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.