This Fall’s City Council elections just got a lot more interesting with the entry of two new candidates and the withdrawal of another. In an expected move, John Batsch, a relative unknown, has withdrawn from the race to represent Ward 1, leaving former city employee and establishment endorsee Jeff Yeager battling against Charley Able, the former Denver Post reporter who covered Lakewood City news for years and another unknown, Ty Hull, battling to replace term-limited Karen Kellen.
The big news is that Ward 4 and Ward 5 is now shaping up as a couple interesting David versus Goliath battles between some popular neighborhood activists against establishment elites. In Ward 4, Barb Franks, an environmentalist who worked on the political campaigns to save Rooney Valley (2006 Don’t Switch For a Ditch) and the attempted giveaway of 10 acres of open space from the South end of Hutchinson Park (often referred to as 2090 S. Wright St.) is challenging the owner of 240 Union Restaurant. In addition to her hard work on these local Ward 4 issues, Ms. Franks has a phenomenal website (www.barbfranks.com) that demonstrates an incredible depth of knowledge about Ward 4 and City issues. Her opponent Michael Coughline’s website appears to be nothing more than an advertisement for his business. His campaign advertising in the West Chamber magazine indicates not only a lot of establishment money going his way but a focus more on generating business for the restaurant. Looking over his public material gives the voter no reason to vote for him other than Lakewood’s political and business elite frequent his restaurant so he knows all the power brokers.
In Ward 5, the long-running establishment candidate, Dana Gutwein is no longer unchallenged. Jessica Skimel, another environmental and neighborhood activist threw her hat into the ring at the beginning of the month. Skimel’s website indicates she was motivated by the fiscal irresponsibility she saw at city hall when the majority of council authorized the spending of tens of thousands of tax dollars on legal fees for an ill-advised and doomed legal attempt to try to give away the open space portion of Hutchinson Park, for free and without the required vote of the people. Skimel also focuses on allowing residents to keep their own trash hauler and requiring increases in stormwater fees (which Council recently doubled) be submitted to a vote of the people. Ms. Gutwein has a pretty website that portrays a nice person but lacks any substantial discussion of issues. She simply claims she is for quality of life and working together. Like mom and apple pie, no one can disagree with these broad values but it doesn’t give any indication of where she would stand on substantive issues. The only conclusion one can draw is that the early and enthusiastic support of the entire establishment means that Gutwein will be one of their “team” players.