If you don’t like the candidates, run yourself.

That was Will Perkins’ attitude this year when he entered the mayor’s race against Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace and challenger Sallie Clark.

Perkins said he looked around for candidates to encourage to join the race, but none of his choices would run. ’They just didn’t surface,” he said.

“I was pacing around the kitchen table about five weeks ago, and my wife said, ’why don’t you run?’ I said, ’you gotta be kidding,’” Perkins said in an interview.

But he took this the advice of his wife of 49 years, Bess. He took out papers for both the council and the mayor’s race. “Then came a time when I had to fish or cut bait,” the Montrose, Colo., native said. “I decided to fish because I’m really concerned about this city,” Perkins said.

<h3>’It was ugly’</h3>

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Perkins, 70, has lived in Colorado Springs for 58 years. He is chairman of the board of Perkins Motor City Dodge, which his father started. His son Tom is president and general manager. Perkins has worked at the dealership since he was 14.

He graduated from Colorado College in 1950 after spending his professional year playing baseball for the Chicago White Sox. “I was a good player, but not good enough to make a career of it. And my Dad was needing help,” Perkins said.

So instead of “knocking around in the minors,” Perkins returned to help with the family business. “I sold my first new car in 1946 to Irving S. Brothers. It was a light green four-door sedan with a brown interior,” he said.

But the car business wasn’t so competitive in those days. “It was ugly. But to sell a car in 1946 you just had to have a car. It didn’t take any talent.”

The city was quite different as well. “I can remember when the city was about 35,000 (people). If your dad didn’t have a business, you couldn’t get a job with the city. When kids got out of school, they had to leave town,” Perkins said.

“Tourism was the main thing — three months of tourism, nine months spent waiting for the next three months of tourism. Not a good thing,” he said.

Perkins applauds the growth that has brought more jobs to the city. ’We need growth, and we need planned growth,” he said.

“Something that is stagnant soon begins to stink,” he said. “Growth just keeps kids being born in jobs. It’s nonsense to talk about a moratorium. We need planning.”

<h3>’They have no plan’</h3>

That’s where Perkins’ criticism of current city government, particularly the mayor, starts.

“We’ve just gone through one of the best economic periods of the city and because of the mismanagement by the mayor and City Council, we’re $600 million behind in infrastructure (needs). They have no plan. And taking the first step without a plan is not a good thing to do,” the car dealer said.

Perkins was referring to the $88 million bond issue that Council has placed on the April 6 ballot. “We can raise taxes — that’s the only solution I’ve heard presented,” he said.

Or, the city can sell Memorial Hospital and use that money to pay for the infrastructure backlog. “We’d still have a wonderful hospital. We’re not going to take the hospital and float it down Fountain Creek,” he said.

“In principal, I don’t think government should compete with private enterprise,” he said.

If selling the hospital doesn’t work — say, indigents cannot get decent health care — Perkins said the city could always go back to the business.

“Say we find out people are dying on the curbs … we still have the trust fund to do that,” he said. Perkins wants the proceeds placed in a trust fund earmarked for only vital necessities.

The candidate said one of his roles as mayor would be to lead Council in examining city-owned assets such as Memorial and Colorado Springs Utilities.

“I could encourage the Council to look at these enterprises, see how much benefit we’re getting from them in comparison to what could get from if they’re privatized,” he said.

<h3>’The honeymoon’s over’</h3>

Perkins applauds the work of his other opponent, Sallie Clark, in one respect: public safety. “If you don’t have safety, you don’t have quality of life. Let’s do the business of government.”

“Sallie Clark did a good job on (saving Fire Station 3). She held their (council’s) feet to the fire, and you know what? All of a sudden as if by magic, here come the funds. … Eventually, Sallie got her fire station.”

As a businessman, Perkins said he knows how to prioritize. “If we get safety and infrastructure under control, open space, trails and quality of life will follow,” he said.

Selling Memorial isn’t enough, however, Perkins said. The developers must start to pay their share of infrastructure needs.

“Absolutely. I am not being endorsed by the Home Builders Association and the developers. They don’t like it when I say the honeymoon’s over,” he said. Makepeace’s campaign is being funded heavily by the HBA and real-estate developers.

Perkins also wants the city’s controversial personal-property tax for businesses eliminated, calling it a ’stupid tax.”

“What kind of sense does it make to go out and attract companies to come in and do business and then start penalizing them? The state threw that thing out some time ago. I’d do everything I could to get rid of that as quick as possible,” Perkins said.

<h3>’No special rights’</h3>

Another thing Perkins would like to get rid of is the city’s zero-tolerance discrimination policy passed in January 1997 after Makepeace won the mayor’s office.

He says the resolution is an example of the Council acting without citizen’s input. “I’ve spent almost two years trying to get a definition of that resolution Mary Lou put forth,” Perkins said.

Many Perkins critics think that the resolution is the only reason the Colorado for Family Values founder is running for office — that is, to repeal a move that might provide homosexuals a basis for fighting discrimination in city government.

He says, however, that is not true — pointing to the vague wording of the resolution that uses only the word ’sexual,” rather than ’sexual orientation.”

Perkins says he would support any efforts to clarify the resolution — and makes it clear that he does not believe homosexuals should get any ’special rights” in city government or elsewhere.

He, however, says he does not support job discrimination against anyone because they are gay. Laws, he said, already protect against such discrimination.

“No, it’s not right to discriminate because someone is homosexual. I think it’s immoral to fire anybody from a job for other than job-related performance. That’s anybody,” he said.

Perkins points to a lesbian who worked for his dealership during the Amendment 2 days in the early 1990s. The woman was being sexually harassed by a man, he said.

“I found out she was exactly right … I discharged the boss,” he said. He said the woman left several months later of her own volition.

“If I am elected mayor, whenever the issue comes up, my position will be that I do not believe any government agency can grant special rights to anybody based on
sexual conduct,” he said.

“That is a resolution. It doesn’t carry the strength of law. It’s very easily changed by council.”