Chaffee County Commissioner race lean on meat

There are big issues facing the county and yet with less than 50 days left to Election Day, the Chaffee County Commissioner races, to date, have been vegetarian pu pu platter: a plateful of tidbits but no meat.

With scant public dialogue, the commissioner races offer voters little more than choosing between the Rs or the Ds. A look at the candidates’ respective web sites shows a shopping list of perennially important issues but ultimately little in the way of substantive plans for how to address those issues.

Though the country is mired in the worst economic crisis – possibly since the Great Depression – not one candidate mentions the economy and how they intend to balance a budget when county departments are struggling to keep pace with citizen needs at the same time revenues are decreasing. It seems nearly impossible that the county will not be faced with really challenging financial scenario as fed and state funding and grant sources wither in what many economic pundits are finally acknowledging to be a real live recession. I have yet to hear any candidate talk about the economy or offer up what they intend to do to mitigate against the book balancing mess-to-be as unpleasant numeric realities hit the fan. Job cuts? Service cuts? Tax increases? Balancing the budget will get far tougher before it gets easier during the next four years.

The lack of discussion on the economy is curious in light of the fact that at least three of the candidates put economic development at the top of their campaign priorities. It’s hard to argue that economic development shouldn’t be a top priority but I have yet to hear a concrete plan that provides real steps and measurable benchmarks toward a well-articulated vision of sustainable economic vitality within the valley.

In numbers that are increasing nearly daily, city and county websites around the country post plans, budgets and annual reports to show the public the progress made toward achieving measurable goals and explain the challenges when efforts to achieve those goals fall short. Chaffee County residents should demand the same of local elected officials.

Speaking of transparency and accountability, how about enacting formal purchasing and procurement policies and procedures? At a time when belts are going to be tightening, formal purchasing procedures can help save money, eliminate redundancies and waste, not to mention ensures fairness. Government run more like a business gives voters more confidence that their tax dollars are being spent wisely.

Another issue a couple candidates are talking about is infrastructure. Can we look beyond county borders when we’re talking about infrastructure? Yes our roads and bridges are riding pretty rough these days but an even thornier issue is transportation. Traffic in and out of this county on our two major, largely two-lane, highways worsens daily. A lack of proactive planning for better infrastructure into, out of and within the county will weigh heavily on the success of economic development efforts, with tourist visits serving as the canary in the coalmine. I’d also love to see county leaders start the dialogue for mass transit options to reduce road congestion, addiction to fossil fuels, carbon emissions, and traffic tickets, especially along the gauntlet between BV and Salida.

It’s less than 50 days until Election Day. I’m anxious to get to the meat of the campaign.

The Citizen is happy to provide a forum for comments and discussion. Please be civil, truthful, and relevant. Please suggest removal of comments that violate these standards. Real names are appreciated.

4 Responses to “Chaffee County Commissioner race lean on meat”

  1. Jerry Mallett

    Salida Citizen

    Lean on Meat

    There is not much discussion on the County's budget for the simple reason the County has a 5 month cash reserve. This is probably one of the strongest county budgets in rural Colorado.

    Road and Bridge is doing well and is funded by the Highway Users Tax. This fund is declining and a variety of actions are being considered.

    Transportation plans into the Front Range are ongoing and have been for three years. Neighbor to Neighbor, Gunnison, Park and Denver, along with CDOT and Chaffee have initial funding to look at service beginning in early 2009. Providers are still looking at the profit margin to see if it will work.

    Jerry Mallett
    County Commissioner

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  2. Keith Baker, Buena Vista

    I'm glad to see the concern for transportation. Having lived in many places during a 23 year Navy career, I have observed that transportation is the make-or-break problem for growing communities of all sizes. The problem is compounded for rural communities such as ours.

    Last year's CDOT-developed Regional Transportation Plan 2035 for the San Luis Valley Transportation Planning Region (SLVTPR) was woefully inadequate in addressing Chaffee's needs especially for the future. Sections of the 24/285 corridor are already above the .85 Volume to Capacity ratio that CDOT says is acceptable and forecasts are for it to only get worse in terms of volume and lane miles affected. True to CDOT's not-so-long-ago name of Colorado Department of Highways (CDOH), RTP 2035 called for more lane miles. The only role for transit in the RTP is along the 160 corridor north and east of Alamosa - primarily to relieve Great Sand Dune National Park traffic.

    The visionary answer from an economic, human, and environmental scale is to use the existing railway for light passenger and packet service as the spine of an integrated bike-pedestrian-transit framework. (Equally important are fostering Smart Growth development, changing commuter behavior, and making bike-ped safe and practical.) More highway lane miles may be yesterday's answer but studies show more lane miles equal more vehicle miles traveled (VMT) - something that should be reduced.

    Fortunately Governor Ritter's Blue Ribbon Transportation Finance and Implementation Panel's recent report fosters more visionary solutions - including transit for rural areas. Let me hasten to add that we are fortunate that SLVTPR leadership has looked fondly upon Chaffee by recommending funding the pedestrian safety improvements for Highway 50, Holman intersection improvements, projects in Buena Vista and Poncha Springs, and local Safe Routes to School (SRTS) initiatives.

    I encourage my fellow citizens to engage on this vital issue. We must begin planning and working feverishly right now to achieve what will be needed 20-30 years hence (although I'd use light rail now!).

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  3. Billy Carlisle

    Where does Jerry Mallett stand on the issues. His positions seem to vary according to his audience and who is asking the questions. At the Land Use Trust debates on September the 4th he said he was 100% behind the Brown's Canyon Wilderness Project. At the League of Women sponsored debate in Buena Vista on September the 24th he said he was against closing any roads in wilderness areas or parks. He wants the enviornmentalist to think he will close roads and he wants the jeep riders and fourwheelers to think he will keep the roads open. Most of us know the Brown's Canyon Wilderness designation will close roads as it is currently described. Jerry knows this too; he is misrepresenting his position on the matter. He needs to be honest about his positions to all parties. Instead he says what he thinks the crowd wants to hear. There is no way for the voter to listen to these debates and know how he will vote and drive issues once in office.

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  4. Billy Carlisle

    Susan Bristol will not take a stand. Susan Bristol was front and center at the commissioner candidates debates on September the 4th and at the League of Women Voters debate on September the 24th. She did not take a clear position in either format on the Brown's Canyon Widerness designation or on closing roads to fourwheelers. Flowery language does not cut it. We need to know where you stand on the issues. There are a lot of four wheelers who come to our county for recreation. I say we should not deny them access to existing roads. Some say there is some abuse of public lands by fourwheelers. I spend a lot of time hiking and see little evidence of that. I think enforcement of the rules that apply to public lands is very important but I don't think any added restrictions are needed. I also think that the Brown's Canyon Wilderness area could become a reality but I think reasonable road access in that area could be maintained as well.

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