COLORADO SPRINGS — With the 2023 mayoral runoff election upon us, it is time for voters to choose Colorado Springs’ future mayor. KOAA News5, El Pomar, The Gazette, and Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce are taking a lead role in the election by hosting this year’s Mayoral Runoff Debate.
The debate between Yemi Mobolade and Wayne Williams took place Sunday night at The Garden Pavilion at Penrose House. KOAA News5 anchor Rob Quirk was the moderator, joined by panelists Vince Bzdek, Executive Editor of The Gazette, and Alasyn Zimmerman, KOAA News5 anchor.
You can watch the recorded event on KOAA.com and our streaming platforms. Learn more about how to install the app.
Ballots have now arrived in mailboxes for the Colorado Springs Mayoral runoff election May 16.
For the first time in eight years, Colorado Springs will have a new Mayor as John Suthers is term-limited.
With a crowded field of a dozen candidates now down to only two, voters in the city will be deciding on who should be the city’s next leader: Yemi Mobolade or Wayne Williams?
Business owner Mobolade lead the pack on April 4 with nearly 30 percent of the vote, former Colorado Springs city councilman Williams finished second, receiving about 20 percent.
The new Mayor will be sworn into office June 6, in the meantime they’re working to secure support with promises on what could change, or remain the same, under their leadership.
Here’s where the candidates stand on key issues in the city.
Both Mobolade and Williams agree on top priorities for Colorado Springs, it’s a matter of what needs to be done about those priorities where they may differ.
Why they’re qualified (in their words)
On the campaign trail, we’ve heard from both Mobolade and Williams about how their experiences have prepared them for the Mayor’s job.
Mobolade points to his business experience, community service with COSILoveYou, and his time working for the city as a Small Business Development Administrator.
Williams has focused on his time in public office from his time as County Commissioner, Colorado’s Secretary of State, and most recently as a City Councilman.
The Big Three: Top priorities of both candidates include Public Safety, Infrastructure/Housing, and Economic Development.
Where they agree: Both candidates see a need to focus on Public Safety while in office. When it comes to police staffing, they’ve outlined some different priorities. Both see a need to improve the community’s relationship with CSPD in some way.
Mobolade wants to increase the number of police training academies for city police officers. He sees a need in retention with officers, not just recruitment. He told News5 in an interview “We have to close the back door” when it comes to keeping officers in their jobs. He’s named several programs with community initiatives and policing to focus on.
Mobolade sees a need for boosting morale, focusing on work-life balance, and making the police department a favorable place to work.
“There is a lot of pressure right now for our police officers,” Mobolade said, “the weight of the badge is heavy.”
The former city councilman says he wants to provide police and fire with training, staff, and resources to keep neighborhoods safe. He points to his time on council where three new fire stations were funded including Fire Station 23 was added near the department’s headquarters off Printers Parkway. During his time on city council, council passed a “public safety fee” on new properties and redevelopments to fund fire station improvements.
In an interview with Colorado Public Radio, Williams said “I believe the relationship between CSPD and the public is strong, but we can always do more.”
What they agree on: Similar to Mayor John Suthers, both candidates agree in some way that the city’s place is not in building affordable housing. Mobolade recently said in a debate with UCCS, United Way, and KKTV that the city “should not be a housing provider”. Williams told News5 in an interview, there is a time and place for the city to build affordable housing but it should mostly be left to non-profits and private industries. Both candidates also agree on a need to address the road conditions in Colorado Springs, they both say they will look at extensions of 2C (a funding source for roads) if elected.
Both candidates have also pointed to additional funding sources coming from the state and federal government to go towards affordable housing.
Mobolade plans to address “the missing middle” (those in the middle-income bracket) when it comes to housing. He plans to create a fund with money coming from foundations, businesses, and non-profits to provide grants for developers. He said he plans to look at innovative approaches to housing, including homes being built with 3D printers.
Mobolade said the city should work to invest more in programs working with the city’s homeless population. He also wants to expand the city’s Homeless Outreach Team with a focus on training officers to respond “with compassion”.
Mobolade wants to repurpose a role within the city’s community development division to become the “Chief Housing Officer” to advance housing projects, which he said would focus on affordable and attainable housing.
Williams has pointed to his experience on the Colorado Springs Housing Authority Board and City Council when it comes to housing.
Williams wants to focus on tax incentives to build more affordable housing. While on city council, a sales tax waiver was passed for building materials on affordable housing. Williams said he’s also worked to make sure the Regional Building fees are the lowest in the state to make sure “the cost of government is minimized”.
Williams said he’s been working with state legislators to make the sales tax exemption for affordable housing materials something at the statewide level. He's also pointed to the creation of the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (PPRTA) funding mechanism for transportation as a county commissioner and referred the extension of the tax to voters while on City Council.
Williams wants to expand the city’s “Sit, Lie Ordinance”, which cites people sitting, lying, or kneeling in certain areas of the city.
What they agree on: Both candidates see challenges with the current workforce in the city and the need to encourage economic growth.
Mobolade has pointed to his experience with the city as a key indicator of his abilities with economic development. He calls economic development “a three-legged stool” 1) promoting the region 2) bringing in new businesses and 3) supporting current local businesses.
Mobolade has said small businesses need to be able to have more incentives offered to large businesses in the Springs.
Williams has said there needs to be incentives to companies expanding or relocating to Colorado Springs.
He told The Gazette he’s “committed to preserving a low tax burden for our citizens while delivering economic growth to our city through business development and recruitment as well as public/private partnerships.”
Both candidates have seen criticism during their time on the campaign trail.
Williams has faced criticism over funding he’s received from developers in the city. One campaign sign seen throughout the city paints him as “A Developer’s Dream”. Another mayoral candidate accused him of violating city code by showing the city's fire station training facility in a campaign ad.
Mobolade has faced criticism over his business practices, with some critics calling him a “union buster”, over an incident in 2020 on how Mobolade’s business split up tips among employees. The state ruled in favor of the employees.
A recent campaign ad from Williams’ campaign calls Mobolade a “liberal”. Mobolade is a registered unaffiliated voter and has been since he became a U.S. citizen in 2017. He told News5 an interview that his team jokes with him about his affiliation, calling him “a flaming moderate” a moniker he said he’s okay with.
Who’s backing Who?
Both Mobolade and Williams have announced key endorsements since the April 4 election.
Mobolade received backing from former mayoral candidates Tom Strand, who previously served as President of City Council, and Sallie Clark, the third-place finisher in the Mayoral race and a former County Commissioner.
Mobolade also received an endorsement from former El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder.
Other community leaders including former County Commissioner Amy Folsom and Ted Collas, retired former Fire Chief of Colorado Springs Fire Department have also announced their support for Mobolade.
Williams boasts support from current Mayor John Suthers, five of the nine current city council members, including two of the four who recently took the oath of office after April’s election.
Williams also has the endorsement of the Colorado Springs Professional Firefighters Local 5, Fraternal Order of Police Pikes Peak Lodge 9, and Colorado Springs Police Protective Association.
Campaign Websites for both candidates can be found here: Yemi Mobolade, Wayne Williams.
Sunday night, News5 is hosting a debate along with The Gazette, El Pomar Foundation, and Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC. The debate will air live on News5 (Channel 5.1) as well as our streaming platforms and KOAA.com.
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