Mayor Suthers lays out plan for second term

Local

It was his seventh election and likely his last.

For his second term and political finale over the next four years in the mayor’s office for Colorado Springs, John Suthers has no swan song planned. Rather, just plans.

“I’m not one who spends a lot of time celebrating wins,” said Suthers in a post-election day press conference in the city administration building. “I got home last night and my mind started cranking about all the things we have to do.”

Without a pompous celebration or a grand final project, Suthers still felt good about winning 73% of the vote Tuesday night.

“I think it’s an affirmation that the vast majority of our citizens think we have done a great job over the last four years,” Suthers said. “I said we’d deal with infrastructure, job creation, that we’d get a lot more collaborative relationship between the council and the mayor, and we’ve done that.”

After the press conference, he headed to Denver for more “political” and pulling the ears of state lawmakers for things he wants to see in the city. Namely, transportation funding.

“I will be advocating for every cent that can find,” Suthers said.

Suthers said state money will be an integral part of projects to improve congestion on roads like Powers Boulevard (Highway 21), Nevada Avenue (Highway 115), Highway 24, and Highway 94.

Suthers said those highways will need attention in order to handle Colorado Springs’ expected growth. 

“Highway infrastructure is still a big issue,” Suthers said. “I’m hoping we can get as much money as we can in this session. In future sessions, I’m hoping we will begin to refocus on state transportation.”

Locally, he hopes voters will renew the 2C tax measure that will sunset in 2021 without a vote to extend it. In his reelection campaign, Suthers often pointed to 500 miles of roadwork done because of the measure, and 200 more miles in the works.

“I am confident that we will generate the necessary funds for infrastructure locally, but we need the state to step up as well,” Suthers said.

Part of solving the congestion conundrum can mean getting more people off the roads. Suthers has tried that over the past four years with bike lanes, but that has been met with controversy and opposition. 

However, that doesn’t change his goals for the next four years.

“Bike lanes are a part of that,” Suthers said. “Making downtown more pedestrian friendly is part of that. But, there’s some resistance to that that you have to keep in mind, and you got to make sure it’s done right.”

One of Suthers’ opponents aired his concern that growth is too concentrated in the northern areas of Colorado Springs at the detriment of other areas — namely, the southeastern areas of the city. 

“There are some incentives from the urban-rural perspective that we can give [businesses] to go down there,” Suthers said. “What we got to make sure is that we make the city infrastructure investment so there’s no message that the city is less interested.”

Suthers said $45 million worth of infrastructure projects are planned for the area, like a complete reconstruction of areas on South Academy Boulevard.

Suthers said business development near the airport can help revitalize that area. There’s a potential Amazon warehouse that has yet to be confirmed, but job listings have been posted online

“I’m pretty optimistic that we’ll see lots of investment in the southeast quadrant, but you can’t force it,” Suthers said.

If our neighbors to the north in Denver are any example, growth — particularly quick growth — can lead to increased housing prices, increased rent, and an increased cost of living for people already living in the area.

During his State of the City speech in September, Suthers said there were 500 affordable units in the city. He announced a goal to build at least 1,000 more every year.

“I think we can double the output we’ve had over the last couple years,” Suthers said.

Suthers wants to put the three nonprofits in the area that deal with housing in touch with the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development grants, as well as funding from the Colorado Housing Authority.

“Basically, incentivizing the construction of more affordable units,” Suthers said. “The other thing I feel good about is that we have the room to grow, so we’re not going to be tearing down what is now affordable housing and building gentrified, very expensive housing.”

Suthers often — during the campaign and otherwise — speaks about building a city to match the scenery.

Fairly recently, the detrimental aesthetic, social and environmental costs of the Martin Drake Power Plant have spurred action to close down the facility

The board of Colorado Springs Utilities has set the shutdown date for no later than 2035, but Suthers believes it could be sooner.

“I think it’s realistic that Drake can close, with some of the technological changes like solar battery storage and things like that, I think we can get it closed by 2025,” Suthers said.

Suthers will be officially sworn in for his second term on April 16 at the Pioneers Museum.

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