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SOCO Student Media from Colorado State University Pueblo

The Today

SOCO Student Media from Colorado State University Pueblo

The Today

SOCO Student Media from Colorado State University Pueblo

The Today

Removal of the mayoral system petition continues to grow

Dave+DeCenzo+with+a+petition+signer+on+Union+St.+Photo+by+Julian+Volk
Dave DeCenzo with a petition signer on Union St. Photo by Julian Volk

By Julian Volk

 

Mayor Nick Gradisar has been under severe scrutiny since the mayoral system was voted on in 2017 and taken into effect in early 2019. So much so a petition began in late 2022 to remove the Mayoral system in Pueblo as a whole.

The reasoning behind creating the mayoral system in the first place was to make a more considerable change in Pueblo. Many argued that the past system of a city council needed to be sufficient to create real change in Pueblo. 

Gradisar previously worked as a lawyer and led the Pueblo Democratic Party.

Gradisar secured the position of Pueblo Mayor after a runoff win on January 22, 2019. However, Gradisar’s career started slow, only a week into his five-year term, working alongside Pueblo’s City Council.

Instead of being able to fill his team out immediately, he had to team up with the seven-member city council to authorize the position of chief of staff. With the city’s finance director position left vacant, Gradisar had to approve expenses himself until he and Pueblo City Council agreed on who would be appointed chief of staff.

“Slow-moving” is what many would define Gradisar’s entire career, so it’s no surprise to most in Pueblo when petitioners first took steps towards removing the mayoral system in early Dec. 2022. Pueblo’s city clerk and city attorney approved the petition, clearing it to begin having community members sign it.

The petition seeks 3,768 signatures from Pueblo citizens to put a question on the ballot for removing the mayoral system. The question will directly revert to the earlier mentioned charter amendment that was up for a vote in 2017. The petitioners still need to meet the original deadline set for signatures. However, they were granted until March 1, 2023, to gain additional votes to get the question onto the May ballot.

What is the difference between a mayor and a city manager, though? Some glaring similarities include hiring and firing staff, proposing budgets to the city council, etc. The big difference is that a city manager works in correlation with the city council, while the mayor works toward the direction of Pueblo voters.

The main concern with the mayoral system is that the city council has become obsolete, with little to no work getting done between the mayor and the city council. The city council contains seven members, each from a different district in Pueblo. A mayor can make people in these districts feel unheard or not included in specific discussions. 

However, a city manager can do the same for the people of the larger community of Pueblo. While the mayor doesn’t represent exact districts, they represent all of Pueblo. If a city council member is insufficient in their position, which can happen often, a mayoral system could be seen as the better alternative. 

Some petitioners have an issue with Gradisar rather than the existing system. Dave DeCenzo, one of the main contributors to the petition, complained that Gradisar had spent over the original budget set under old county managers. He also claimed that Gradisar had spent state tax on his employees’ salaries. When talking about a different mayor, DeCenzo said that Gradisar is still setting a precedent for the future when talking about other mayors in Pueblo.

Even with the petition gaining more and more recognition daily, four candidates have already entered the race to become the next mayor for the election later in 2023. The candidates who entered the mayoral race are current mayor Nick Gradisar, current city council president Heather Graham, a food truck owner Samuel Hernandez and former EVRAZ steel mill employee Thomas Martinez.

Hernandez and Martinez are both new to politics but hope their knowledge of Pueblo will help their candidacy.

Others that may run are Corsentino, Pueblo’s former County sheriff, City counselor Dennis Flores and local businessman Randy Thurstan. Thurstan also served as a city councilor and ran for mayor in the 2018 election.

Many campaigns are on standby, with the petition still being at large. As of February 18, the petition still needs to secure more signatures to be on the May ballot. If the petition is on the ballot, there is no telling if anyone will drop out of the race.

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