Group talks East Side issues
Resident thinks change is coming
BY RYAN SEVERANCE THE PUEBLO CHIEFTAIN
A group of concerned East Side residents gathered Friday night at El Centro del Quinto Sol to discuss problems plaguing the community and what can be done to set the area on the right path.
"Tonight we're here to discuss the improvements that are happening here on the East Side and what we're trying to do is get people's input on how we can make the East Side a lot safer and better," said Floyd Jaramillo, a longtime resident of the East Side.
The community discussion was organized by the Eastside Action Support Team and much of the discussion was aimed at finding solutions to improve the East Side.
A recent study done on the challenges and opportunities the East Side faces by a Denver consulting firm that was paid for with grant money was the focus of some of the discussion, which was attended by about 20 people.
The study's draft cited numerous challenges the East Side faces including high poverty and unemployment rates, a reputation for being unsafe, low real estate values, crumbling or missing physical infrastructure and the fact that there are no local banks or convenient daily services available there.
Jaramillo said while he's encouraged by some of the progress being made on the East Side, he acknowledges there are plenty of issues that need to be fixed.
He said it will take true community involvement to cure what ails the area.
"With all of the new projects that are happening like Plaza Verde (park), the new skate park being built at El Centro and a lot of things that are going on, we're very pleased about this," he said. "I think with all the problems we've been having, I think we need more of our churches to reach out and our community to reach out, and I think that's going to happen in time. I really do. We can't solve the problem right off the bat but it will be coming."
Jaramillo added that more employment opportunities for citizens would go a long way to bettering the East Siade.
"We have to turn it around and start obeying society's laws and rules, and I think if we come together as a community, we can make some positive changes for everyone."
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.
Flores' decision to step aside from his at-large seat leaves four candidates aiming at finishing the two years remaining on his term.
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.
When former Councilman Ray Aguilera was term-limited in his District 4 seat in 2011, he endorsed Daff to replace him and she won the seat. Daff's resignation last October has brought Aguilera back to run for the South Side seat again.
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.
Councilwoman Eva Montoya's decision to retire from the Dist 2 seat after just one term also has brought a flurry of candidates into the race, some new, some familiar.
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