As El Paso County continues to weather massive population growth and enters its third year of local response to the ongoing global pandemic, The Gazette asked five county commissioner candidates five questions about the county’s most pressing infrastructure needs, future development, the pandemic and more.
District 1 (Portions of northern Colorado Springs, Monument and Black Forest, and the communities of Gleneagle and Woodmoor): Incumbent Holly Williams faces political newcomer Lindsay Moore. Moore is a military wife of 16 years, who in 2021 ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Academy District 20 school board.
District 5 (much of Colorado Springs): Incumbent Cami Bremer faces newcomer David Winney, a Marine Corps veteran. Winney early this month withdrew from the GOP primary race for Colorado secretary of state and instead endorsed embattled Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters for the job.
Lawrence Martinez is the unaffiliated candidate in the race for District 5. In 2018, he unsuccessfully ran as a Republican in the race for District 5 county commissioner. He also waged unsuccessful campaigns for Colorado Springs mayor in 2015 and 2019.
The Gazette did not receive a response from Martinez for this article by time of press.
The Gazette: What are your main priorities for your district? For El Paso County?
Moore: There are many pressing issues in … District 1. A few of the main priorities in El Paso County are maintaining our infrastructure, our roads and our bridges. We currently have a desperate need for these things to be taken care of before we can continue to build and expand our county. (In District 1), El Paso County has a project/plan that is being looked at for Baptist, Hodgen and Roller Coaster roads, and is in the initial planning stages for intersection improvements.
A brand-new school was just added out on Hodgen, and there will be a great need for managing the large new amount of traffic that will be coming through this area.
Williams: El Paso County government is the most fiscally conservative amongst the top 10 largest counties in Colorado, with each citizen only paying an average of $306 per year for our government. Our quality of life, excellent schools and low taxes will continue to attract individuals to move to El Paso County.
As our community grows, I will work to find solutions to improve our transportation infrastructure, support our law enforcement and public safety, support private property rights and maintain an efficient government.
Bremer: As District 5 is mostly inside Colorado Springs city limits, coordination with the city is key. Over the past three years, relationships and coordination have improved significantly, ultimately resulting in citizens receiving the services they expect from government. In addition, housing, workforce development and public safety continue to be the biggest issues within the district.
Those issues, plus the larger struggle with growth, development and water, extend beyond my district boundaries but are certainly still within the realm of issues all county commissioners must address. We must continue to prioritize investing in improving and maintaining our transportation, water, wastewater and broadband infrastructure. We must continue to fight for local control and provide full transparency and accountability of government funds.
Winney: One of my main priorities is election integrity. What Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold calls “the gold standard of election integrity” I call “the gold standard of election fraud.” … Our election integrity is compromised. … I look forward to taking a tour of the (El Paso County) Clerk and Recorder’s Office to learn more about how we can protect our elections, and there are many ways, as a county commissioner, I can continue to learn about it.
The Gazette: What do you think are the most pressing infrastructure or capital-project needs El Paso County faces today? How do you plan to address them?
Moore: Sustainability is a big concern. Development and expansion of the county is important, but only at a rate that is sustainable. Infrastructure needs to be fixed and put in place before the building begins.
El Paso County must address the water rights issues facing our friends in the unincorporated areas, and how we adjust and maintain our water aquifers while taking care of the entire county’s water needs for further growth.
Williams: Our most pressing infrastructure need is our road infrastructure, including improvements to major arterials and neighborhood roads. Additionally, road safety and driver speeding has increased the need for additional law enforcement.
El Paso County maintains more than 4,400 lane miles of roads. During the Great Recession, El Paso commissioners made the tough decision to cut funding to roads. With normal inflation and required increases in services, our roads continue to be underfunded.
In the past four years, I have supported increasing the road maintenance budget by $13.1 million in ongoing revenue. This year, I supported dedicating $24 million in one-time revenue for roads. I will continue to support additional ongoing revenues for roads as well as adding additional one-time revenues each year.
There are several projects occurring this year, including improvements to Highway 105 near Interstate 25, and several neighborhood roads such as Jessie Drive and Walker Road. As chairwoman of the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority, I support a proposed renewal of the 1-cent sales tax, which will build the connection of Powers Boulevard from (Colorado) 83 to Voyager Parkway.
Bremer: Although we have put an additional $60 million into roads since my term began, we have hundreds of millions in road needs that will only increase in this inflationary time. We must also include broadband, wastewater and water infrastructure as we plan large transportation corridor projects.
Specifically in District 5, I am excited that the city and county are no longer pointing fingers to the others’ responsibility, and that there is a plan and budget for $10 million of long-needed improvements to the frequently washed-out area surrounding Date Street and Siferd Boulevard (off Austin Bluffs Parkway east of Academy Boulevard), including roadway realignment and stormwater improvements.
Winney: Roads and energy resources are some of El Paso County’s most pressing needs. I have recently heard … about how some businesses are moving out of the area because some of our infrastructure has been run down. We need to find common-sense solutions. … It’s a challenge that we are losing people, jobs and companies because of poor infrastructure. The next challenge is fixing that and enticing them to return.
We also need to seriously look at energy resources and what will be helpful and reliable to us as El Paso County continues to grow. (Colorado Springs Utilities) has sold us quite a bit on renewable energy such as wind and solar power, but it fails. That was evident last year during the freeze in Texas, when residents were concerned for their very lives because their renewable energy sources were disabled.
Editor’s note: Elected officials nationwide and fossil-fuel industry groups have claimed the failure of Texas’ electric grid during a series of severe storms there last February, which caused blackouts and killed about 250 people, were caused by the failure of renewable energy. Energy experts in Texas and elsewhere have refuted these claims, reporting the failures were at gas-fired power plants.
The Gazette: As county commissioner, how would you approach development within the county?
Moore: El Paso County has not had the foresight to address the quick and widespread growth of our county. The county has put Band-Aids on problems rather than addressing the root cause. The county allows the building of new homes and buildings before putting in place the infrastructure to support the new traffic and load on our resources.
This has led to traffic issues when there are not enough lanes to service the traffic load, which also leads to longer emergency response times for those living in rural areas. These issues need to be addressed so that we can plan for further growth and lay the proper infrastructure in anticipation for expansion, not being reactionary.
Williams: I will continue to evaluate new developments based upon the El Paso Master Plan, the Water Master Plan and the land development code. I support the 300-year water rule that requires new development to have three times more water availability than the state of Colorado requires.
I support our special-district policy, limiting mill levy rates and our road impact fee. I support state legislation that reduces regulations and supports affordable and attainable housing. I oppose legislation that benefits trial lawyers at the expense of Coloradans seeking to buy homes.
The El Paso County Housing Authority is a revolving loan fund that is self-sustainable and provides support for private development projects that offer affordable housing. I will advocate for an attainable housing fund for first-time homeowners who need assistance with a down payment.
Bremer: Our region continues to be an attractive place to live, work, and play. With that comes complexity of ensuring quality of life, including housing availability, recreation opportunities and preservation of traditional land uses. Growth is inevitable, so it must be approached in a strategic, planned and managed way.
Again, this presents a difficult balance while maintaining conservative principles of free market, protecting private property rights and limiting regulations on local business owners. El Paso County’s new comprehensive master plan includes special attention to preserving agricultural lands and zoning, protecting our military installations, expanding traditional approaches to water conservation, and bringing focused guidelines to future land use development decisions that all residents can depend on as they make their own private property decisions. Commissioners must balance the need for housing in a short-supply market with statutory duties and considerations in land-use decisions.
At the end of the day, we find ourselves in an extremely competitive housing market, and we need more units available. Fees associated with development of new properties should be minimized, because we know that those fees get passed along to the end-user, in this case the homebuyer. However, there is a balance of ensuring fees cover actual costs, with a projected outlook on sustainability of infrastructure associated with projects.
We should continue to look at process efficiencies throughout the permitting and inspections end of the process to reduce barriers and costs. Through all of this, commissioners must have a strategic and thoughtful plan for how future development interacts with and affects all areas of our economy.I will focus on impacts to infrastructure and public service delivery, and continue to ensure each development decision made is done so with a thorough and strategic balancing all of the needs of our community with a focus on sustainability.
Winney: The challenge is that (El Paso County) is a destination. We all love it here and there are tons of other people … who come here for various reasons and want to stay. We’re going to keep growing, and arriving at smart development takes a team not only of the members who are sitting on the board (of county commissioners) but also with other county departments.
The way to do a balanced approach to development is to be thoughtful and well-researched. Share ideas. … Gather information from all stakeholders and ensure all development requirements are met, and that’s how you arrive at smart development.
The Gazette: Two years into a global pandemic and beginning a third, how do you plan to help lead El Paso County through and out of the pandemic?
Moore: We need commissioners who stand on the Constitution and will defend the people’s right to choose what is best for their families. In 2020, El Paso County shut down small businesses (and) sent our children home from school, meanwhile leaving open “big-box” stores and many others that were deemed “essential.” All our citizens are essential.
Small businesses are the foundation of our local economy and were forced against their rights to close. The commissioners have a job to uphold the supreme law of the land, and that is the Constitution.
I will defend the people’s right to choose. The choice to get vaccinated, to wear a mask, et cetera, needs to remain that: a choice. We should continue supporting our citizens’ rights to choose what is best for their own health.
Williams: I support an individual’s right to determine their prevention and treatment methods. I support easy access to testing facilities and vaccinations, especially in the winter months. I believe the coronavirus will be an ongoing issue and oppose excessive government regulation and control. I do not support additional federal spending to state and local governments, an economic shutdown, government mask mandates or vaccine mandates.
When the state overreached on COVID, I supported the effort to immediately open churches for worship service that had been unconstitutionally shut down by Gov. (Jared) Polis. When we received money from the federal government, we quickly dedicated amounts to help ensure critical services were provided and small businesses were protected.
Additional federal funding is being distributed with very specific guidelines so that businesses have equal opportunity to apply for these funds. When the federal government allowed relief funding for roads, I immediately supported dedicating the maximum amount to roads.
Bremer: I love serving the people of District 5 and of El Paso County with compassion, reason, long-term vision and a commitment to doing the next right thing for our community as a whole. Sometimes that “next right thing” is very simple and clear, and other times it requires complex critical thinking about unintended consequences. I believe this is an area I excel in, with the ability to respectfully provide perspective that helps us all make better long-term decisions for our community, especially during a pivotal time such as this. Though serving through the pandemic (on the Board of County Commissioners and Board of Health) has been a heavy burden, it’s one I believe I have navigated well with the interests of our citizens at the forefront at all times. I want to serve again, quite frankly, to see all the great work we started before the world stopped, continue, but with focus and plans for lessons learned during the pandemic.
I will continue to build on the great partnerships and community-minded approach that came to light during the crisis. We are not done with recovery, and it will take diligent realization of how government interventions affect outcomes to ensure our region can continue to provide the exceptional quality of life residents have come to expect of El Paso County.
Specifically, we have been very strategic and forward-thinking in how federal relief and recovery funds were spent in our community. Decisions regarding this will continue to be made through next year, and we need diligent oversight and strategic planning to ensure the community gets the most benefit out of the funds. I’ve begun that process, and I’d like to see it through to completion for our citizens.
We must also continue to recognize the impacts of federal and state legislation on our community, and continue to advocate for local control on behalf of our citizens.
Winney: The best way to lead our way out of (the pandemic) is to go back to freedom, because we are not free, but we need to be. The Constitution was not suspended during the pandemic, and there never should have been government mandates, because nobody can mandate that you wear a mask or get a vaccine. No business in the state should ever have been shut down. … When government is stepping out of the bounds of its authority, it uses fear and intimidation to get people to comply. I support the commission’s stance against mandates. … There were so many serious effects from these shutdowns, including depression, suicide and substance abuse.
The Gazette: Why do you feel you are the right candidate for this job?
Moore: I am a stateswoman and a fighter for our constitutional freedoms. We need a commissioner with the foresight who thinks of the people first, and not their husband’s pocketbook.
El Paso County is not the carousel of jobs for the politically entrenched. In fact, I am not a politician at all. We have a big job to do in El Paso County, and we need a leader who is not afraid to fight for the people’s rights.
It’s time for our elected officials to reflect us, to stand with us. I am the right candidate because I am the servant leader for the people. We have many current leaders who do not represent you and do not stand with the people.
I want to make sure the policies we implement are policies that keep the people free. We have to have servant leaders who put their constituents back in front. Too many husbands and wives in El Paso County have served in roles that make politics look like a family business, limiting different ideas and perspectives as the same ideologies are spread through different political offices, clearly indicating a conflict of interest.
We have enough of that. We need real people who understand what the people need.
Williams: I have a longtime, proven record of fighting for conservative and constitutional values. I support the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. I believe limiting the growth of government, as well as requiring voter approval for tax increases, has placed El Paso County in a very good financial position as the economy starts to grow.
I support limited government and will encourage policies that support families, business success and economic freedom. I support private property rights and will continue to fight for Second Amendment rights. I will continue to support our law enforcement and our military and their families.
I will ensure El Paso County continues to run an efficient and effective government. In 2021, county government cost each citizen $306, the mill levy was 7.692, and the property tax per citizen was only $73.04. The closest county to that is more than 50% higher, at 12 mills. I will continue to dedicate additional funds into road improvements.
Bremer: There’s no better experience than actually having done the job before, particularly during a time of unprecedented attention on elected officials. I have been responsive, respectful and principled in stressful and tenuous situations, advocating always for citizens and drawing on my principles and commitment to conservative and limited roles of government.
Throughout my first term, I have delivered on a bold vision of creating an atmosphere where government entities work together to better and efficiently serve the residents of Colorado Springs and El Paso County.
I’ve ensured El Paso County remains a safe and desirable place to raise families like mine, and that includes attention to planned growth and development, public safety and emergency preparedness, and fiscally responsible management of tax dollars that will benefit citizens for decades to come.
My experienced background, common-sense conservatism and real results will continue to benefit the citizens of El Paso County.
Winney: I’ve studied history for 40 years, I’ve studied scripture for 50 years, and I’ve intensely studied what is going on in this country over the last four to five years. (Former President Donald) Trump turned so many things around in this country and he was attacked the whole way through, I believe, because he wasn’t afraid to take an honest and common-sense approach. I take a similar approach.
… I believe I have what it takes to dig in and troubleshoot what is happening with our local elections. I also believe, through my knowledge of history and scripture, I have the right perspective needed to lead the county.