Top Priorities? Transportation and Infrastructure, D4 Candidates Say

Mar 16, 2017

Colorado Springs City Council districts
Credit City of Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs City Council District 4 is in the southern part of the city, bound by Powers on the east, Platte to the north, and encompassing the southern part of Circle Drive.

There are three people vying for the seat, including incumbent Helen Collins.  Collins declined to be interviewed for this piece.  Her challengers, in the order they appear on the ballot, are Yolanda Avila and Deborah Hendrix.

Both Avila and Hendrix see District 4 as diverse, and rank transportation and stormwater infrastructure as top priorities for the district and city. 

91.5 KRCC spoke with both candidates about why they're running, what their priorities are, and what their visions are for Colorado Springs.  Full audio and text excerpts are below.

Yolanda Avila

Yolanda Avila
Credit yolandalavilaforcitycouncil.com

Yolanda Avila grew up in Colorado Springs' District 4.  After graduating from Colorado College, Avila moved to California to work as a criminal defense investigator.  She later retired to Colorado Springs to be closer to her mom. 

Avila says she began losing her sight in 2000 while in California, and she says a robust transportation system and walkable sidewalks helped her in that personal adjustment.  When she moved back to Colorado Springs, Avila says she was astounded by what she saw as a gap in public transportation and a lack of walkable sidewalks.  It spurred her to take action, sit on committees and boards, and to run for council. 

On what she sees as the biggest issues facing her district:

We have some barriers in our district that haven't given our residents the opportunity to succeed.  For instance, there's been the barriers in transportation.  Now, I've been working on it, and busses are now running seven days a week, until 9 PM.  So that helps a lot.  But they're going to increase 15-minute routes.  They did on Nevada, but it was from terminal north, and they're going to do it on Academy, but again, it's from Citadel North.  So there's barriers to employment, going to, and even inside the district, it's hard to get from one end to the other, or into the community, like into the shopping areas, within that community.

So, there's some barriers to employment, to connection to the community within and to the arteries to the greater Colorado Springs area.

Five years ago, maybe it's going on six, the Workforce Center was moved from Spruce to the northwest side of town, which cut out a lot of our opportunity for our residents to obtain jobs.  And so I work with this woman… she says there's so many jobs that she can place our residents, but there's no transportation to get there.

So transportation is a real huge barrier, the fact that the Workforce was changed to the NW side of town, it takes about three hours to get there, three hours to get back.  And then, just the lack of community centers and recreational things for the community to do.

On what she sees as the biggest issues facing the city as a whole:

I think the infrastructure and the stormwater.  And, we really need to repair the stormwater throughout the whole city…  Not because of [the lawsuit from the Environmental Protection Agency], but because it's the right thing to do.  It's the right thing to do to get up to speed, up to code, and get that stormwater… I mean, why would businesses want to come here if our stormwater infrastructure is falling apart?

On her vision for Colorado Springs:

That the city reflect all of its citizens.  All of us.  Because every citizen has so much to bring to the table and that diversity.  And again, and we need that strong infrastructure to support the city and its growth, and looking far ahead, not just for this generation, for my generation, but the great grandkids and future generations, of having enough water, clean water, having parks to go to and play in, having stores nearby, or local markets nearby. 

A vision where there's more of a sense of community, and I can enjoy the arts here, just here in my city with just a quick bus ride, and I don't have to walk a mile to get there.  So, it's just to see us all prosper together.

Deborah Hendrix
Credit votefordeborahhendrix.com

Deborah Hendrix

Deborah Hendrix has lived in District 4 for 25 years. She's served on the Harrison District 2 School Board, and says her experiences position her best to work collaboratively to aid District 4.

Hendrix sees District 4 as being the gateway to Colorado Springs, saying when people fly into Colorado Springs, they come through District 4.  She says she wants to ensure people see the district as one that's vibrant, involved, and with a lot to offer.

On what she sees as the biggest issues facing her district:

I believe there's a three-pronged approach in terms of looking at our district.  One is transit.  Many of our individuals depend on public transportation to get to work, to get to services that are available to them. 

I believe the second one is public safety.  Certainly, the chief of police and the commander at the Sand Creek police station have indicated that District 4 receives probably the largest number of priority one calls.  Murders, robberies, things of that nature. 

The third one is the economy.  As we've talked about the revitalization of the southeast part of town, Academy corridor, and all of that, and so as we're losing more of those job opportunities, then we need to make sure they're being replenished, but then also people have a means to get to other jobs that become available throughout the city. 

So, I think it's a three-prong approach.  You've got to improve transit, got to make sure people feel safe in the community, and three, we've got to look at rebuilding the job opportunities that are available.

On what she sees as the biggest issues facing the city as a whole:

Pirority number one is our infrastructure, stormwater.  We keep kicking that ball down the street.  Four years ago when I ran, and then somebody just mentioned earlier today, 1997, we were still having this convesation about stormwater.  We have got to quit having conversation. 

We used to have a stormwater fee.  I know people don't want more taxes, but the point is, if we don't take care of our infrastructure, we can't get businesses to want to come here.  We can't get people to want to come here.  Why? Because the infrastructure is falling apart.  And so we've got to take care of our infrastructure. 

This is a beautiful part of the country, and tourism is a huge part of our business.  But when people have to worry about flooding and bumpity-bump roads and things of that nature, that doesn't look real good.  And when you've got the EPA that's already suing us, and our neighbors to the south, Fountain and Pueblo, are saying "You guys are not doing your fair share to take care of your stormwater issues," we've got to stop, put some effort into that. 

That will help us then, I think, to attract people to this community, where people want to live and work and play, but we've got to make sure that the stormwater piece is a done deal and no more conversation.

On her vision for Colorado Springs:

I am excited about the potential for this city.  When people talk about coming here to visit, when people talk about looking at the opportunities here, I want our city just to be proud of what we do, what we have to offer, and be big, bold, and proud about letting people know that when you come here, we are a business friendly community.  You'll want to start your business here, you'll want to keep your business here.  We want families to come here because they know it's safe and they can raise their kids with good schools and so forth.  So it's about really making the message that this is a great place to live, work and play.