COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - More attention to citizen issues -- and less bickering and unnecessary spending -- is the challenge laid down to city elected leaders by Colorado Springs Councilwoman Helen Collins.
Collins, one of the newer council members, delivered a strong statement at Tuesday's meeting before the votes on whether to raise utility rates and give a hefty raise to the utility's top executive.
"I represent District 4 on the southeast side," she said. "The citizens of the southeast side are being gunned down. People are dying. Last week, we had a person gunned down at Circle and Airport -- and City Hall's talking and spending hundreds of millions on museums, sports and other tourist traps. We don't need more pay raises, we need more paying attention. We don't need more managers of desks, we need more police on patrol."
The council didn't respond to Collins' statement. However, on Wednesday, the Colorado Springs Police Department said it would further study her remarks before commenting on them. Collins said she has spoken with police about her concerns.
The city's southeast side, much to the dislike of many of its residents, has often been labeled "the bad part of town" because of crime. A retired couple who lives there said they agree with Collins that the area has been neglected and needs more attention.
"I don't think there's enough attention devoted to citizens' concerns," said Jane Evans and her husband, Wilfred Wright. "We think we've lost quite a bit since we got a strong mayor (form of government). We're the neighborhood that loses first when they decide to cut something. They cut ours the very day they announce it. (We) used to feel very, very safe. But lately we've had SWAT activity in the area, in the neighborhood."
The couple said they haven't moved out of the area because it would be too expensive and they like living in their close-knit neighborhood along Sorrento Drive near the intersection of Chelton Road.
The couple also said they don't know Collins and haven't met her but don't believe sharing their concerns with her would lead to results.
During Tuesday's meeting, a concern about the northeast side of town being neglected was expressed by Councilmen Don Knight and Joel Miller. They responded to a plan by the city Parks Department to apply for a $1 million grant for the Legacy Loop trail and park project in the center of town.
Knight and Miller said they support the project but would like to see similar projects on the northeast side, which they say doesn't have enough parks and trails.
The Parks Department responded by saying it plans to develop the 30-acre Venezia Park on the northeast side, at the corner of Briargate Parkway and Union Boulevard, when funding allows.