The Field of Council Dreams is set, and the race has officially begun — so welcome to our messy, chaotic, wonderfully democratic and deeply satisfying city elections.
On April 7, we’ll vote to choose three candidates among 13 aspirants for at-large seats on City Council. In addition, voters in District 2 can choose between Kanda Calef and Larry Bagley for the district seat vacated by Joel Miller, while District 4 voters can decide whether or not to recall incumbent Helen Collins.
The candidates come without labels and without overt support from any political party. Each of the 15 Council hopefuls rustled up 100 signatures from registered voters, submitted them to the city clerk for verification, filled out some minimal paperwork and bingo — they’re on the ballot.
No fawning to political elites, no mouthing nonsensical slogans that appeal to party bases, no tedious envelope-stuffing, no waiting for years until a winnable seat opens up — it’s all up to you.
Every city election brings surprises. In 2011, voters chose Lisa Czeladtko, Brandy Williams, Val Snider, Tim Leigh, Merv Bennett and incumbent Jan Martin to serve on Council. It was an extraordinarily interesting group of people, none of whom would ever have run for partisan office. And while they often strongly disagreed on issues, their positions didn’t depend upon the shifting beliefs of a partisan base, or upon strong-arming from campaign contributors or local power players.
They brought energy, hope and vitality to city government, as the Pikes Peak Region slowly emerged from the Great Recession. They fought with Mayor Steve Bach, examined Utility policies and practices with fresh eyes, and did their best to lead the city into the future.
Czeladtko declined to run again in 2013, while Williams and Leigh lost their seats. Six new Councilors took their seats at the dais, once again changing Council’s tone and direction.
Every city election brings surprises.
[/pullquote]Voters replaced a moderate, relatively youthful group evenly divided between men and women with an older, more conservative and (by a 6-3 margin) male-dominated lineup. After a reasonably collegial start, Council became bitterly split, dividing 5-4 on many highly visible issues. They did resemble their predecessors in one significant way, though — they fought with Bach.
Since Bach isn’t running for a second term, we know we’ll have a new Mayor.
As for Council, it’s possible we could have five new faces on the Council dais, four selected by voters. If the Collins recall succeeds, Council will select her replacement.
Once again, we can reshape Council. Voters might want to consider redressing Council’s gender imbalance by choosing Kanda Calef in District 2 and the three women candidates (Vanessa Bowie, Vickie Tonkins and Yolanda Avila) at large. Or they might want to empower young professionals such as Glenn Carlson, Nick Lee and Jariah Walker. Or maybe they’ll want more gray hair, and choose Larry Begley in District 2 to join at-large candidates Merv Bennett, Tom Strand and Bill Murray.
We won’t know until April 7. Until then, we can enjoy our multiple-choice freewheeling municipal democracy and be thankful that we live in such a city, and in such a country.
Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines — game on.