on North Academy which has access to two bus lines. I have worked with Pam Schockley-Zalabak on the Mission Trace project for a community center with possibly Workforce Center, Public Health, and other County services embedded, but this appears to be on hold at present. I will continue to work towards County services in the south east. We also have similar issues in rural areas which can be mitigated with broadband access. The County has now created a strategic Broadband Master Plan.
Arts and culture plays a huge role in a community. Art is a pathway to creativity and creativity give us innovation. Innovation is the engine of small business success. While art is something we can enjoy, it also delivers a creative community that can solve problems and deliver innovative services and goods. Different cultures can also produce great outcomes by engaging folks with different approaches to find better solutions to just about anything. This is not just diversity of color but diversity of education, industries, venues, businesses, etc.
I'm a big supporter of increased engagement between law enforcement and communities. Several programs exist, but I believe more can be done. I also encourage communities to invite law enforcement, as friends, to their local events. Engagement goes both ways. I support the alternative court system which lowers incarceration and as former Chair and current member of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, I support the Behavioral Health Connect Unit (BHCN) teams where a case worker travels with law enforcement to address mental health associated crisis intervention. These units have slowed mentally ill incarceration. Plans are now in place to expand.
In my first term, El Paso County completed its first ever county-wide strategic Water Master Plan, our first ever Broadband Master Plan, and we are now creating a first ever Development Master Plan. All have extensive sustainable development content like xeriscaping, renewable water development, 300 year supply requirements for developers, reduced commuting needs, and more. I have also created an EPC Innovation and Technology Committee which frequently discusses what I am now calling a Smart County Initiative to address El Paso County growth. In this group we are discussing urban design to reduce commuting and projects to increase rural broadband.
The most pressing issue facing our community is housing people can afford. Housing first solutions require reaching out to the various stakeholders in our community to promote the development of various types of housing that fills the needs of our working families. From housing dedicated to those who have mobility issues to places where our firefighters and teachers can afford to live where they work and work where they live. The second most pressing issue is our usage of natural resources found in Colorado. We ensure that we are encouraging sustainable building practices that take into account our pressing water issues and the diverse ecosystem along the frontrange. All new development needs technology that complements our unique Colorado heritage without placing undue strain upon our dwindling resources. There are measures that can be adopted at the county level that encourage this type of building and development.
The role of the state is to demand that all appropriate building codes are followed in the construction of new housing and that the work is performed by skilled, licensed trades people and that apprenticeship ratios are followed. A generous percentage of all new housing must adhere to the universally agreed upon design specifications that is appropriate for occupants of all ages and abilities. Without an increase in housing stock, and the loosening of certain zoning restrictions that restrict urban density, we will be looking at skyrocketing housing costs that far outstrip wage increases.
Services need to be located where they are needed. Areas in the county that have a clear need are where the services need to be located. Improving the local public transportation in these areas, along with ensuring the appropriate county services offices are located in the regions would go a long way to helping those in our society that need it most, and help ensure that they have the resources to thrive in the community.
Cities and towns are a unique and diverse ecosystem all to themselves. Art and cultural sectors help promote creativity, improve the quality of life, and allow for local artists to bring their voice and amazing abilities to help shape a community. Communities that have embraced the arts are attractive places to live, and help promote business, community and social wellbeing.
Law enforcement funding needs to be looked at to ensure that we aren’t using law enforcement as a one size fits all solution. The fine men and women who serve in this capacity need to have other highly trained people to respond to situations that are outside traditional law enforcement areas. It makes little sense to send in law enforcement into mental health situations, and our officers deserve the dignity and respect that bringing in a variety of skilled professionals to help augment the various tasks we ask them to do.
By pushing for the passage of C-PACE at the county level. This would give the community and multi-family property owners to finance qualifying energy efficiency, water conservation and other clean energy improvements through a voluntary assessment on their property tax bill. This measure would increase the number of skilled jobs required to construct and maintain these buildings, and also promote sustainable development by not placing undue financial strain upon the first owner of a building, and encouraging developers to implement improvements that will benefit all of El Paso County.
Candidate Name: Timothy Campbell
Education: BA Psychology, University of Northern Colorado, MA Organizational Development & Leadership, University of the Rockies, A.A.S. Commercial Photography, Colorado Institute of Art.
Occupation: Supervisor, E-9 Enterprises, Inc (Pikes Peak Highway Shuttle services), freelance photographer, five years in private investigations - (worker's compensation/liability claims), five years in mental health services, and former Biology teacher at Graphic Arts High School, NYC.
District 3 has a large number of the local historic and tourist attractions within El Paso County. The volume of visitors is outpacing the existing infrastructure's ability to accommodate the increase in visitors. Improvements are needed for parking, short distance transportation such as shuttles, housing, and roads. Public safety is an issue with the transient population, increased wildlife integration into the community (bears, deer, etc.) and updating infrastructure to cope with flooding risks.
West siders are quite familiar with the visibility of the transient and homeless population. Any state funding sources should be used with the objective of the maximum value vs cost in order to assist individuals with the greatest need. The issues of the transient population and homelessness is a symptom of other issues that may involve lack of suitable employment and income sufficient for the current housing market.
I grew up in Manitou Springs, lived in Denver and NYC, and returned to the west-side/District 3. There is already a well established network of community based services. These need to be utilized as effectively as possible (rather than coming up with "more services and programs" requiring more funds/taxes) to help individuals establish self-directed independence, rather than enable a survival level of dependency on welfare and social services. The Community Response Team is a good example of collaboration of resources.
Arts and local culture set the tone of the community. Manitou Springs continues to maintain its historical "hippie" culture and distinct small town social vibe. The west side has maintained a strong western/Colorado arts feel and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Museum and Hall of Fame brings national visibility to Colorado Springs and the overall business climate and tourism industry.
Defunding the police is NOT a solution to improving law enforcement services. Funds should be directed to improving training, providing an improved pay scale structure that proves that the community is invested into valuing their law enforcement, and keeping the technology infrastructure and equipment at optimal levels of value vs cost.
We need to identify and balance the essential job sectors with projected growth in order to scale our essential public services and utilities. One of the difficulties with the region is the cyclical nature of tourism, and the transitional population of our military personnel within El Paso County. We are in a unique position to attract more science and technology based businesses with the U.S. Space Command temporarily headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base.
Candidate Name: Longinos Gonzalez Jr
Education: BS Political Science, USAF Academy; MS Science Education, Florida International University
Occupation: County Commissioner, Retired Air Force Lt Colonel, and former science teacher at Carmel Middle School.
Improving our county roads/infrastructure and properly funding Public safety/health will be critical for the health strength of our county. Ensuring safe and sufficient water resources for our growing communities will also receive my support and will be include in our long-term Master Plan update. I have strived to identify cost-saving measures and efficiencies in our annual budget to better fund those areas of need and of highest priority. I’ve also worked with the federal government and local stakeholders to identify funds to effectively utilize matching grants for area projects, such as our successful application for a BUILD grant supporting county road and infrastructure improvements around several of our military installations that is a benefit to all residents.
These limited funding sources should be allocated to areas and residents in most need. I was a member of our county housing authority for two years, and allocated available funds or bonds support for numerous affordable housing projects. This has included funding to general, affordable housing options for residents, but also to specifically-tailored projects for seniors and permanent supportive housing for homeless veterans.
As someone who lives in that community and understands their situation, I have voted to fund satellite county offices closer to the areas that have been underserved. We expanded health services by opening a WIC center & DHS office in SE Colorado Springs and the City of Fountain, and provided significant CARES Act funding to our Workforce Center to better support job training for residents in need.
It is an asset that improves the business climate and our local tourism industry, and should be promoted. I advocated for the new Fanny Mae Duncan statue which stands next to the Pikes Peak Center, one of many on county property, and have promoted the local arts scene during my first term in office.
Funds should be allocated to additional training and for recruitment and retention of our quality candidates and officers/deputies. Improved transparency in data and law enforcement functions should also be prioritized.
I have promoted the development of our County Master Plan will be completed in 2021. The plan will drive smart growth and business development while making efficient use of development and our essential public services, and maximizing our water resources. Working with our local schools and Workforce Center to identify job sector growth ensures we are able to match our workforce with emerging or changing job market.
Andre Vigil (D)
Candidate chose not to participate in survey.
Victoria Ciraolo (L)
Candidate chose not to participate in survey.
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