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Year one: A look at Mayor Mobolade's progress

Data shows more city employees have left under Mobolade in first year compared to last two administrations.
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Posted at 6:09 PM, Jun 06, 2024

COLORADO SPRINGS — It's been one year since Mayor Yemi Mobolade took the oath of office as Colorado Springs' 42nd Mayor. His election victory marked some historic firsts for the city as the first-ever elected Black Mayor and immigrant to hold the office.

A year later, the win still feels like yesterday for Mobolade.

"I am just reeling in the election win, believe it or not," Mobolade said, "this incredible opportunity for someone with my background and story to serve this city, it's been a tremendous opportunity."

The city has faced several challenges in the last year, providing a political test for Mobolade as he navigated the mayor's office.

During his campaign, Mayor Mobolade outlined several priorities including public safety, housing, and economic vitality.

Public Safety

Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD) currently faces a shortage of officers. The city's "authorized strength" is 818 officers, which the mayor and Chief of Police Adrian Vasquez say can be reached by the end of 2024.

During an interview with News5, Mobolade said he wants to be conservative and say early 2025.

"We're only short 22 [officers] Now, the caveat is that includes those in the academy right now, so the new class that just started in the class would be graduating in ten weeks," Mobolade said.

Within the first few months of taking office, Mobolade referred a question to the November ballot to ask voters about retaining money to fund an improved police training academy. The money is typically refunded to voters under the taxpayers' bill of rights (TABOR).

"That was still a win for me," Mobolade said, "the ballot initiative was not about, you know, whether or not we need a police training academy is whether I could use this 4 or 5 million excess city revenue to invest in the training academy when we needed that."

"I knew that it would be a hard sell because I had just started, times are hard, and it's people's money," Mobolade said.

Mayor Mobolade said there are plans in the works to build a "Public Safety Center for Excellence".

Housing

A recent study by the Common Sense Institute (CSI) showed Colorado Springs is short around 16,000-27,000 units. Mayor Mobolade said he commissioned them to assemble the report.

While the study shows a shortage, Mobolade said it does not show the types of housing. The mayor said he does know there's a shortage of entry level townhomes and entry-level homes in Colorado Springs.

The mayor supported a bill at the state capitol this legislative session to address "construction defect lawswhich proponents say is hindering construction of properties like condos, arguing the laws cause more litigation than construction.

The bill did not make it through the legislature, but the Mayor pointed to his support as a way he's working to address the housing shortage in the city.

"There's a reason why they're not building it, because of lawsuits, so can we not eliminate that protection, but can we tweak it in such a way that it's a win win?" Mobolade said.

Mayor Mobolade also created a position known as the "Chief Housing Officer" of the city, he appointed Steve Posey to the position. Posey resigned from the city in March, Mobolade said it was not because of a difference in solutions to address housing.

"There was no disagreement," Mobolade said, "he communicated to me that the time was now."

Staff Attrition

Data from the city shows 378 city employees left, resigned, or were terminated during Mobolade's first year in office. It's an increase compared to the first year of Suther's tenure with 230 employees and 160 in the first year of Mayor Bach's term.

Mobolade believes the first year is a point in time, he would like to look at the numbers over the years as he serves as mayor.

"It's just natural transition," Mobolade said, "People would actually often say that, wow! There was a complete turnover of half of the organization when Mayor Steve Bach was mayor. And so, um, comparing [their] first year of leadership it's just looking at a moment in time, actually, I want to look at the whole thing."

He pointed out most of the Directors in the city have stayed. In some cities, when a new Mayor is elected those employees are often let go so the new Mayor can bring in their own leadership team.

The city provided data of turnover rates of other local governments, showing Colorado Springs is lower than others, including El Paso County.

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Immigration

A political test for Mobolade came when he received a phone call from the local Salvation Army saying migrant families had arrived in the city.

"If you had asked me can you name one of the hardest days as mayor? That's probably one of those days," Mobolade said in reference to the day he saw El Paso County Commissioners holding a press conference about the migrant families that had arrived in Colorado Springs.

The Mayor, a Nigerian immigrant himself, said he was proud of how he handled the situation. He pointed to tracking down the truth of the situation being a cost to taxpayers.

"When you say there's a bus there, I'm going to take it seriously and go see if there's a bus. When you say the migrants in a local hotel, I'm going to go see," Mobolade said.

At the time, 24 families were reported to be in the city. It was initially reported a bus arrived with the migrant families, News5 later confirmed city and county officials did not have evidence of a bus arriving.

"I'm not political by nature. I take pride in being pragmatic. I make decisions about the common good, as a unifier of people doesn't mean I'm going to unify 100% of the people," Mobolade said.

Politics

As a political independent, Mobolade's win garnered national headlines as Colorado Springs' is a known Republican stronghold.

Entering this 2024 election year with Colorado Springs' congressional seat open, Mobolade is not yet sharing what party or candidate he plans to support.

When asked about which primary he would vote in this June, he said he was unsure.

"I don't know yet, I'm still on the fence, like most unaffiliated I've been having conversations with fellow unaffiliated who are like my wife and I, who have actually voted both Republican and Democrat," Mobolade said.

Mobolade has not endorsed anyone and said he has not been asked about an endorsement. He did say candidates have reached out to him asking for advice for campaigning. For him, he said he is busy running Colorado Springs and the election has not been top of mind.

"I want to have a great working relationship with them, any one of them, including a similar approach for me in the White House, you know, whoever is president, I want to have a great working relationship with them because ultimately I want Colorado Springs to be successful."

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