What do business people want? They want a business-friendly City Council, one with members who understand the myriad problems that businesses encounter in their dealings with local government.
They want elected officials who are smart, accountable, adaptable and quick to respond to changing realities. They want decision-makers, not ditherers. They want far-sighted yet practical folks who can put aside their petty differences and move the city into a bright new future.
That’s fine, but most folks with such skill sets are happily occupied with running their own businesses, climbing the corporate ladder or sitting on some tropical beach enjoying the fruits of their labor.
Nevertheless, there’s something about Colorado Springs that has impelled otherwise-sane business people to spend a term or two on City Council, or even serve as mayor.
So who are the business-friendly candidates in this April’s election?
To judge from their campaign literature, they all are.
In District 1, commercial real estate broker Tim Leigh has managed to stay afloat and solvent during one of the worst real estate markets in the city’s history. Although his positions are sometimes controversial, his business credentials are impeccable. Grade: A.
Don Knight says the right things, but needs to get specific. Grade: Incomplete.
Linda Mojer has yet to create a campaign website touting her platform, but as the former head of the Southern Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce, she’s unlikely to be business-unfriendly. Grade: Incomplete.
In District 2, Angela Dougan has a lot of fans in the business community. That’s what happens when you’re a staunch, reliable conservative, with no second thoughts about it. Grade: A-.
Military retiree Bill Murray is a well-qualified guy who’s unlikely to peel off much business support from Dougan. Air Force Academy grad, All-American gymnast and FedEx pilot Joel Miller has an attractive résumé and bears watching. If Dougan can be beaten, he might be the guy to do it. Murray B-, Miller A-.
In District 3, Keith King, Jim Bensberg, Tom Gallagher and Brandy Williams have all advocated pro-business policies. But they all have records — and those records are subject to interpretation.
For example, when serving as a county commissioner, Bensberg led a successful effort to close a glaring loophole that had enabled unscrupulous builders to avoid paying the county use tax. Was that somehow anti-business? Those who had benefited from the loophole likely thought so.
Many applauded Gallagher for opposing back room deal-making while on Council, but the deal-makers didn’t appreciate it. Similarly, Williams has been a smart, principled voice for progressive business interests on Council. Keith King built a successful retail business, sold it, and then served with distinction in the state Legislature. Late entrant Bob Kinsey must be incomplete for now.
Bensberg, King, and Williams: A. Gallagher: B+.
It’s not easy to grade the novices in District 4. Deborah Hendrix has a solid record as an educator but admits that she doesn’t know much about the issues, saying that she’ll “listen, learn, and then lead.” Her rivals (Dennis Moore, Gary Flakes and Helen Collins) are less experienced. Hendrix’s list of supporters is comforting, though — so give her a B+ for now, and mark the rest as incomplete.
In District 5, Jill Gaebler, Al Loma and Bernie Herpin have strong pro-business credentials. Gaebler co-founded one of the city’s most successful charter schools and helped structure the deal that enabled the school to buy its Benet Hill campus, so she gets an A. Loma has an impressive record as a pastor/educational entrepreneur, so he gets an A as well — but Bernie gets an A+. His website is admirably specific about difficult policy options — hence the gold star.
In District 6, political newcomer Andres Pico gets an A. Check his website — he’s had an impressive career in business and the service (https://sites.google.com/site/pico4council). He may be new to local politics, but he certainly has the credentials to attract business support. David Moore is smart, engaging and has the HBA’s support — give him an A. Ed Bircham is … well, Ed Bircham.
One final note: It looks as if the Douglas Bruce 2010 “reform team” has resurfaced in diminished form. Four of the six contested districts feature very conservative candidates, three of whom can be linked directly to the irrepressible Dougster.
Activist Julie Naye is challenging for the District 1 seat, while Collins (District 4) and Bircham (District 6) were reform team candidates two years ago. Roger McCarville, a retired businessman running in District 5, partnered with Bircham last year in an attempt to eliminate the city property tax — a Bruceite measure if ever there was one!
But a business-friendly one? Perhaps not.