Mar 032009
 
Authors: Matt Minich

Editor’s note: Profiles featuring this year’s other mayoral candidates, incumbent Doug Hutchinson will appear on Thursday of this week.

Aiming to right what he calls a “vacuum of leadership” in Fort Collins’ city council, Tom Griggs, a Fort Collins resident since 2000, is putting himself on this April’s ballot for mayor in hopes of giving all walks of city residents a voice.

Griggs, who serves as chair of the Colorado Democratic Party’s Caucus for the Fourth Congressional District and is a member of the Board of Trustees for Foothills Unitarian Church, announced his intention to run last December and hopes to displace current mayor Doug Hutchinson, who is running for his third and final term.

Griggs was also running against Eric Sutherland, a local activist long outspoken in support of renewable and efficient energy practices in Fort Collins, until Sutherland announced his withdrawal from the race Tuesday.

Griggs, an associate professor in the Education and Bilingual/English Second Language programs at the University of Northern Colorado, said people in Fort Collins “aren’t connecting very well” under Hutchinson’s leadership.

The mayor’s refusal to recognize last month’s Freedom to Marry Day, a gay rights event endorsed by the city’s Human Resources Commission, is evidence of that, Griggs said.

Griggs said he hopes to create forums where diverse groups can work together on issues.

Hutchinson, however, said his decision regarding Freedom to Marry Day had nothing to do with his stances on gay rights./Hutchinson said he was asked to make a proclamation — which is generally used to celebrate birthdays of local figures and other accomplishments of the city — in support of the day, and said that he could not do so for an event that centered on such a divisive issue.

Additionally, outreach between students and other residents of Fort Collins is important, said Griggs, who said he advocates bringing together as many voices of the community as possible./

To achieve this, students, human rights groups, environmentalists and local businesses need to have more of a voice in local policy, he said./ The Chamber of Commerce and business community deserve seats at the table, he said.

James Thompson, Griggs’s campaign manager, said that students would be a major focus in the campaign and said Griggs would work to be visible to the student population./

“We’ll be out on the Plaza and knocking on doors,” Thompson said.

Griggs is opposed to the Glade Reservoir project, which he said would damage Fort Collins’s tourism industry, cost the city tens of millions of dollars in water treatment upgrades and destroy the ecological integrity of the Poudre River./

The proposed reservoir, which would divert water from the Poudre, would benefit 13 communities in Larimer County, but has come under fire from local environmentalists who say that the project will damage the Poudre and reduce local water quality by storing lower-quality water in Horsetooth Reservoir.

Griggs claimed his opponent, Hutchinson, was in support of the proposal and cited such an endorsement as Hutchinson’s “lack of leadership,” as the city of Fort Collins will not directly benefit from the Glade Reservoir project’s goals.

Hutchinson, though, said that Griggs was misinformed about his stance on the Glade Reservoir./ He said that he not only voted against it, but also took a two day trip to Washington D.C. to inform Colorado congressmen about the damage the project would cause to Fort Collins.

Griggs said the economic vitality will also be a major issue in the coming election./ He said he plans to pay more attention to issues such as affordable housing, preventative health care and homelessness while trying to create jobs in a manner that is environmentally responsible.

City council elections beat writer Matt Minich can be reached at news@collegian.com.///

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