Strong candidates for strong mayor

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Walking away from the mayoral candidates’ forum for business leaders last week, it was easy to feel optimistic about the direction the city will be taking with the new strong mayor.

Most of the candidates appeared to be focused on the right things, the city’s image and economic health, and they readily admitted there are problems with both.

The forum was organized by the Middle Market Entrepreneurs, a division of the Peak Venture Group. The MME group did a superb job planning and presenting the event.

The question-and-answer format was fair to each candidate and the questions, which were selected from audience suggestions, were creative and bold.

Among the questions posed to candidates:

Sitting next to the CEO from an internationally recognized company on a flight, what do you tell her about Colorado Springs?

What are the major challenges facing our community in the areas of tolerance and diversity?

Do you agree with the Economic Development Corp.’s mission enough to support it with public funding?

When candidates answered questions about the city’s image, they were enthusiastic and sincere. Many moved to the edge of their seats and gestured vigorously as they offered visions of the Colorado Springs of tomorrow. They answered the questions as residents who themselves hope for change and believe it can happen. A few candidates exclaimed that Colorado Springs can become a “can-do” city.

When it came to questions about tolerance and diversity, the candidates’ comments included not only a sober realization about the city’s reputation but practical ideas about how to facilitate change. Buddy Gilmore talked about plans to increase dialogue, and Kenneth Duncan said if elected he’d offer insurance benefits to same-sex partners of city employees.

And finally, in another tangible display of good intention, two of the candidates said they liked the idea of using public money to further economic development. Both Dave Munger and Richard Skorman said they supported the Economic Development Corp.’s mission enough to use public money to support it.

The city’s strong mayor candidates appear to know which direction the city should be heading, and it looks like we could be turning a corner in April — if the new mayor follows through with those good intentions.

For a sampling of candidate’s responses click here.