How do you feel about your performance during the recent candidates’ forum held at Briarhurst Manor and how it will impact your chances of winning this election?
Ken Jaray: I was happy to see so many people at the forum – it was a standing room only crowd. There was a good exchange of information, concerns, and ideas. It also highlighted the differences between my opponent and myself in terms of our positions on issues as well as how we would approach them. I think the audience was surprised and impressed to learn that seven former Manitou Mayors support me. I believe my chances improve as more people learn about my experience and inclusive leadership style.
What separates you from your opponent in terms of solutions for Manitou Springs?
Ken Jaray: The biggest difference is our leadership style. As recently pointed out by former city council member Aimee Cox, our current Mayor’s style has been “divisive, autocratic, and manipulative…very different from my mine. I am collaborative by nature and have been a volunteer and active participant in virtually every major project (including the Mineral Springs Foundation, Fountain Creek Restoration Project, Friends of Ruxton Canyon, District 14 Board of Education, Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce and the City’s Master Plan) since moving to Manitou Springs 38 years ago. Manitou Springs is growing rapidly and the issues facing our community are becoming more complex. I will use my 35 years legal, business, financial and mediation experience to address the challenging issues facing our community.
One theme of this year’s election has been communication, whether between the mayor and general public or between the City Council and boards/commissions; what are some areas you feel that are in need of improvement and how do you plan to facilitate those improvements?
Ken Jaray: A recent report by Kezziah Watkins, a local communications consulting firm, pointed out that there is a “significant lack of trust between the City’s advisory bodies and the City of Manitou Springs”. This is a serious problem and is reflective of the leadership style of our current City Council and Mayor. I’m confident that I will be able to build on my long-term relationships with our community to get us back on track. I am in regular contact with many members of these boards (who also support my candidacy) and will very quickly convene a meeting of all chairpersons and members of the advisory boards listen and lay out my vision for a more collaborative and trusting working relationship. I greatly value our community volunteers and will continue to acknowledge their invaluable contribution to our wonderful and unique town. I will also have regular meetings with community members to seek input and help to address our needs.
Is balancing the city budget a priority for you? Why or why not?
Ken Jaray: I do believe that it is important to have a balanced budget. More importantly, we need to make sure that our reserves or savings, are adequate to cover our slow times. We should also be careful not to make long-term commitments with the money that comes from retail marijuana. This source of revenue may significantly change if Colorado Springs allows retail marijuana to be sold. I also believe that we need to do a better job of letting our residents know where our money comes from and how it is spent. I recently advocated for the use of a program called Balancing Act. It allows our neighbors to better understand our budget and to provide feedback on proposed priorities. I am hoping that the City Council will make a serious effort to get this tool into the hands of our community, sooner rather than later.
In your words, how you would describe or explain Manitou Springs to an alien visitor from another galaxy?
Ken Jaray: We are a really special and unique place nestled at the base of one of the largest mountains in North America. Our natural surroundings are spectacular with lots of trails, flowing streams, and naturally flowing mineral springs. We are an art and culture-oriented town made up of a very diverse and welcoming group of people. We often do wild and crazy things like race coffins down the main street. Around town, you will see lots of artwork, cold mineral springs to drink, funky shops and restaurants, as well as plenty of friendly faces of locals. Clearly, this a why they landed here.
You mentioned during the candidates’ forum that you would hit the ground running if elected as mayor. Can you tell us what will be your approach and goals during the first 100 days of your administration?
Ken Jaray: During my first 100 days, I’ll bring together city council, staff, and community members to talk about how we can create a culture of collaboration and respect. Generally, this involves making sure that everyone has a seat at the table and feels heard, valued, and respected. This is a significant foundational piece that has been holding us back for the past couple of years. A next step would be to identify what talents and skills community members would like to offer to help address a variety of issues from parking, congestion, use of Hiawatha Gardens, fixing our aging infrastructure, community safety, and many others. Through these discussions, we will be able to generate not only creative and innovative solutions, but empower people to get involved. We will also set benchmarks and realistic time frames for various projects to make sure that we stay on track.
One early criticism of your campaign centered around you being viewed as an “establishment candidate.” On your campaign website, you list numerous examples of your collaboration with various city agencies, departments, and other groups. For some people, this is a concern as it suggests you are an “establishment candidate”; how do you respond for those with such concerns?
Ken Jaray: Actually, I’m surprised that some people feel that my long-standing volunteer service and my desire to help protect and preserve our environment and quality of life is somehow interpreted as being part of the establishment. I would rather describe it as being an active member of our community who is trying to give back to the community I love. I am motivated by nothing more than to make a positive difference in the lives of the people who live, work and visit our area.
Below are two additional questions that were only for Mayor Nicoletta:
During the candidates’ forum, you acknowledged communication was a weak area for your administration. What are or will you do to improve communications in terms of disseminating public information?
Please rank in order of importance to you:
– Transparency of government
– Fiscal management of city resources
– Accountability of government employees and public servants
– Economic development for local businesses