AKAD's Political Guide 2023: November 3, 2023


Next Tuesday, November 7, is Election Day! Advocacy and Politics are important here at AKAD, so we wanted to share with you this guide for you to learn more about the candidates running this year in Pueblo, as well as the different ballot initiatives there are. Below, you can find interviews with some of the candidates in Pueblo, as well as AKAD's endorsements for each race. Remember to VOTE!

Head To Each Race:

 Pueblo Mayoral Race:

"The Mayor is the Chief Executive Officer of the municipal corporation and is responsible for enforcement of the laws and ordinances of the City of Pueblo, for the appointment, suspension, or removal of all employees (subject to Civil Service provisions), for the preparation of the annual budget, and the financial operation of the city." ~ City Of Pueblo

We asked each mayoral candidate the same 4 questions:

1. What are three goals you hope to accomplish in your first year as Pueblo Mayor?

2. How will you listen to the youth's voices and opinions on issues in Pueblo?

3. How do you plan to include kindness and empathy in your leadership style as mayor?

4. What is your plan to support small businesses in Pueblo?

Regina Maestri, Dennis Flores, & Deryk Trujillo did not respond to our questionnaire.

Candidate Interviews:

 Thomas Croshal:

  1. "In my first year, I plan on lowering the crime rate and improving public safety, creating a temporary homeless shelter to help provide stability for homeless people, and improving Pueblo's image to help boost tourism."
  2. "I think Pueblo Communities That Care along with an adult leader would be the best resource I could have since they already exist. I would encourage them to make sure that they had a diverse membership and members from all parts of the city. I would meet with them regularly, I would listen to their concerns, thoughts, and ideas. Today's youth are our future."
  3. "I am a kind and empathetic person; it's how my parents raised me and my siblings. It's the biggest reason I decided to run for mayor, I have spoken to and interacted with so many homeless people I felt that if I could become mayor, it would be the best way to help them."
  4. "I am a retired small business person and in my career, I had on occasion contracted with the city of Pueblo but there would be times that a local person would not get the bid, it would go to some out-of-town contractor who was the lowest bidder by a few dollars. I would make sure that this doesn't happen. The city needs to spend the taxpayer's money with local small businesses. I would also be more involved with the Chamber of Commerce making sure that they are promoting Pueblo and Pueblo small businesses."

Chris Nicoll:

  1. "I will establish more community policing to patrol Pueblo's neighborhoods to make our city safe again. Hire more officers, police support contractors, and community service officers for traffic calls. I will work to address Pueblo's homeless crisis by creating a year-round shelter with drug programs and more beds. I will then implement a no-camping ban within the city to protect it from fires and contamination of waterways. I will also move Pueblo to a new technology-based economy that helps train people in skills that will attract more high-demand tech jobs to provide opportunities for young people to continue working and living in Pueblo after graduation."
  2. "I will have the city participate more on social media with digital town halls, host meetings on college campuses, and visit local schools as mayor."
  3. "I will have city staff look to our citizens as their customers when dealing with them to treat people more respectfully during everyday encounters."
  4. "I will create a small business development office within city hall to provide small businesses and startups with a one-stop shopping location to deal with everything necessary to get started and open their doors. Additionally, I wish to use more ½ cent of economic development funds for new small businesses."

Larry Atencio:

  1. "First Plan - Softball Complex. - over 1200 girls are playing organized softball in Pueblo. They deserve a first-class, state-of-the-art complex to play in. Second Plan - Real-time crime center, a system of cameras throughout the city monitoring business districts and high crime areas. Third Plan - Getting all city facilities to 100% renewable energy, either by a utility-scale solar farm or individual solar on all buildings."
  2. "The mayor's youth council is a formal way but actually going into the high schools and colleges to ask for help is the best way."
  3. "Love and respect for all has been my guiding principle when dealing with the people of not only my District but all I come into contact with."
  4. "I have had a business in Pueblo for 33 years and while on City Council for 13 years I have always worked to help our small businesses in any way I could. I would continue to do all I can for our small business community"

Heather Graham:

  1. "1. Improve the quality of life for Puebloans. 2. End the status quo. 3. Create collaboration with all public officials."

  2. "I will work closely with youth groups to find out their needs, over the past year I have spoken at a couple of schools as a council member to see what the City could bring to the youth to make their lives more enjoyable. I plan on continuing this. The youth in Pueblo are our turning point to what kind of community we will have in the next 5 years. The city must hear their needs."

  3. "Kindness and Empathy are already included in my day-to-day leadership style. Having an open mind listening to the opposition and finding common grounds are all part of being a true leader for the community."

  4. "As the owner of 4 small businesses in Pueblo, I understand the tremendous need. Saving small Business was my platform in my first race and I will continue to advocate for our small business community in Pueblo by helping to cut down bureaucracy and red tape."

Randy Thurston:

  1. "I want to have resources, programs, and recreation for our youth including a youth leadership program to help create a community for all of us. I want to eliminate criminal homelessness from being attracted to our community based on us being Zero-Tolerant to crime. I want to make Pueblo safe and resistant to drug dealers."
  2. "They will have a seat at the mayor's table where the issues and concerns of the youth of today and in the future will be heard on a monthly level including the solutions and ideas the youth bring forward."
  3. "Kindness and empathy must be part of the character of the mayor who cares about the community and its citizens, I am a mayor for the people that will be visible and vocal where kindness and empathy are in the fabric of my being."
  4. "Small businesses are the engine of financial strength and job opportunities of any successful community. It will be one of the highest priorities to have a small business and a team of experts where we are always looking for the best results for our community in this arena."

Nick Gradisar:

  1. "Increase public safety. Continue economic development so that every young person who wants to stay in Pueblo can find a job or career that will allow them to support their family. Continue infrastructure improvements"
  2. "One of the first things I did as mayor was create a Mayor's Youth Council comprised of students from each Pueblo high school and CSU-P. We meet monthly and exchange ideas for improving our city."
  3. "By listening to the different voices in Pueblo."
  4. "I made 5 million dollars in economic development funds available to Pueblo small businesses during COVID. We have created an online system called Pueblo Place that allows small businesses to get licensed electronically."
AKAD Endorsement For Pueblo Mayor: Heather Graham

Pueblo City Council At-Large Race:

We asked each at-large candidate the same 4 questions:

1. What are three goals you hope to accomplish in your first year on Pueblo City Council?

2. How will you listen to the youth's voices and opinions on issues in Pueblo?

3. How do you plan to include kindness and empathy in your leadership style as an At-Large Council Member?

4. Describe an ethical dilemma you've faced. How did you resolve it?

Mark Aliff did not respond to our questionnaire.

Candidate Interviews:

Elvis Martinez:

  1. "Goals I would like to accomplish in my first year are bringing forward an ordinance to after the porch pirates to put them in jail, improving our parks and rec for all children including those with different abilities and the third is a partnership with the professionals on homeless to open a transitional housing complex for individuals with or without pets, families and couples."
  2. "Youth are the future of Pueblo so their voices count. I will hold separate town halls to hear from the youth and gather those ideas and bring those ideas to the other council members during a city council meeting."
  3. "Kindness will always be included because it's all about respect for the office being held and respect for the community. Everyone will have an equal opportunity to voice their opinion even if they disagree with me."
  4. "I can't say that I have experienced an ethical dilemma."

Brandon Martin:

AKAD Endorsement For At-Large Council Member: Brandon Martin

Pueblo City Council District 2 Race:

We asked each District 2 candidate the same 4 questions:

1. What are three goals you hope to accomplish in your first year on Pueblo City Council?

2. How will you listen to the youth's voices and opinions on issues in Pueblo?

3. How do you plan to include kindness and empathy in your leadership style as a council member?

4. Describe an ethical dilemma you've faced. How did you resolve it?

Candidate Interviews: 

Joe Latino:

  1. "1. WORK For a police Substation in District 2! 2. FIGHT for Food Access & reduce food Insecurity! 3. EDUCATION is the way out of Poverty - ENABLE Kids activities to stay out of trouble"
  2. "As a lifelong educator, I have always listened to the voices of young people. Young people bring vision and elders bring insight/wisdom. When they work together you have real progress that provides balanced solutions to complex problems."
  3. "This should be a given. In public policy and government, it is shocking to me that anything other than kind and empathetic responses to constituents and colleagues is anything but the norm. Respectful discourse even with those with whom you disagree is a critical skill that not all the candidates running for District 2 have mastered. I don't know if I've mastered it but it is certainly always a goal of mine to treat everyone with respect!"
  4. "I've faced several ethical dilemmas throughout my many years of experience. For example - Many social media posts by my opponents attack my age, my character, etc. These are unethical attacks against me and against constituents who have offered to support me. As a candidate, I have every right to respond to these attacks and even highlight the shortcomings of my opponents. However, it is important to uphold campaign ethics and stick to a focus on what I can do for our community based on my experience. It is also important to me to set a good example for young people dealing with similar online bullies. The voices of bullies should not be amplified by honoring them with a reaction. We report their attacks when they are a violation of social media terms of service and then we don't give them any more time or attention. The things online bullies do to hurt feelings can be very real. One of our opponents who is an online bully, photoshopped an image of me recently on a walker and posted it online. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is unethical and hurtful not just to me but to those who are my age and who do use a walker for mobility. Those elders are worthy of respect and their disabilities should never be made fun of or used as campaign 'humor'. I find that kind of behavior to be unethical, unkind, and lacking in compassion and awareness. To be a good leader and a public official respect is essential! I deal with bullies online by reporting their behaviors to social media providers and then by taking those negative emotions and turning them into personal motivation to be even more positive and fight even harder for good, moral, and upright causes in our community."

Tom Carrigan:

  1. "I'd like to get a better transportation system going in Pueblo, possibly by putting in a sub-station on the East Side. I'd like to bring more people into town hall meetings on the East Side, Belmont, and Dog Patch. Especially town halls that deal with crime. I would push the Mayor, and other council members to establish this gunshot listening system."
  2. "One of the things I don't think the council members do is hold meetings at the schools. What a great place to get information and ideas. Listen to concerns. I'd also like to be invited to different events for the youth."
  3. "As both a gay man and a recovering alcoholic, I know firsthand about empathy. I have, without doubt, the best set of "angels", my family and friends, who wouldn't leave me alone on my road to recovery. Especially after my husband, Vince, passed away. (a 1970 grad from EHS) I understand how hard it can be to feel like you're all alone. A smile, a hug, holding someone's hand, putting your arm around their shoulder, encouraging someone when it's a tough day."
  4. "I am a Vietnam Veteran and an officer of the Pueblo VFW Post 3641 on E. 4th St. During my campaign, I have asked to use our Post Hall to host campaign events. I make sure I pay the going rate at the Hall, just like anyone else would. If I am going to get food at our Post Food Pantry, I also make sure I fill in my information on our form, just let every person has to do who receives food, even when I'm a volunteer."

Pete Madrid:

  1. "a) Work with fellow councilors on increasing the Parks and Recreation Department budget. b) Work with the Mayor and other agencies to clean up Fountain Creek from thrash and people camping near the creek. c) Work with the Mayor and fellow councilors on bringing in 2 Grocery Stores to District #2."
  2. "I listen to the youth every day. I have been an educator for a blended school in grades 6th the 12th for the past 8 years. I have been the President of the Board of Directors for La Gente Youth Sports since 2003."
  3. "I plan on leading by example with kindness and empathy towards everyone."
  4. "I faced an ethical dilemma this high school football season. I took myself off the Pueblo East High School Football schedule because I thought it would look bad for me to be officiating their football games."
AKAD Endorsement For District 2: Tom Carrigan

Pueblo Board Of Water Works Race:

We asked each Board of Water Works candidate the same 4 questions:

1. What are three goals you hope to accomplish in your first year on the Board of Water Works?

2. How have you dealt with challenges in past positions?

3. How do you plan to include kindness and empathy in your leadership style as a BOWW member?

4. Describe an ethical dilemma you've faced. How did you resolve it?

Celeste Arellano did not respond to our questionnaire.

Candidate Interviews:

Sandy Gutierrez:

  1. "*Continue to work with my colleagues toward the completion of current water projects as they take years, sometimes decades to complete. *Continue to support the Pueblo Board of Water employees. They show up every day to ensure water is delivered to our customers. *Continue to provide oversight to ensure that we deliver the highest quality water at the lowest cost possible."
  2. "Nothing comes without challenges. I am a firm believer that challenges make us stronger. My approach is to always weigh my options, get the input of others, and focus on what's in the best interest of the situation."
  3. By scattering kindness…as a Water Board member, I have always and will continue to always keep water customers' needs in mind. I have and will continue to treat others with respect and kindness…!"
  4. "I am well known for "doing the right thing" even if it means standing alone."
AKAD Endorsement For Pueblo Board of Water Works: Sandy Gutierrez (Write-In Candidate)

Pueblo School District 60 2-Year Race:

We asked each school board candidate the same 4 questions:

1. What are three goals you hope to accomplish in your first year on the D60 Board of Education?

2. How will you listen to the teacher's and student's voices and opinions on issues in the district?

3. How do you plan to support CTE programs such as DECA and arts programs like choirs and theatre?

4. What is your plan to make D60 and its schools a welcoming environment for all students and parents?

Dan Comden did not respond to our questionnaire.

Candidate Interviews:

Anthony Perko:

  1. "I was appointed just over a year ago to fill a vacancy position on the D60 Board, and thus have just barely had a year to serve. During that time, I'm proud of some of the accomplishments that we've been able to work together. These include (a) the re-opening of in-person public comment at board meetings; (b) helping to find a new home for the Planetarium, so that it can remain an asset to our community; and (c) helping the Centennial Museum and East Alumni Association in transferring their trophies and memorabilia to the new schools. Were I to be so fortunate as to be re-elected to the board for another two-year term, my primary goals for the first year would be: (1) to find solutions for the District's enrollment decreases over the last several years, and to ensure that our schools are offering the correct programs to attract and retain City students; (2) to work with administration to re-initiate the National Academic League (NAL) competition for middle schools; and (3) to institute a plan for regular updates and status checks on the school and other buildings that we have, to avoid the need for potential closures."
  2. "In my legal practice and in my time on the board, I do my best to consider myself very responsive when individuals or groups reach out with concerns. Under certain circumstances, it is appropriate for student, teacher, and parent concerns to be addressed by the appropriate staff person or administrator, or by the Superintendent. In addition, the public comment which we have re-instituted allows for any person to speak about issues that are important to them, so that I and the rest of the board may hear what their thoughts and concerns are."
  3. "CTE programs, including DECA but also other non-sport extracurriculars, are among the very most important parts of our student's education. Ensuring their continued availability is critical for assisting our students well-rounded education, as well as preparing them for successful careers. During my time on the board, I'm happy to report that I am unaware of any instance where any such program needed to be cut or discontinued, except for NAL mentioned before. However, fortunately, with our and the Superintendent's hard work, we are cautiously optimistic that we will be able to again offer this program for those who are interested in the springtime."
  4. "The District, at its best, is a mini-community for our whole city. Its relationships with other organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club allow for access to after-school and other beneficial programs for all, especially those students in need. My ultimate desire would be for D60 to be known as a home-away-from-home for students and parents and a place that can begin and continue lifelong friendships and relationships."
AKAD Endorsement For Pueblo School D60 2-Year Term: Anthony Perko

Pueblo School District 60 4-Year Race:

We asked each school board candidate the same 4 questions:

1. What are three goals you hope to accomplish in your first year on the D60 Board of Education?

2. How will you listen to the teacher's and student's voices and opinions on issues in the district?

3. How do you plan to support CTE programs such as DECA and arts programs like choirs and theatre?

4. What is your plan to make D60 and its schools a welcoming environment for all students and parents?

Dennis Maes & Roger L. Wright did not respond to our questionnaire. Sue Pannunzio could not respond due to a family matter.

Candidate Interviews:

Tommy Farrell:

  1. "My answer here has changed in the last few weeks. Now, one of my biggest goals will be to work with the BOE to hire the best possible person to be District 60's next superintendent. This will be a crucial process and I want to make sure that the community has ample opportunity to participate. Next, I would like to continue to advocate for additional social-emotional and mental health support for students and staff. Finally, I want to continue to build relationships with our state legislators and work towards real solutions to school funding to ensure that each classroom is funded the way it should be."
  2. "I've worked to build and strengthen my relationship with several staff and student groups. I feel that multiple perspectives and avenues for feedback are essential and am always willing to hear from one of our unions, student groups, or individuals."
  3. "In even just a small, individual capacity, I do my best to attend as many theatrical performances, music programs, and other CTE activities as I can. These programs are greatly beneficial to students, as I know firsthand from my time in school. I hope to continue to advocate for these programs while on the board and continue to highlight the successes of these programs."
  4. "During my time as a student in public education, I didn't always find school a very welcoming place. That's a big reason why I ran four years ago and an even bigger reason I chose to run for reelection. Each student and family should feel safe in our schools, regardless of their zip code, race, sexual orientation, ability, or anything else. Public education for all - and all means each and every student has a place and deserves dignity and respect."

Sol Sandoval Tafoya:

  1. "First and foremost, I want to continue to be a fierce advocate for all children but especially for children who are living in poverty and having to juggle additional challenges such as lack of transportation and housing. My second goal is to bring awareness to the importance of mental wellness and suicide prevention among youth. As a single mother with children enrolled in D60, I will continue to represent working-class parents and families who want a high-quality public education for their children."
  2. "I have an open-door policy and I meet frequently with teachers and students. I will continue to make myself available to listen to concerns and suggestions. I'm fully bilingual and can also communicate with monolingual Spanish speakers which is a plus."
  3. "The arts have proven to have a positive impact on the academic and social development of students. I will fully support CTE, DECA, and any arts programs to ensure that our students graduate with more than just a high school diploma. We want them to be well-rounded individuals ready to compete in our workforce. I will support a more robust CTE track in D60."
  4. "My goal is to continue leading with kindness and modeling that behavior inside and outside of board meetings. It's important that as leaders, we take a stand against bullying and any type of exclusion. All children deserve to feel safe and welcome in our schools. It's vital to create a comfortable environment that is conducive to learning."

Bill Thiebaut:

AKAD Endorsements For Pueblo School D60 4-Year Term:
Tommy Farrell, Sol Sandoval Tafoya, & Bill Thiebaut

Ballot Initiatives:


2A - Lodging Tax For Daycare For Pueblo Families

Information from puebloforfamilies.com:

2A is a City-wide ballot measure this November 2023 dedicated to supporting families in the Pueblo area by making childcare more accessible and affordable.

2A increases the existing City lodging tax by 1.5% to create a special fund to make childcare more affordable. Generating $630,000/yr, these funds would be for working families to use on the cost of licensed childcare. There is no current funding to serve middle-income families (those who make too much for subsidies)

Puebloans will not be affected by this change since only visitors pay the lodging tax. Since this is a lodging tax increase, this only affects visitors at hotels/motels staying in City limits. Furthermore, the local tourism industry should not be impacted by this change since it's an average increase of $1.77 at hotels for visitors.

AKAD endorses a yes vote for ballot measure 2A - Lodging Tax For Daycare For Pueblo Families


HH - Property Tax Relief

Information from yesonhh.org:

HH reduces assessment rates for all properties–residential, commercial, agriculture, etc. Residential goes from 7.2% to 6.7% and commercial goes from 29% to 25.9%. It also provides a $50,000 deduction for homeowners in the first year and $40,000 each year thereafter.

HH allows seniors who are eligible for the senior homestead exemption to move and continue receiving the same savings. In addition to avoiding the tax increases that their landlord will pass onto them in the form of increased rent, HH also dedicates $20 million each year for rental assistance.

HH implements a property tax growth cap, which limits future property tax increases. If revenues are projected to exceed the rate of inflation, the district must reduce its tax rates. If they want to retain any of the surplus revenue, they must conduct a public process to do so.

AKAD endorses a yes vote for ballot measure HH - Property Tax Relief

Prop II - Tobacco and Nicotine Product Tax Revenue Measure

Information from preschoolforallcoloradans.com:

In 2020, Colorado's legislature referred Proposition EE to the voters via HB20-1427 with a bipartisan vote. In November 2020, Colorado voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition EE, which: Increased existing taxes on tobacco and instituted a new tax on other nicotine products, generating approximately $275 million per year for public health and education priorities. Dedicated the first two years of funding to affordable housing and rural public schools. After those first two years, ensured that the revenue funded tobacco and nicotine cessation initiatives and a new statewide, voluntary universal preschool program that serves Colorado kids through community and school district-run programs. Invested in K-12 readiness by providing all Colorado kids with access to preschool in the year before kindergarten.

Proposition EE is bringing in more revenue than was estimated in the Blue Book revenue analysis in 2020. Colorado's Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR) requires that voters approve the state's retention of the excess revenue. If Proposition ii doesn't pass, Colorado will have to refund the $23.65 million inequitably, primarily to tobacco wholesalers and retailers. This will result in less money to spend on universal preschool.

Proposition II will allow thousands of children more access to additional preschool programs per year. Additionally, studies have shown that higher prices on tobacco and nicotine products lead to less usage amongst youth and young adults. By retaining these funds, we can keep these harmful products out of the hands of youth across the state of Colorado. 

Retaining the $23.65 million will allow Colorado to provide universal preschool services and extend additional hours to more children.

AKAD endorses a yes vote for ballot measure Prop II - Tobacco and Nicotine Product Tax Revenue Measure

Voter Information:

To be eligible to vote in Colorado, you must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Be 18 years old or older by Election Day
  • Live in Colorado at least 22 days before Election Day
  • Not currently serving a sentence for a felony conviction can vote in the state of Colorado

Learn about your voter rights and requirements. Be informed by checking where your polling place is. You can also learn more about mail-in voting. If you have any questions about voter registration, all the answers are conveniently located in one place. Each state has different requirements. So, if you've moved recently, be sure to know the requirements where you live. Make your vote count. You can go to websites like Vote Like A Beast (From Rhett & Link), Vote.org, Ballot Ready, and Go Vote Colorado for up-to-date information!

Remember, You must turn in your ballots to a drop-off location or vote in person at a polling center by 7 P.M. on Election Day to have your vote counted.

If you are under 18, show your support to candidates and tell eligible voters that their vote matters! You can also visit Vote16USA to learn about the national campaign to lower the minimum voting age to 16.

We hope this voting guide has provided valuable information to you! You have a very important perspective on how the decisions of political leaders impact your life. Voting is the way to support leaders who you feel are creating a positive impact and push out leaders who you think are not. Please remember to VOTE!

"It's not enough to just want change ... You have to go and make a change by voting."

~ Taylor Swift

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