Crowd courts council seats
15 people seek place at table
by Peter Roper
AFTER ALL THE petitions were checked this week, 15 candidates had qualified for the four open seats on City Council in November.
That’s a majority of the seven-member board, and the winning four candidates could mean a significant reshuffling of council’s priorities and direction.
“The current council will get us through adopting next year’s budget, but we will have new faces going into next year,” acknowledged President Steve Nawrocki, who is in his second term as an at-large member.
Council went through upheaval during the past 12 months with three members — Chris Kaufman, Sandy Daff and Ami Nawrocki — all resigning their positions. Council went through the job of appointing replacements for Kaufman and Daff, but both of those picks, Dennis Flores and John Cordova, have chosen not to run to hold their seats for personal and political reasons.
Flores announced early this month he is stepping down from his at-large seat because of his wife;s health and Cordova has decided to leave his District 4 seat to concentrate on running for Pueblo County commissioner next year.
Couincilman Bob Schilling, who replaced Ami Nawrocki, won his seat in Nawrocki's recall election last January, even though she resigned shortly before the balloting.
Nicoll charged those discussions should have been in public, not in executive session, starting a tumultuous summer of debates over the half=cent tax, city trash collection policy and council's decision to loan $14.4 million to the Pueblo Urban Renewal Authority to build an exhibition hall onto the Pueblo Convention Center.
Challenging Nicoll for his four-year term are Colorado State University-Pueblo professor Dan Ramos, who wants the city to use its half-cent tax to buy new companies and locate them in Pueblo instead of recruiting them.
Also running in that contest is Larry Fancher, who has run for council several times previously, as well as Abel Laeke, a newcomer who is running despite a 2004 case where he was aquitted, on the grounds of insanity, of indecent exposure and secual touching.
Local businessman Brian Mater made an unsuccessful try for council in 2013, then made a bid for the House District 46 seat in the Legislature, and is now running for council again.
Also in that race is Lori Winner, the woman whose House of Shame Web page has scolded council for several years on poor code enforcement, sending council members photos of trash- and weed-filled yards.
Cleaning up Pueblo also has been the message of Jim Sbarbaro, a cardiologist who has often come to council to push for better trash enforcement, pointing to his own volunteer efforts to clean up open land and a city park near his South Side home.
Finally, former Councilman Ted Lopez Jr., is in that race. Lopez, an early advocate for recycling in Pueblo, was recalled from council in 2004 for supporting a smoking ban in public places, a policy that is now virtually universal in Colorado and in place in many states.
Challenging him is a newcomer, R. Kenneth O'Neal, a retired Army nurse. O'Neal has some unexpected ideas on his agenda. He thinks the city needs a bigger airport in order to compete for new businesses and he'd like to rewrite the city charter to change the balance of authority between council, the city manager and the city attorney.
The most familiar is Larry Atencio, who was the District 2 member for one term before urging Montoya to run for the seat. He's back with his goal to build a softball complex on the East Side.
Former Councilman Al Gurule is also in that contest. Gurule, a long-time Chicano activist before winning two terms in District 2, wants to break the city's franchise contract with Black Hills Energy, the electric utility.
Also in that race are three political newcomers: Janet Wilson, who clashed with Montoya this year for running a Cinco de Mayo parade on the East Side without a police permit; Arnold Montoya, who works for the Pueblo Regional Building Department; and Joseph Latino, a retired educator who wants to see more resources put into public safety.
© 2015 The Pueblo Chieftain