For those who couldn’t attend the League of Women Voters City Council Candidate Forum last Thursday, March 23, at City Hall Auditorium, I am sharing my notes here. The notes are not a direct recording of what was said, but rather a synopsis. I wrote as fast as I could!
Names in boldface type indicate the incumbents. Jesse Daniels is challenging Norris for her seat on Council. At age 35, Daniels is the youngest candidate. Duncan McArthur is running unopposed, but you can write in a candidate you’d rather see in his Council seat. Duke Wortmann is a relocation consultant for Mesa Moving and Storage and is challenging incumbent Marty Chazen. Incumbent Rick Taggart is a former executive with Swiss Army Knife, and did not attend the forum, citing a previous engagement. Taggart is running against C. Lincoln Pierce for an At-Large seat on Council. For folks hoping Grand Junction will someday have a recreation/community center, two incumbents, Duncan McArthur and Phyllis Norris, both said clearly they were NOT in favor of building a public community/recreation center.
All city residents can vote for all city council candidates, regardless of districts.
Question #1: Where do you stand on Measures 2A and 2B on the ballot? [NOTE: Measure 2A is the proposed event center downtown and Measure 2B asks to use funds the City saved to pay back the debt on the Redlands Parkway to pay for road improvements instead.] Do you agree $65 million is a good use of taxes for the proposed events center?
Duke Wortman: Yes, I “absolutely agree,” 2A is a “genius idea” and 2B is “absolutely needed.”
C. Lincoln Pierce: I was concerned about 2A, and am still concerned about parking, but I like it.
Jesse Daniels: Initially I was a “no” on 2A, but “it’s an amazing opportunity,” and a way for town to make money in winter. “I changed my mind on it.”
Martin Chazen: I voted to put 2A on the ballot, but I voted “no” on it (when I voted myself on the local ballot) because its “too risky for my taste.” 2B was “a bitter choice.”
Phyllis Norris – [Was unable to record comments]
Duncan McArthur – [Was unable to record comments]
Question 2: How do you feel about putting a recreation center on the November ballot?
Pierce: “I love the idea” of a recreation center. It should be done for the community in one or two years, but this fall we need to be concerned about the schools.
Daniels: I’m a huge supporter, but it shouldn’t be on the November ballot. We should work within the community to raise funding. The Community cries out for a rec center and desperately needs it. We need economic drivers.
Chazen: We need to be concerned about “voter fatigue” on the November ballot — school issues, public safety tax, lodging tax, a recreation center.
McArthur: “I do not support building a recreation center.”
Norris: “I have questions” about it. “I do not want to go clear across the city to Matchett Park” for a rec center, “I do not support building a rec center.”
Wortmann; “ “I don’t believe in ‘voter fatigue’” and I’m “not afraid to lead” on this issue. I’m thrilled there’s a group putting effort into this. It should be a collaborative effort.
Question 3: It’s been 25 years since the Tabor Amendment passed. If the City votes to “De-Bruce,” are you in favor?
Daniels: Tabor “needs revision.”
Chazen: Tabor limits the size of government. That’s okay, I’m glad to have Tabor.
McArthur: I voted for Tabor in ’92, but “locally, I would support de-Brucing.” We need to let revenues grow with the economy. Tabor has led to infrastructure struggles.
Norris: The City did a Tabor override for the Parkway. We should ask citizens, so I support Tabor.
Wortmann: Tabor was written by an anarchist who is now in jail. Tabor needs to be tweaked.
Pierce: Schools, roads, police, services all need money. We should consider putting de-Brucing to a vote of the community.
Question #4: HB1174 allows the creation of local improvement districts for fiber optic lines in rural areas. Would you support this for our area?
Chazen: “What does ‘rural’ mean?” If areas was to tax themselves to get fiber, they can already do that. It’s the free market solution.
McArthur: We do not qualify as a rural community.
Norris: This doesn’t apply to us — we’re not rural. But we know we need better broadband.
Pierce: This is an “interesting issue.” We turned down a deal and they were right because it was a $70 million expense without a vote. But we need it and our local providers aren’t providing it. We need to think about the future.
Daniels: We wasted three years on talking about whether to do it, and now we’re back to square one. It’s time to start implementing this. We have to re-set the routers three times a night (at our business) just to process credit cards.
Question 5: Do you agree with the open burning laws as they are, or do we need changes?
McArthur: I voted for [the changes to the City’s open burning law]. I was diagnosed with chronic bronchitis, but if I see smoke I just leave the area. But we don’t burn trash any more. But landowners deserve protections.
Norris: Our resolution had nothing to do with air quality. It was a safety issue. It’s illegal to burn garbage in the city.
Wortmann: [Note: Mr. Wortmann is a relocation consultant with Mesa Moving & Storage] “I move 3-5 senior citizens out of the valley every year” [Unclear if he meant this is due to the air quality, but that was the inference.]
Pierce: I’m in favor of [changes]. 20 years ago we never saw haze here. We provide leaf pickup, and use compost.
Daniels: We have free leaf pickup twice a year. It’s a great program. Maybe we should expand it. Sometimes burning has to be done. I was “worried that there was no stronger opposition to burning leaves.” But we can make it better.
Chazen: Take it to compost. The penalties are steep [for violations], but enforcement is a problem.
Question to Jesse Daniels: “You’re pro-marijuana and are concerned with mental health issues. How can you do both when pot increases the rate of suicide?” [Lots of audience laughter in response to this statement.]
A: Cannabis allows for a lot of money to come into the area. All the needs are addressed with cannabis laws. Cannabis is also used to alleviate PTSD and other mental health issues.
Question to all candidates: Do you have any plans for policies related to diversity and safety for minorities?
Wortmann: We need more kindness. I was a minority in 7th-8th grade.
Pierce: “This is one of the most culturally UN-diverse places I’ve ever lived.” People should get equal voices. We’re all the same. Hey, I’m a bald guy!
Daniels: I defer to the state. Running Colorado West Pride, we’ve learned a lot. People need a fair voice in conversations.
Chazen: Everyone has a right to live in a safe community. It’s pretty basic. The Grand Junction Police Department does a good job.
Norris: “We are a VERY diverse city.”
Question to all candidates: Do you have plans to increase renewable energy sources for the city?
Norris: We’re using more compressed natural gas (CNG), piped it in from the sewer plant. We need others to bring us more ideas. [Note: CNG is not a renewable energy source.]
McArthur: The City participated in the solar garden at D 1/2 and 29 Roads.
Chazen: [Unable to record comments]
Daniels: I think we can go further. the City owns over 100 buildings. We could be doing wind generation, solar lamps in our parks, using canals…
Pierce: The job of Council is to support renewables, could lok into hydro power using the reservoirs on the mesa…
Wortmann: [Unable to record comments]
Question to all candidates: Do you support public/private efforts to provide housing for the homeless?
McArthur: This is a big issue for me because homelessness costs about $58,000/year per person. ER bills can go up to $120,000/year per person.
Chazen: “It’s all tax credit financing.” I’m worried that once we build these buildings, they’ll fall apart.
Daniels: Catholic Outreach projects are working well. Small homes are another option. We need a true solution.
Pierce: The City should help support community groups that are working on this issue. We need to look at it.
Wortmann: We need to push back at the feds and the state government. Central Distributing [which is located near the homeless housing project in south downtown] fought building that complex, but “those neighborhoods are A+.”
Norris – We need continued partnerships. “Many people do not want to move into housing. It’s a mental illness.”
Question: What about tourism vs. people who live here?
Norris: Booms and busts here are inevitable. We give $350k/year to the Grand Junction Economic Partnership. “The City doesn’t create jobs.”
END of recorded notes.