Friendship Leads To Recusal For Publisher of Colorado Springs Independent

december 28, 2010  01:18 pm
Friendship Leads To Recusal For Publisher of Colorado Springs Independent
By John Weiss

I have known and admired Richard Skorman since our days at Colorado College more than three decades ago.

In the early '90s, when I returned to Colorado Springs after a long absence, Richard provided me with office space (plus pizza and coffee and much advice) when I was exploring whether Kathryn Eastburn and I could make Colorado Springs a two-newspaper town once again.

In 1994, when we were in a bind during our crazy start-up days, Richard took a leave of absence from his businesses to serve as the Independent's associate editor for five months — at minimal pay.

The following year, Richard and I, along with Ann Oatman-Gardner and CC professor Val Veirs, launched the first Trails, Open Space and Parks (TOPS) ballot measure in Colorado Springs, which lost 57 to 43 percent in that November election.

We then learned from our mistakes (mostly how to deal with Doug Bruce's lies), went back to work, and in April 1997, helped push TOPS to victory by a slim margin of 53 to 47 percent.

Two years later, Richard, at my urging, first ran for City Council and won an at-large seat.

Richard and I teamed up again during the April 2003 campaign to extend TOPS for 22 years, which voters approved by a 68 to 32 percent landslide. That same election, he easily won a second City Council term and would go on to serve two of the next three years as vice mayor.

For the past year, I have been one of the principal advocates urging Richard to run for mayor of Colorado Springs. I have done so because, in my humble opinion, he is uniquely qualified to lead our city out of its current quagmire.

Richard is battle-tested and ready. He has the technical skills and historical perspective to be a great mayor. During his seven years on City Council (1999-2006), I observed Richard's entrepreneurial spirit, calm demeanor, ability to collaborate with a broad range of people, and deep commitment to building a better future for our city. He is hard on problems but kind to people. He's the best listener of anyone I have ever met. As a result, he asks probing questions.

All of the above is to acknowledge the obvious — I am unabashedly prejudiced when it comes to whether Richard should serve as our first strong mayor. With Skorman in the race, no way can I claim to remain neutral or sit on the sidelines at such an important time in our city's history.

So I write today to share two announcements with Independent readers and the other talented and dedicated candidates:

• Effective Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 4, 2011, when Richard formally announces his intention to run, I'll become an unpaid adviser to his campaign.

• Effective immediately, I have taken a complete leave of absence from all operations, decisions and plans relating to the Independent's news coverage.

Specifically, I will no longer read, comment on, or even casually discuss with anyone in the Independent's editorial department anything regarding the mayor's race, or, in fact, any race or measure that might be on April's ballot.

Furthermore, I will not participate in any way during the Indy's endorsement process for this election.

Because so much of our local coverage could evolve quickly into election issues — from the future of the Memorial Health System to Colorado Springs Utilities and its Southern Delivery System, from community centers to proposed utility rate hikes — effective immediately, I have totally recused myself from all aspects of the Independent's news operation.

For almost two decades, I have been the point person for the Independent's organizing 44 election forums, many broadcast by local TV stations. For this election, associate publisher Carrie Simison-Bitz will take over that function.

In addition, in order to provide all campaigns with direct, unimpeded access to the Independent's 125,000 loyal readers, effective immediately the Indy will offer special, low-priced rates for election-related ads to all candidates and groups involved with ballot issues during this election cycle.

So, until this election is over, I'll find out what's in each week's Independent when I open my paper every Thursday morning.