Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Meet the candidates for Gunnison County Commissioner

It is election season and two of the Gunnison County Commissioner seats are up for election with two candidates running for each position. The Crested Butte News will be asking the local candidates for their views on issues for the next several weeks. We have requested they keep their answers to 500 words or fewer.

If you have a burning question for the candidates, feel free to email it to editorial@crestedbuttenews.com. We are starting the questions early this year because it is expected many people will get their ballots the week of October 12-16 and send them back as soon as possible.

Remember, all qualified voters in Gunnison County get to cast a ballot for one candidate in each district.

And everyone is invited to the Crested Butte News Candidates Forum being held on Sunday, October 11 at 6 p.m. at the Crested Butte Center for the Arts. Given the public health orders, there will be limited seating in the theatre but there is opportunity to attend and watch the debate. It will be broadcast on KBUT Monday evening, October 12.

—Mark Reaman

 

Liz Smith

District 1 candidate

Can a rural Colorado county with a ski area at 9,000 feet that depends on tourism (which at the moment includes jets, vehicles and fossil fuels) make a difference with global climate change? Does it matter? What would you do to make an impact on climate change as a commissioner?

Gunnison County can make a difference. We may not produce the emissions of densely populated areas, but everyone has to do their part. And, as John Hausdoerffer explained in his letter to the Times last week, we are: Gunnison County has been a leader in harnessing geothermal energy in county buildings, and work is underway to figure out how we can increase our goals for 20 percent reductions to 40 or 50 percent by 2030. Reaching the county’s goal of 85 percent methane flaring or capture in the North Fork is critical. In terms of impact, the greenhouse gasses from this initiative alone are equivalent to [approximately] 90,000 cars.

Beyond that, implementing a composting program would reduce methane emissions and preserve limited landfill capacity. How can we make this happen? Some of the cheapest homes and rentals in the county come with massive energy price tags for financially vulnerable residents, and the Gunnison Valley Regional Housing Authority GV-HEAT program has been an incredible asset for improving efficiency. At the same time, I’d like to explore how we can incentivize better energy efficiency in new buildings without placing undue burden on buyers who find our housing market outpacing their resources.

Some second homeowners and business owners made a splash this spring and summer with the GV2H Political Action Committee that made mention of raising $3 million to help elect like-minded people to political positions and monitor local government boards to ensure their interests are being addressed. What is your take on the GV2H PAC?

It’s important to listen to concerns from people in the county who don’t necessarily vote here such as second homeowners and students at Western. They’re part of our community and their voices are vital. I think most people agree.

The GV2H PAC is where agreement ends, and it’s unfortunately become a wedge issue within the second homeowner community. My priority in this campaign has been to share my message of unity and what I stand for. I have refrained from mentioning my opponent in ads or campaign content (though he mentions me frequently and seems to like my platform). Since he is being publicly supported by GV2H, however, I think a comment is warranted.

For weeks, the only item listed under Dave Taylor’s platform was a letter to the editor he submitted in response to a letter critiquing his affiliation to GV2H. He asked, “Tell me what second homeowners want that we don’t all want” or that “is antithetical to the common good?”

Where to begin? As second homeowners Mikki Couch and Peter Esposito have indicated in letters to the Times and Crested Butte News, this PAC can’t be described as “apolitical” or the voice of second homeowners. For those who can’t access the group’s private Facebook page, just look at GV2H founder Jim Moran’s Twitter to see what kinds of ideas are driving this organization (and why so many second homeowners have been kicked out or left).

Dave claims he doesn’t have an “agenda,” but GV2H has one. They want to leverage the wealth of second homeowners who are still with them and were upset by our county’s decision to close when we had the third highest infection rate in the nation. They want to establish a permanent presence to “represent our interests” in local politics. The “our” in this statement channels some of the most extreme partisan viewpoints of non-residents. We don’t “all want” this or PAC money influencing our elections.

As of last week, GV2H put up their first signs supporting Dave on Main St. in Gunnison. No candidate can claim to stand for unity while accepting the support of this organization.

We’ve heard rumblings that some people feel non-elected officials wield too much power in local governments and should be reined in or even replaced. Do you share that perspective? If so, specifically where? If not, is everything perfect?

Joni Reynolds has received heavy criticism, but the fact is she’s done an incredible job managing our local response to COVID-19 and leading the state along the way. I’ve had several conversations with John Norton of TAPP, both one-on-one and during BOCC meetings, to discuss strategy and talk about increasing transparency. TAPP has been successful, but south valley tourism has taken a harder hit this year. We also need to protect our resources and trail systems essential to the north valley tourism, which has been overrun this summer. I think it makes sense for the chambers to be part of these discussions too.

If you could wave your magic wand and see one fundamental change in Gunnison County four years from now, what would it be?

Apart from the pandemic magically disappearing? I would say housing. When the workforce is priced out, it hurts businesses and erodes the essence and character of our community.

What’s your last best ski run?

I love skiing with our son Jacob, who just turned 6. It’s so rewarding to see how fast he’s picked it up. (Shout out to Carolyn, his amazing Cruisers teacher!) Right before CBMR shut down, mogul runs like Twister and Resurrection were in heavy rotation.

You get eight minutes to ride the Silver Queen or 18 minutes to ride up the Rec path. What three people (past or present) do you want to hang with?

Ruth Bader Ginsberg and author Toni Morrison. As a former collegiate runner, I’m a huge fan of Emma Coburn and have seen her around while running but haven’t had the chance to officially meet. (Hi there, Emma!)

Social media platforms you use: Facebook? Instagram? TikTok? Snapchat? YouTube? Twitter? Others?

Facebook and Instagram: @lizforgunnisoncounty.

 

 

Dave Taylor

District 1 candidate

Can a rural Colorado county with a ski area at 9,000 feet that depends on tourism (which at the moment includes jets, vehicles and fossil fuels) make a difference with global climate change? Does it matter? What would you do to make an impact on climate change as a commissioner?

The ultimate conundrum and the ultimate controversy wrapped up together.

Gunnison County, via TAPP, spent $2,700,000 in 2019 to attract visitors to our valley. I own an RV campground and my business is at record levels. I can see private aviation parking from my front yard, and anecdotally, I see more private aviation than ever in the past. Gunnison County has received $26,000,000 to enhance our airport, theoretically to attract more air travel.

Attracting more bodies to our county is detrimental to the environment in some way. Hypothetically, if we could raise our prices for everything 20 percent and have 10 percent less people come here, we would make progress both environmentally and economically.

I wish it could be that simple; it is not. We must maintain the fabric that makes us a community and accommodate growth at the right pace.

We are human (worldwide) and the world population grows every day. Humans are driven by their self-interest to survive and improve their lives, which is antithetical to the health of our planet. We have overpopulated our planet to what some believe is the breaking point; we will adapt and improve technologically, but we will survive and thrive.

I will advocate for our county to grow, and promote growth in an environmentally responsible way. Financially, we should focus on getting the most from our environmental efforts and use our taxpayer dollars efficiently.

Some second homeowners and business owners made a splash this spring and summer with the GV2H Political Action Committee that made mention of raising $3 million to help elect like-minded people to political positions and monitor local government boards to ensure their interests are being addressed. What is your take on the GV2H PAC?

Poor communication and disregard for property rights was the catalyst for GV2H. I believe I was the first to address this issue with John Messner on April 12, 2020. My letter to John was published in the Times on April 16.

It has been told that the letter was sent from Health and Human Services without the approval or review from the BOCC. Really? While HHS had broad power during the pandemic, it is inconceivable that the BOCC did not request to review out-going county communication.

Gunnison County property owners all have the same property rights, be it their second property or their 10th property. Most would have respected a logical plea to stay away because of our limited capacities. For some, Gunnison County could have been the safest place for them to be (vs. New York City or New Jersey).

Now, some are offended that property owners are upset, when it was county leadership who were responsible for upsetting them.

We all have the right to peacefully protest, be it through a GV2H PAC or walking the street for our cause. My message is the same as last week: Treat others how you expect to be treated and promote compassion, equality and inclusivity to all.

We’ve heard rumblings that some people feel non-elected officials wield too much power in local governments and should be reined in or even replaced. Do you share that perspective? If so, specifically where? If not, is everything perfect?

The elephant in the room is not hard to identify: Matthew Birnie.

I believe that Matthew knows more about our county government than anyone else. His knowledge is very valuable. With knowledge comes power, and I believe Matthew is inclined to exert his influence as a strong-willed individual.

I am equally strong-willed, and if elected, I will use my intellect to equal Matthew’s knowledge and together maybe it will work well. Plus, I can sell our ideas better than Matthew’s abrasive manner.

The baby will not go out with the bath water. I will treat all in county government with respect and will earn their respect in return. I have been told that Matthew will take on the character of his BOCC; if elected, I hope that is true.

If there is a problem with Matthew it rests solely on the shoulders of Jonathan Houck and Roland Mason. I do not hold my opponent Liz Smith responsible.

If you could wave your magic wand and see one fundamental change in Gunnison County four years from now, what would it be?

Different question same answer: Compassion, equality and inclusivity for all.

What’s your last best ski run?

Have to say ski runs. Skied a triple, triple (three runs three times) on the Birds of Prey at Beaver Creek 30 years ago. Time goes by—don’t waste it!

You get eight minutes to ride the Silver Queen or 18 minutes to ride up the Rec path. What three people (past or present) do you want to hang with?

My Mom (deceased), Martin Luther King Jr., Jim Nance (sportscaster).

Social media platforms you use: Facebook? Instagram? TikTok? Snapchat? YouTube? Twitter? Others?

Only Facebook.

 

 

Jonathan Houck

District 2 candidate

Can a rural Colorado county with a ski area at 9,000 feet that depends on tourism (which at the moment includes jets, vehicles and fossil fuels) make a difference with global climate change? Does it matter? What would you do to make an impact on climate change as a commissioner?

Yes, we can and we are making a difference, yet we have plenty of urgent work to do. Yes, it matters! The Draft Gunnison Valley Climate Action Report gives specific policy recommendations that we have been implementing and will continue to do so under my leadership. If the whole of the county (Towns, WCU, CBMR, GCEA and County) act urgently and with purpose we can reduce our GHG emissions by 50 percent by 2030 from our 2015 baseline assessment. See more at vote4houck.com.

Some second homeowners and business owners made a splash this spring and summer with the GV2H Political Action Committee that made mention of raising $3 million to help elect like-minded people to political positions and monitor local government boards to ensure their interests are being addressed. What is your take on the GV2H PAC?

Let me start here: After many conversations with seasonal residents, it appears that many of second homeowners do not align with the stated goals or approach of the GV2H PAC. Many of them stated that when we take care of the needs of full-time residents (workforce housing, transportation, etc.) by extension their time, investments and experiences while here are enhanced. When the GV2H chatter started, I spent 1.5 hours on the phone with Jim Moran. We have different perspectives for sure. He pushed me to lean on manager Birnie and Public Health director Reynolds to open Gunnison County completely; this was late April. When I stood by the decisions we were making it was made clear that I would be in the crosshairs of him personally and the PAC. I have been privy to the social media postings in the GV2H group and the “Save Our Gunnison County’s Summer and Businesses” group that Moran actively engages with. They accomplished their goal, which was to beat the bushes to find a candidate who would carry their torch and plant their flag. That person is my opponent Trudy Vader. She is their chosen candidate and they expect her to carry their agenda forward. She has stated that she has met with them numerous times. GV2H has endorsed her. What is the GV2H plan? I quote directly from their website their plan:

“In short, we will win by: setting up a permanent organization, engaging in local and state elections, supporting or opposing candidates, engaging legal representation of our interests (as the rules are being made) and fighting the rules through litigation (or the threat thereof) whenever our interests are disregarded, ill-considered or abused.”

I choose not to buckle to their threats of dark money and influence but rather have stayed the course of keeping the health and safety of everyone at the heart of my decision-making. Many second homeowners and seasonal residents have reached out to me offering support of my decisions, support of my re-election and thanks for making the often-difficult decisions so they could eventually return feeling safe and enjoy the place they equally care about and love.

We’ve heard rumblings that some people feel non-elected officials wield too much power in local governments and should be reined in or even replaced. Do you share that perspective? If so, specifically where? If not, is everything perfect?

Based on some calls and emails I have received over the last eight months, I believe this question is mainly aimed at our Public Health director. In 2006 the State Legislature passed legislation with very clear language that gave, in a declared public health emergency, the county PH director far ranging authority to make decisions without the influence of politics. Joni Reynolds, with a career full of relevant education and experience was able to guide us with leadership and expertise to make the hard and often heart-wrenching decisions outlined in the public health orders. It was never lost on her the parallel economic emergency unfolding simultaneously and those impacts weighed heavily on her, too. I was directly informed, involved and entrenched in the decisions. I supported doing what was necessary, despite vitriol being hurled at us by folks who discounted the seriousness of COVID. I believe our quick, immediate and science-based actions saved lives. Our economy has recovered quicker and outpaced other Colorado resort counties who were more timid in their response.

If you could wave your magic wand and see one fundamental change in Gunnison County four years from now—what would it be?

Workforce housing built to a level that more folks were housing-secure and living where they work. Currently, Gunnison County is facilitating the building of the largest workforce rental housing project in county history. You can count on me to put more units on the ground in the next four years!

What’s your last best ski run?

After 40+ days of continuous work at the start of the pandemic, my wife Roanne forced me to take a few hours away from the response work. We did a BC ski tour near Carbon Peak. Safe, low-angle glade skiing—that was my last best run!

You get eight minutes to ride the Silver Queen or 18 minutes to ride up the Rec path. What three people (past or present) do you want to hang with?

Really only one person—my mom. She died by suicide when I was 8 years old. I never had a chance to have an adult-to-adult conversation with her. I sure would like that opportunity.

But, if I had to add two more it would be Thomas Jefferson to chat about what he envisioned the West could be after hearing the reports of Lewis and Clark, and Bruce Springsteen, well, because he is the Boss.

Social media platforms you use: Facebook? Instagram? TikTok? Snapchat? YouTube? Twitter? Others?

Just Facebook. My teenagers would die if I were on their platforms!

 

 

Trudy Vader

District 2 candidate

Can a rural Colorado county with a ski area at 9,000 feet that depends on tourism (which now includes jets, vehicles and fossil fuels) make a difference with global climate change? Does it matter? What would you do to make an impact on climate change as a commissioner?

Yes, it matters. Large-scale renewable generation of electricity is at the center of decreasing Gunnison’s carbon footprint. The question that needs answered, will Gunnison County have the courage to truly address the issue. We have three natural renewable resources that could have a real impact on our carbon foot: geothermal, pump storage hydropower and solar. Geothermal is my preference. It has near-zero carbon emissions and “among the smallest land surface footprint per kilowatt (KW) of any per KW generation technology,” according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). A Stanford University study, Global Climate and Energy Project compared the energy stored on investment (ESOI) of hydropower and solar. The ESOI is the calculation between the amount of energy created by a technology divided by the cost to build it. Hydro had a score of 210 ESOI, meaning it is able to store 210 times more energy over its lifetime than it is required to build. Solar depending on the battery had an ESOI score of 2 to 10. Geothermal was not part of the study but I would venture to say it would match or have a better ESIO than hydropower.

Some second homeowners and business owners made a splash this spring and summer with the GV2H Political Action Committee that made mention of raising $3 million to help elect like-minded people to political positions and monitor local government boards to ensure their interests are being addressed. What is your take on the GV2H PAC?

People are frustrated with the three like-minded county board members. Three un-like-minded leaders can bring different viewpoints, talents and deep meaningful discussions to make better decisions for the whole community. I feel that creation of the GV2H PAC lies directly on my opponent’s doorstep. The other ski towns’ counties asked their second homeowners to leave or stay away, rather than mandating and threatening them. Our leadership created a potential lawsuit liability for the county and motivated the second homeowners to create the GV2H PAC. I feel poor governance leads people to find new ways to be heard by elected officials and that is exactly what happened in Gunnison County.

I have listened to the second homeowners and… hourly wage workers, salaried professionals, small businesses and restaurant owners, building and construction contractors, realtors, ranchers, county, state and federal employees, homeowners and potential homebuyers. I have been abundantly clear with each group that as an unaffiliated county commissioner I will not make decisions based on political ideologies, agendas, special groups or cronyism, but rather the priority needs of the community as identified by data and information. A simple look at my platform at www.VoteTrudyVader.com will clarify exactly what my commitment will be as county commissioner: building housing, supporting local businesses, addressing climate projects and community outreach.

We’ve heard rumblings that some people feel non-elected officials wield too much power in local governments and should be reined in or even replaced. Do you share that perspective? If so, specifically where? If not, is everything perfect?

Oh yes, there are rumblings. In fact, I would say in most of the conversations with community members this issue is brought up by them, and it happens throughout the entire county. Why? Is it true? And what leadership accountability does my opponent have regarding this issue? From those conversations that I have had I feel my opponent demonstrates two weak areas of leadership ability.

The first has to do with not being a visible, active, communicative leader. Prior to COVID-19 not many people were familiar with the role of county health departments. So, why would they give any credibility to our county health director, especially when she has been left standing alone so often without our top county leader present. It gives a very confusing message. We have seen leaders across this country at the local, state and federal levels present with their health personnel. Communicating together about COVID-19. My opponent has been missing in action. It has created a perception of a power vacuum. And as the saying goes “perception is reality.” As your county commissioner I will stand with county workers in crisis situations and be visible and present for businesses and community members.

The second rumbling has to do with the county manager. I feel my opponent’s lack of formal training or any real experience managing and evaluating employees’ performances has contributed to the mixed messaging of “who is the boss.” I managed 30 to 80 employees for eight years and have performed well over a hundred formal evaluations. I have worked for, with and on governing boards. I know the protocol for those who report directly to the board. In all fairness to the county manger he needs to be evaluated by a sound performance tool rather than in the court of public opinions. I will request an annual 360 performance evaluation of the county manager and attorney. This researched-based evaluation provides actionable feedback about an employee through researched based survey questions given to people that he/she professionally interacts with.

If you could wave your magic wand and see one fundamental change in Gunnison County four years from now, what would it be?

Fix the housing crisis. It is the keystone to the stability of the county. It impacts businesses’ ability to hire qualified staff. It impacts workers’ ability to live a balanced life. It impacts first time homebuyers’ ability to buy a home and begin building personal wealth.

What’s your last best ski run?

I can’t remember but it was a great day with my kids.

You get eight minutes to ride the Silver Queen or 18 minutes to ride up the Rec path. What three people (past or present) do you want to hang with?

My mother, father and brother who have all passed away. I would tell them that I love them and give them a hug.

Social media platforms you use: Facebook? Instagram? TikTok? Snapchat? YouTube? Twitter? Others?

Facebook, TikTok and You Tube.

 

 

Check Also

GV2H PAC files State paperwork

Six out-of-county donors funding the group [  By Mark Reaman  ] The Political Action Committee …