Economy and Workforce Development
Despite nationwide recession, I am pleased to see El Paso County businesses in full recovery mode. We must ensure public policies are allowing for economic growth while protecting against inflation and workforce issues. I am laser-focused on getting all available federal and state funding out to our local businesses. I support businesses doing what’s best for their own business and decreasing government regulations is a key pillar of my platform.
I have worked diligently to get federal dollars out to small businesses, small business membership organizations, nonprofits, and local community entities to enhance our workforce and local economy. The El Paso County Regional Business Relief Fund injected $13 million into our local economy. 864 small businesses and nonprofits received grants and it is estimated this funding saved 16,700 jobs and protected $1.1 billion in local economic output.
As a member of the Board of Health, I am proud to have fought for El Paso County businesses to operate at their own discretion. The Board took the approach of educating on safe practices that allow the businesses to stay open. Additionally, I worked hard to fight back against state overreach and one-size-fits-all policies coming from Denver. I successfully applied for every variance possible to keep businesses, attractions, and entire sectors open.
In addition, I empowered local nonprofit and community entities to enhance our local economy. We opened new locations of the Pikes Peak Workforce Center to help the southeastern part of the county with workforce development. I worked with the Chamber of Commerce to increase business recruitment and retention. We approved four Urban Renewal Authority bonds for economic revitalization and redevelopment.
Lastly, the Commissioners worked to bring a large amount of funding to local businesses to enhance energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water conservation. The Colorado Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy Program (C-PACE) is a loan program which helps finance up to 100% of these improvements for businesses and will save businesses money on energy and make their properties worth more.
We see all around El Paso County both the increasing number of homelessness, as well as the increase in housing being built. In order to grow our community sustainably and continue attracting families and businesses here, we need to increase housing supply by cutting red tape and expensive development so that units are on the market for all income levels. We need to enable businesses to build both affordable and high-end housing in order to accommodate the needs of our growing community.
Home prices are skyrocketing. We have developed a comprehensive land use and annexation plan. The culmination of this plan is our regional master plan which will create positive changes for land-use, infrastructure, digital networks, transportation, and growth. It also creates more transparency and collaboration in land-use matters.
Private activity bonds have injected over $82 million into the affordable housing economy and jumpstarted multiple developments. We have worked to make sure veterans receive special care and opportunities to find affordable housing. The county supported and funded 9 multi-family projects with 835 units of affordable housing in my first term.
In terms of homelessness, I believe our community needs to work together with government and non-governmental organizations to find a comprehensive solution. I helped eliminate barriers to ensure coordination between first responding agencies and behavior and mental health units to respond to homelessness. We must ensure services are provided with accountability for our neighbors suffering from addiction or other mental health issues.
In 2018, I ran for County Commissioner with a laser-sharp focus on improving I-25. I would drive my son to Denver and always think about the average of four families a year who lose a loved one in “the gap.” As your County Commissioner, I am pleased to say we have completed our local match portion of I-25 widening funding. There is still more work to be done and I will continue to push for this road to become safe and accessible for all members of our community.
Since my term began, I have added almost $60 million into roads. With new money coming from the federal government as a part of the infrastructure bill, I will continue to push for as much money as possible to be allocated to common-sense local projects with the biggest impact on our safety and mobility. I have coordinated with local entities like Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG) and Pikes PEak Rural Transportation Authority to fix roads, bridges, and encourage regional participation on our shared infrastructure.
Lastly, with the pandemic, many families and community members have discovered or re-discovered hidden gems such as the paint mines, Bear Creek Regional Park, and Fox Run Regional Park. We added Pineries Open Space in Black Forest with over 8 miles of trails spanning 1,000 acres.
We will continue to work with both our agency and our non-governmental partners to address all issues facing our community in a way that makes sense for long term application and results. What is clear across all of these is that government cannot solve all of these issues alone, and we shouldn’t. But as leaders we SHOULD facilitate the private efforts taking place, and ensure incentives within our purview are offered in a way that gives citizens the opportunity to impact our community.
I have worked extensively to bridge gaps and build camaraderie within government and community organizations. I have been a leader at effectively collaborating across jurisdictions, departments, and organizations for a regional approach to solving current issues such as homelessness, access to care, affordable housing, and workforce development.
I firmly believe that government is not the answer to all problems and less government is better. That is why I have been determined to work with nonprofit organizations and other local entities and decrease regulations and government overreach. We announced $9 million in funding to local nonprofits from federal funds to assist with COVID recovery. It’s not the government’s job to provide the expertise in all areas; the county seeks to empower the agencies who specialize in such work to best assist the community.
I am proud to be recognized as a committed problem solver who will work with any and all available resources, jurisdictions, departments, and organizations to find creative solutions to complex problems.
That also brings me to my passion for well-managed Human Services. More than any other public policy arena, Human Services policy and mechanisms are foundational to our society, and the impacts of well-done HHS public policy are unmatched in how our county runs in all other arenas.
I am passionate about effective Human Services policy, and it is where I believe I am having the most impact on our community. I have a passion to find and incentivize long term family-centered solutions to complex problems. I have a passion required to understand complicated budget formulas and statutory requirements to inform wise and cost-effective policies. I have a passion for collaborating with others across jurisdictions, organizations, and partisan allegiances to make life better for our community. Now nearly 3 years into my term, I’m still navigating these complex systems, and helping our staff leaders maximize federal and state funding for effective programs, all the while ensuring a focus on the goal of self-sufficiency.
I am known as an advocate for creative non-government solutions and partnerships, and have been instrumental in building several coalitions and initiatives with successful results around Foster Care, Teen Suicide, Behavioral Health, Aging, Early Childhood Development/Intervention, Child Abuse Prevention, Affordable Housing and Homelessness. I was honored to moderate the panel on Homelessness at the March 2020 NACo Legislative Conference, and serve as a subcommittee vice chair of the Human Services & Education committee of National Association of Counties.
I believe in preparation (yes, I am a mom so I have experienced the consequences of not being prepared with a baby). I have brought that experience to my time as a County Commissioner. We never want to think about what would happen in an emergency, but it is important to do so. We opened a new regional office of emergency management that immediately proved itself invaluable as the city and county worked together in a unified command for communications, logistics, purchase and distribution of PPE, and now vaccine distribution.
Additionally, I spearheaded the effort to create a team to coordinate community response to COVID-19. This team included community leaders, nonprofits, public agencies, schools, private companies, and more. This collaborative effort helped inform our decisions with all ranges of stakeholders input. We also worked hard to ensure that county services remained open for business throughout the entire pandemic.
Natural disasters are becoming more frequent and continue to be a problem for El Paso County. We signed an IGA with Teller County and the National Park Service for forest management and fire mitigation in Pikes Peak National Forest. We allocated $150,000 for wildland fire mitigation in County Parks. We also continued to focus on preparedness for natural disasters like fires and floods.
As crime is rising, it is all of our responsibility to keep El Paso County a safe place to raise a family and build a successful future. We utilized $13.5 million of federal funding from CARES Act for jail facility upgrades such as jail security cameras, door control, and door lock replacements. We added telemedicine equipment and remodeled visitation booths for privacy and security.
Working with the Sheriff’s Department, we have been increasingly alarmed by the number of illegal marijuana grows and increase in cartel activity here in El Paso County. We have worked to make sure that the Sheriff’s Department has the funding and resources they need to deal with this problem.
Fiscal Transparency and Accountability of Government Funds
I am a fiscal conservative. I believe that it is one of the main responsibilities of elected officials to ensure that we are respecting the tax dollars that citizens pay. I have been a stickler about creating effective processes to distribute federal funds to private entities, rather than creating more government programs at the County level. Additionally, I believe it is important to increase transparency and accountability of taxes on the ballot whenever possible. That is why I voted in favor of putting Ballot Issue 1A on the November ‘21 ballot, which allowed El Paso County taxpayers to decide if they wanted their taxes over TABOR limit returned or invested in roads and infrastructure.
Here in El Paso County, we continue to have the lowest cost per citizen and property tax per citizen of any county on the Front Range. We refunded $7 million above the TABOR caps in 2020 and voters chose to have their $15 million over TABOR returned in 2021 via Ballot Issue 1A.
I put an emphasis on updating the County’s culture of service to be more helpful in serving our constituents, as you are truly who we work for. We kept County services open throughout the pandemic to serve our community.
Lastly, County Clerk and Recorder Chuck Broerman and his team ran a fair, transparent, and credible election. Because of their efforts, we can have faith in our local mail ballot system. They put every ballot online to be accessed at any time by anyone. They paid for an external audit and we started a joint initiative with the DA’s office to investigate voter fraud.
As a military spouse, I am so proud of our military and veteran community here in El Paso County and I think it is what makes living here so great. I am proud to support our brave men and women of El Paso County.
We facilitated a federal grant to improve roads and safety around Schriever AFB, Peterson AFB, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, and Fort Carson. We worked with local leaders to contain PFA’s contaminating drinking water. We lobbied and worked with our federal partners to keep Space Force here in El Paso County and are still working on this. The County and the City of Colorado Springs continued coordination with our 7 military installations, paying particular attention to growth and encroachment issues.
I fervently believe in local control – it’s why I took such a large role in getting variances for our local businesses. The government overreach going on in Denver should not be impacting how we live our lives in El Paso County. Here in El Paso County, we know how to live our lives and those freedoms should not be impeded by the government. Additionally, we made strides to get C-PACE funding to ensure that government mandates for green technology were not turning into unfunded mandates that would hurt local businesses.
In the 2021 legislative session, we took an active stance on 292 of the 623 bills introduced which is just shy of 47%. The Board of County Commissioners took an official position on 22 bills (14 oppose, 7 support, 1 neutral), including bills that reformed Child Welfare allocations and formulas, fundamentally improved Adult Protective Services, broadened SNAP eligibility while incentivizing working, provided financial assistance to much-needed childcare programs, protected personal information of social services and health department employees, and made broad steps to integrate “silos” of service delivery.