Monday, March 8, 2010

Parks and Trash

Many years ago, during my "formulative" years, I recall my Mom coming into my room and telling me I need to learn to pick up behind myself. I replied "No Mom - cleaning up behind me is an entitlement and it's something you are supposed to do". That only happened once.

Now that's not exactly how it went down, but it illustrates the attitudes of some within our city: somewhere down the road we (collectively) decided that we are "entitled" to have the city pick up behind us, especially in our parks.

Our city currently maintains over 17,000 acres of land dedicated to parks, recreation, and cultural services. Maintenance costs continue to rise - for instance, our 123 neighborhood community parks cost around $8,200 per park to maintain, and those costs are expected to rise to over $11,000 per park in the near future. Add in the cost of the 7 regional parks, 10 community parks, 6,000 acres of open space, 265 miles of multi-sport trails, recreation centers, visitor centers, cemetaries, etc and you are soon into some serious city assets that help to contribute to Colorado Springs being consistantly rated at the top of most "Healthiest Cities" lists.

As a boy scout I learned to "pack in and pack out" - leaving my camping or picnic area a little bit cleaner than I found it. Most campers and hikers I know adhere to this code of individual responsibility. Why not use this as an an opportunity to teach our kids an important lesson - to value the good things you have, and that government may not always be there to solve your problems. When it comes to the principles of limited government we need to practice what we preach.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

10 Things you may not know about me...

From the Gazette's CityDesk Blog:

Mayoral candidate Buddy Gilmore sings, golfs, and doesn't take himself too seriously. Want proof? After he filed papers to run for mayor, he e-mailed the following:

10 things you probably don't know about Buddy:

When he was 12, Buddy performed at Madison Square Garden with members of the Grand Old Opry

In 2007 Buddy golfed in the Maui Senior Skins Pro-Am. His PGA partner on the front nine was Jay Haas; his partner on the back nine was Jack Nicklaus

In 2001 Buddy emptied his 401k account and put up his home as collateral to help grow Shape Technologies LLC

Buddy once sang karaoke with Bruce Willis; he has also sang karaoke with Cuba Gooding Jr

Buddy chairs and sponsors an annual golf tournament benefitting the Prostate Conditions Education Council, a non-profit in Denver that works to raise prostate cancer awareness in men and their families

In 1987 Buddy volunteered to help lead a team of over 100 airmen in recovery operations of the B-1 bomber crash outside La Junta CO

In 2009 Buddy recorded his first (and only!) CD titled "Under the covers with Buddy Gilmore"

Buddy is on the national Board of Directors for the National Association of Drug Court Professionals

In 1984 Buddy toured nationally as a lead singer with the Air Force Tops in Blue entertainment troupe. That tour culminated with the half time show at Superbowl XIX

Buddy has been working for over a year at the state and national level to help write and pass legislation to establish Veteran's Treatment Courts

The future

We will recover from this economic downturn, and at some point in the very near future we need to ask ourselves: what do we want to be as a city? There are some great efforts out there right now: Dream City: Vision 2020, Project 6035, and there are several other groups of citizens laying out a map for our future. However, there are voices missing from these discussions - the voices of those who stand to inherit whatever it is we pass on - the voices of our youth.

For the past three years I have had the great priviledge of serving on the local Congressional services academies nomination boards, and the vision, strength, and leadership of the students applying for these nominations never ceases to amaze me. I want our high school students to get involved with creating the Colorado Springs of the future. As mayor, I'm going to ask our high school senior classes to come up with their own ideas - a ""Liberty Vision 2020", or "Palmer Vision 2020". Work with your teachers - write down your ideas, do the research, and I want your plan presented in front of the city council. It is my hope this project will do three things: first, city planners will gain a different perspective on our city of the future; second, it will help to create a more informed voter, as these students turn 18 and become voters; and third, it is my hope that this sort of project will create an even greater sense of community, pulling us closer together as a city.

There are two dates that are of critical importance to our future: the first is the 4th of July, 2011. That's the day the first official practice round of the LPGA Open at the Broadmoor. The international spotlight will shine brightly on Colorado Springs (remember the bear at last year's Senior Open?). We need to start thinking today - how will our city be portrayed in that spotlight? The last few weeks have been hard on our city - the media has portrayed us as mean-spirited, and I'm disappointed in the non-response from our city leadership (that won't happen on my watch!). We need to regain our sense of pride, and over the next few months I'll be offering my ideas on this.

The next date is July, 2012 - the day the Summer Olympics start in London England. During the past few weeks the Winter Olympics have played out in Vancouver, but you would have been hard-pressed to see the important linkage Colorado Springs has with the Olympic community. Anyone recall seeing anyone wearing an Olympic sweatshirt downtown? As your mayor, I want to create a sort of "Celebrate the Dream" festival tied to the 2012 Olympics. Let's come together and show our pride in our Training Center and the USOC Headquarters. I'm thinking a parade for our atheletes, and tie-ins with businesses all over the city. For instance, a restaurant might post the Olympic logo on their door with "I am Celebrating the Dream". People coming in wearing Olympic gear during the festival might qualify for, say, a 5% discount on their meal.

I am sure there are others out there with similar ideas. It's time to refocus on the goodness of the people in our community and to realize just how lucky we are to live in this beautiful city.

Buddy's 2 cents on taxes

We have got to weather this economic downturn. The basis for funding our city's services is a sales tax, which I consider to be a barometer of the wellness of our city. Right now sales tax collections are down because folks like you and me don't have the money to go out and buy the things we did in the past. In addition, unemployment is high. If we can't afford to buy the things we once considered essential, how in the world are we expected to cough up more money for taxes? And while we are talking taxes let me give you my definition of taxes versus fees: if I reach into my pocket and give you money for things I want to do it's a fee; if you reach into my pocket and take out money for something you want to do, it's either tax or theft and sometimes it's hard to tell which is which. Now don't get me wrong - there are things we expect from government and we need to pay for those services. But as your mayor, I promise you that if it walks like a tax and quacks like a tax I'm not going to try to convince you it's some other animal.

One more thought on taxes, tied to our economic recovery. The EDC and others have their elephant guns out, working hard to bring in those big companies that would bring hundreds, if not thousands of jobs to Colorado Springs, and I applaud their efforts. However, economic recovery is usually led by small businesses, and we have over 16,000 small businesses in our city - companies that have less than 50 employees. Many of these companies pay business personal property taxes - 2.5% annually on every table, chair, computer, etc used to run their business. While the business property tax provides less than 1% of the city's budget, some of these mom and pop businesses such as restaurants, beauty salons and others pay thousands of dollars annually for the priviledge of keeping their equipment - equipment they paid sales taxes on when they first purchased the equipment. This tax is also problematic for the EDC and their elephant hunt, as those large companies see this tax as an additional cost of doing business in the city. I'd like to see us start phasing this tax out, starting with a 2 year period where small businesses who are heavily invested in equipment will see a 50% cut in their taxes. I will bet you those enterpreneurs will re-invest back into their businesses, keep prices down, or maybe even hire new employees. All of this economic activity will have a positive effect on the city's sales tax receipts and will send a signal to the elephants, through the EDC and others, that Colorado Springs is a business-friendly city.

The Litmus Test

Since I announced my candidacy for mayor on Feb 26th I have been hit with the typical litmus tests usually reserved for partisan politics. It seems there are many who are anxious to attach a label, not only to those who aspire to serve the public through elected office, but generally to anyone involved in shaping our community. To those who want to pigeon-hole me, I will sign up to the following elements: Honesty, Accountability, and Integrity - the foundations of rebuilding trust between our elected officials and the citizens of our city. In fact, one of the reasons I have announced relatively early is because I realize it takes a long time to rebuild a trust that has been broken. You need to get to know me, and I need to get to know you. I am asking you to entrust a position of leadership with me, and you need to get comfortable with your decision BEFORE you vote.

First, as your mayor I will look you in the eye and tell you what I think. You might not always like what you hear, but I'm not one of those professional politicians who knows how to turn garbage into gold. Second, there is room for more transparancy in our local government. One of my first actions will be to implement the city checkbook on line. Any fiscal activity above $25k should be posted on a monthly basis. Anyone spending the people's money should be a good steward of the people's money, and I think the citizens of our community have a right to know how their tax dollars are being spent. I can also promise you I won't be making any back-room deals with special interest groups. Finally there is integrity - something I "walk-the-walk" with every day. As an entepreneur and owner of a small business I can tell you that your word means everything. Screw up once, and you may as well take your shingle down. As mayor, I'll bring those ethics and consistancy of action to our city government.

Why me?

I'll never forget my first impression of Colorado Springs. It was early autumn 1984 as I rolled into the city on a bus with 27 other Air Force musicians. The physical beauty of the city in the shadow of Pikes Peak was amazing! During that evening and the next day I met a number of "locals" who filled up Arnold Hall for our Tops in Blue show. The next morning, I walked out of my room, barefoot, to a point behind the AF Academy Officer's Club. As I sat on that point I could hear the echo of the golf balls being struck on the golf courses below. Mule deer strolled past as I reflected on the sights of the city and the people I had met. I thought "Man - I don't know what Heaven looks like but this has got to be pretty close!" I vowed to find my way back.

Fast forward to the spring of 1987, and I have orders for Falcon AFB! Each day building up to the move was filled with excitement as I tried to describe the city to my familiy, but pictures and words just didn't seem to capture all that I had seen and remembered. Then one evening we were watching TV, and there was a lady singing "America The Beautiful". I looked over at my 5 year old daughter and said "That's where we are moving to - America The Beautiful!"

Those were special times for Colorado Springs. I embraced the spirit of Rugged Individualism - a phenomenom of personal responsibility that was stronger here than any other place I had lived. It was also the era of Mayor Bob - a guy who knew how to get things done. People trusted Mayor Bob because regardless of what he might do or say, he always had the best interests of the people of this city close in his heart.

However, our city has changed. As Phil Collins sang "something happened on the way to Heaven." A spirit of mistrust of government permeates our community. Part of that is a trickle down effect from the national and state level, but there have certainly been missteps here at the local level that have manifested into an anger in our community - an anger I have not seen before. I truly believe we at the crossroads. Someday our children will look back to this period and think: did we fragment, fight, and become self destructive when we were challenged, or did we come together, pick up the gauntlet and move forward decisively? Friends, I for one am not ready to give up on this city - the city I know and love. I am ready to pick up that gauntlet, and as the next mayor of Colorado Springs I will lead the charge, not only in these times of economic challenge, but in our recovery as we reclaim the mantle of "America The Beautiful".

Why me? First of all let me tell you who I'm not. I'm no politician- I've never run for any office before. I am not attached to any special interests that might do business with our city. I also have no interest in running for other offices down the road.

Who I am is a retired Air Force member who has called Colorado Springs my home for 23 years. I'm a guy who likes taking on hard problems and developing concensus to find solutions to those problems. I'm an entepreneur who understands it takes hard work to achieve visions, and someone who deals with budget and organizational issues on a near daily basis. Finally, I'm not a manager - I'm a do-er. Someone who has sat through many "good-dea" meetings with various groups within this communty that wrap up with the question: "who will lead?" Today I give you my answer.

I look forward to the next year - meeting new people, sharing ideas, and working to pull our community back together. Our local government must continually evolve into a value-added, forward-thinking, leading body. Our destiny is in front of us, and the best is yet to come. Together, we will work to gain our place again as "Colorado Springs - America The Beautiful".