Englewood City Council candidates stated their points of view on a variety of issues during the Oct. 3 Arapahoe County League of Women Voters forum.
The candidates who attended included two District 2 candidates, incumbent Linda Olson and challenger Rita Russell; the two at-large candidates, Scott Gorsky and Steve Yates; and District 4 representative Rick Gillit, who is unopposed.
The League of Women Voters moderated the forum and asked candidates questions submitted by members of the audience.
The initial question asked candidates what they felt was the most critical issue facing the city, and all agreed it was finances.
Russell said over the past few years, the city has covered budget shortfalls with $6.5 million from reserves. She said the financial hemorrhaging must stop and there needs to be major changes to cease deficit budgeting.
But Olson said the primary source of revenue is sales taxes, which currently are below what was collected in 2000, so the city had to shift funds around and use reserves to meet the increasing cost of city operations.
Yates called the present financial situation critical. He said reserves will eventually run out and if that does happen, Englewood could be swallowed up by another municipality. He urged focus on revitalizing the business community to increase revenues.
Gorsky said if elected, he would seek a prioritization of spending. He also said there needs to be more community involvement to help the council deal with the challenging financial situations.
Gillit said the city has used its reserves to cover budget shortfalls but that can’t continue. He said promoting the right kind of new businesses would increase revenues.
The issue of the sale of the Englewood Depot was raised.
Yates called the sale a tragedy and Russell said the sale was illegal because the proposal wasn’t put to a vote of the people.
Olson said the sale was about saving the building and the council spent 18 months on the process to select the buyer. Gorsky said he wasn’t on the council that made the decision but he wasn’t happy about the sale.
One area of agreement was rejection of the idea of charging a fee for plastic bags in retail stores.
The candidates had two minutes to introduce themselves to the audience.
“I grew up in Englewood and, a couple years ago, I became concerned about what was going on in the city,” Russell said. “A couple years ago, I became very concerned about the council’s fiscal irresponsibility. I became more troubled by the actions of the council so I became a council candidate.”
Incumbent Olson said her four years on the council have been a learning experience.
“I have worked hard to represent the residents of my district and to vote for what I thought was best for the city,” she said. “I feel I helped the residents successfully deal with concerns about Kent Place development. I would like to continue to work to help make Englewood a better place to live.”
Yates is running for public office for the first time and urged Englewood to become more business-friendly to help promote business development.
“I have lived in Englewood 25 years and my job involved turning a failing corporation division around,” he said. “For the last six years, I have been active in seeking to preserve the rights of Englewood residents. I am concerned there hasn’t been a balanced budget for the past four years and that continues. I worry that continued use of reserves could bankrupt the city.”
Gorsky has lived in Englewood 11 years. Eight years ago, was elected to the Englewood School Board and repeatedly urged resident involvement and collaboration to deal with city issues.
“I felt I needed to be involved and give back to my community,” he said. “For the last eight years, I have worked to properly use your tax dollars. We dealt with financial challenges and drew on comments and suggestions from residents to establish the school district budget. If elected, I will promote the same collaborative problem-solving approach for the city council.”
Gillit said he is looking forward to serving another term on the council.
“I consider it a privilege to get to meet and talk to the people of my district and my city,” he said. “During my first four years on the council, I always tried to do what I felt was in the best interest of the city. I plan to once again listen to my constituents and to do my best to represent them.”