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VISION FOR PUEBLO
Pueblo is a community of builders, a group of people bound not only by their love for their city, but by their shared passion for family, honor, sport, and unique Southern Colorado culture. Hardened like the steel that we have built for decades, Puebloans are known for their resilience and determination.
I’m proud of our city, our community and the friends, families and neighbors that it’s made of. I believe we can be better together, if only we take the time to listen to one another and resolve to solve issues with the same spirit that’s built Pueblo in decades past. Yet, while Pueblo’s politics are its own, far from the issues that plague DC, we seem to have stumbled upon a similar type polarization that’s plaguing our national discourse. Our community has veered off the path of unity and equity, changing course and trying in vain to take aim at a more “prosperous” future, while shutting off our ears to our neighbors. So too, has this affected Pueblo’s current City Council. I seek a seat on council to represent those who feel they no longer have a champion in their local government.
As a descendant of Sicilian immigrants, and a third generation Puebloan I have a view of this city that is rooted in hope. Hope that we can come together and care for one another. Hope that is embedded in our diverse multicultural views, and hope that together we can push Pueblo to its greatest potential. I believe that with a renewed vision of this city, we can create a community that exceeds all expectations and shatters all assumptions of what Pueblo is and what it can be. I hope you are as excited as I am about this community’s future and will partner with me to build it, together.
Over the last year there has been a significant increase in the light that is shown on policing and public safety. From COVID-19 to calls for racial reformations, the public safety community has been in a time of both adjustment and growth. Growth in a sense of enhancing their ranks with competent officers, and adjustment towards a world that is shifting so fast. This principle, however, has been in effect at the Pueblo Police Department for some time. As a CALEA certified department, the PPD is only part of 5% of departments across the country that have gone through racial significance training, and it is reflected. Excelling in areas from response time improvements to racial representation, the Pueblo Police Department creates a precedent that should be exemplified by every department in the state. This growth and enrichment of our law enforcement agency came from competent officers being put in positions of power that can cultivate a positive environment, which was made possible by the passing of the Public Safety Tax. However, I believe that that alone has run its course.
Public safety is not something that is only measured in police response. It is a measurement that is concluded from observing all areas of safety when it comes to the public, including the fire department, social services, and ambulatory services. One of these entities cannot functionally run without the impact of another, yet it is far too often that these agencies are neglected, and the police are expected to fill the gap. This is not how public safety should be measured, nor is this the correct response to any public safety concern. It takes a fully functioning fire department, social services department, and police department to address the issues that arise on the street. There is no reason why only one third of these are being supported while the others are experiencing the same increase of call volume. By enhancing the Public Safety Tax, which has an expiration date of the end of 2022, to include amendments for additional funding to the fire department, all branches of public safety will be able to operate on a functional level that is required for our growing city. We cannot rely solely on one department to work at 100% while the others are operating significantly less. It is time that we invest in ourselves and create an enhanced public safety infrastructure for the people of this incredible town.
Downtown Pueblo has been through many different revitalization efforts, and as a native Puebloan I was excited watching it transform over the years. It was incredible watching the development of the Riverwalk, and the city try and make downtown a visitor magnet. However, I feel that recently the projects have been last-ditch attempts at modernizing the heart of our city. Pueblo deserves large-scale developments that both prepare us for our future and help promote local business owners at the highest levels. This last year, with COVID-19, we have been shown how important it is to take care each other, yet PEDCO decides to incentivize out of town businesses with the funds that us Puebloans have paid for. We should be lifting our local business owners up and using these funds to allow them the opportunity to modernize and expand. I understand that we need jobs, but I do not understand why we don’t promote both the businesses that are already employing Puebloans, and new opportunities tp help advance Pueblo. We are at a turning point, and a race, in our community. We must help our local business owners develop downtown into an area that will both increase downtown living and promote businesses to flourish before we allow this opportunity to pass us over. I believe that this can be done numerous ways, a couple of positive options are;
turning Union into a “street mall”- This allows travelers to enjoy the downtown area without any vehicle disturbance, as well as allow for a permanent area for all of Pueblo’s amazing festivals. Putting money into the hands of our downtown business owners will incentivize growth in many different areas.
Create off-campus housing for CSUP- We have an entire area of town that almost never visits the downtown area. By allowing students the luxury of being downtown, it encourages spending at all local businesses in the area, plus with the police department on Main there will always be a security presence close to mitigate any indecent behavior.
As well as developing areas on Lake Ave, in Bessemer, and part of the East Side, we need to help promote areas around all of Pueblo. There are pieces of the community that have been overlooked for so long, and it is obvious if you drive down Pueblo’s core roads. I believe that we should stop throwing money at random ideas and help promote the growth of our city that is inevitably going to come with an AMTRAK expansion, population explosion, and community investment.
Advocacy and Community Outreach
There are many areas in this town that yearn to have their voices heard, and yet they fall on deaf ears. We have leaders in this community that want to address these issues, however there are few open forums where they can engage in meaningful dialogue on how to solve the issues our community faces.
As a member of City Council, I believe we should be expanding access to the collective ‘brain trust’ that is our people, working together to solve issues that no single person has the answers for. Talking to community members and leaders alike, I’ll work to bridge the gap between local leadership and our citizens.
It is no secret that the Colorado housing market has been the subject of an unprecedented explosion for at least the last 6 years. It is also not a secret that with this influx of new Coloradans, it has brought gentrification into areas around our state. This is something that we cannot let happen in Pueblo. In May of 2015, the average house cost $130,000 in the City of Pueblo, today that number has increased to $237,000 (Zillow). It is unacceptable that through the same exact time the medium household income has risen barely $2,852 from $41,286 to $44,138 (dadausa.io), yet there has not been a push for more affordable housing. Bringing in developers that are willing to build affordable family housing will allow for Puebloans to continue to invest in their community. It is critical that we consider the economics behind affordable housing as well. With the supply of building materials at a low, and the demand at a high, we must cut out cost burdens that inhibit growth. We are at a turning point in our town, one that cannot be ignored, and now is the time to capitalize on the opportunity at hand and help incentivize multiple affordable housing projects. We cannot allow a gentrification push to come through and eliminate Pueblo natives for the sake of profit. This last year has taught us how hard it is to be an essential worker, a first responder, or anyone that is working an hourly or tipped based job. It has also taught us that these employees are the ones that drive our economy and should be supported, rather than neglected. By creating affordable housing for the people of Pueblo, it keeps our culture thriving.
Amongst many different issues with equality in our town, recreation is something that is looked over. With Pueblo being a Colorado city, you would assume that we would invest more in our Parks and Recreation around town, however it is the contrary. We are a community that lives off football at the high school level, as well as the college level, yet we do not increase the ability for any other citizens to experience the recreations that Pueblo has to offer. There are many areas that are already owned by the city that need to be revitalized into areas of recreation. People move to Colorado for the active lifestyle that comes naturally with over 300 days of sun, however the only two areas that we currently have for recreation are the Riverwalk and the Nature Center. We must capitalize on our natural environment and enhance the opportunities for normal citizens to be able to be outside.
This also is something that needs to be addressed with public transportation support. There is not a single bus that runs to the Reservoir, which is unacceptable. Ever person in this community should have equal access to one of the best commodities that Pueblo County has in our area. By simply using what the city has at its disposal, I believe that we can beautify the landscape of Pueblo and help promote an active lifestyle for both our current residents, and our future ones.
Over the last year a light has been shown on different pieces of our society. From public transportation and road conditions to the food desert on the East side, the equity of Puebloans has been highlighted. A simple web search exemplifies these immediately. For example, if you live on the Eastside at the corner of 8th and Troy, the closest chain grocery store (Kingsoopers) is over four miles away. It is nearly impossible to assume that citizens without a car can make this trip routinely to gather prescriptions and groceries, especially in the extreme temperatures that our weather brings. All members of our society should have access to the same services that are present around town, especially when there are two Walmart’s on the Southside that are less than two miles from each other, and the bussing routes are missing entire areas of the West and Eastside.
This same principle can be applied to funding when it comes to areas around town, and this has already been proven through the lack of effort put into them. Driving down Lake Ave. is the perfect example of how funds have been used to no end. There is a beautiful fire station that buts up next to Lake Minnequa, as well as brand new light fixtures and sidewalks down the entire street, however that was the extent of the projects. It is areas like this, as well as the Bessemer area, that deserve to be invested in strategically and utilized to help further the expansion of Pueblo. It is overdue for our representatives to invest in other areas of Pueblo that do not fall next to downtown.
Emphasis on Education
I remember the day that I was sitting at Buffalo Wild Wings in 2014 watching the Thunderwolves play against Minnesota State. The bar area was packed with red and blue shirts from wall to wall, all watching the TV projection above the beer taps. The score was 13-0 with only seconds until the final whistle sounded, and the Thunderwolves were national champions. It was such an important moment in Pueblo history that you could feel it in the air and see it in everyone’s face. This excitement continued into the victory parade that followed some days after, as well as into the football seasons following. However, as soon as the parade ended, so did the city’s enthusiasm, and the Thunderwolves went back up to the hill until another season came. Although the entirety of the CSUP campus is on the hill, the students do not have to be. Outside of the occasional Riverwalk visit, it is not uncommon for students at the university to stick to that area and not explore the beauties of Pueblo. I believe that the inclusion of the university is a need for the future of both the university and the city. With both the growth of the campus, as well as the growth of the Colorado population, the City of Pueblo should be doing everything in their power to enhance the experience of students by allowing them an easy integration into Pueblo culture. By building (upperclassmen) off-campus student housing in downtown Pueblo it will allow students to both patron local businesses and become engulfed with what Pueblo has to offer. Our community deserves to be a part of the university just as much as the university deserves to be a part of our community. It is inclusive projects like this that create relationships, not only between city and university, but between the citizens and the students.
This culture needs to be extended into Pueblo Community College as well. It is a known fact that Pueblo was, and is, built by hard working tradesman and women. From the steel mill to the chemical depot, and from Parkview to Vestas, you can find hard working Puebloans impacting the world around them. However, as the economy changes it is those workers that are often left behind. Pueblo Community College allows pathways for people to obtain a career through a quality education, all while saving money. It is our community that this college impacts the most, and I believe that this relationship should be invested in. An increase in cooperation between the city and the colleges could open more pathways that can be utilized to help workers of the changing economy. The Comanche Power Plant closure, for example, is currently a topic that is being discussed. I believe that if the plant is to close then it is the responsibility of the city to invest in those employees, use what resources they have, and help them get the education needed for an area in a similar field. The college and the city need to utilize their relationship to adjust to the changing work environment and help fellow Puebloans get jobs, as well as create internships. By capitalizing on the already present talent in all of our education facilities (D60, PCC, and CSUP), we can help keep fresh ideas flowing through our government and allow an opportunity for students to progress in this community, rather than moving away.
Communities are composed of many different factors and pieces. Some of these constructs can be fluid and require more mundane thought such as restaurants or sporting events, while others can require specific and complicated thinking such as governmental entities and community outreach. With all the diverse parts of society working together a community can progress into the future without a lack of insight. This principle was followed in 1995 when Pueblo decided to invest in their future and create the 2010 Commission. This commission consisted of community leaders in all areas that would come together and discuss the future of Pueblo, concluding what goals need to be reached by 2010. With every part of society sitting around the table, it allowed for all reaches of our population to have a voice. Now, compared with the 2030 Commission we have today, it is relevant that there is no united future. Having leaders that are working on the front lines of all comprehensive issues, sit around a table, cements the idea that everyone knows the future that is being created. No politician knows the answer to everything, or even has access to information on every situation. That is why I believe that community inclusion is a vital missing piece from the current structure. All different pieces of our community need, and deserve, to be including in discussions when it comes to the direction of our city. Strategic planning for a future works a lot easier when the governmental body can gather information from sources, rather than politicians assuming they know the right solution.