Many Mesa County residents noticed the almost complete lack of local media coverage of the Club 20 debate between the candidates for Colorado’s State Senate District 7, Claudette Konola (D) and Ray Scott (R). The Daily Sentinel offered only one short quote from each candidate, and the local television stations ignored this important debate completely. In the interest of helping western Colorado citizens get adequately informed about the Senate District 7 candidates, we offer a two-part video (credit: Bill Hugenberg) and a transcript of the Senate District 7 candidates’ debate.
The Club 20 questioners in this debate were Susan Alvillar, Spokeswoman for WPX Energy and President Elect of the West Slope Oil and Gas Association, and Harry Talbott of Talbott Farms in Palisade.
The candidates each began with an opening statement.
Claudette Konola opened the debate. [Part 1 of the debate video is above, and Part 2 is below:]
Claudette Konola: Good morning. I’m Claudette Konola and I’m running to represent you in the State Senate because I believe in a strong and vibrant democracy. Like many of you, I’m tired of being shut out and having no choice, and no voice in the future of the Grand Valley. Like many of you, I’m tired of having a small, self-interested elite decide who should speak for all of us in Mesa County. With no effective opposition, a powerful and privileged few in our community have rigged the game for their own gain, and the quality of leadership has declined. The results are all around us. Our unemployment rate is still 6.9%, which is more than a full point higher than Denver, 2.5% higher than Fort Collins and almost 3% higher then Boulder. Why? Poor leadership. Instead of a healthy recovery, we’ve got a shrinking labor force earning smaller wages. Worse yet, in recent times our would-be public leaders, chosen by our power brokers, have, with alarming regularity, embarrassed themselves and us, with their petty dishonesty, corruption and self-dealing. Yet Jared Wright, Steve King, Rex Tippetts, Scott McInnis — all products of the local power brokerage — have fallen short of a fundamental standard of good leadership.
My opponent is a career politician who makes his way by serving the interests of those who put him where he is.
It’s time for a new choice.
I am determined to fight for good schools for our community, clean air and water, and also an affordable education that is available to all of our children. Thank you.
Ray Scott: Thanks everybody for getting up this early. I hate to admit this to you, but if it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t have gotten up.
I guess I’m kind of taken back just a little bit by some of the comments my opponent has made. I didn’t realize we were running under a dictatorship in Mesa County. I’m a little confused by that, but I get the fact that there’s a lot of frustration out there, but the frustration really should be pointed towards the party she represents. They are the ones that put us two billion dollars in debt over [unintelligible]. Shall we say “Obamacare”? Wow. That’s a heck of a good program. The government that we have today, from the federal level to the state level, is basically controlled by Democrats. Are you better off today than [unintelligible]? I don’t think so. We are taxed too much and we spend too much. But you’re gonna hear a whole lot of stuff today about programs and the wondrous things we should be doing, that your’e not going to be able to pay for. We do not have a tax problem. We have a revenue … We have a revenue problem not a tax problem. And a spending problem. We spend too much in the state of Colorado. $2 billion a month is what we spend now. I think that you’re gonna find, as you actually study what each of us has done, the actual truth. I have a record. It’s right here. [Scott holds up a piece of paper.] You all can look it up so don’t be fooled by anything you might hear up here that’s not true. You know who I am, I’ve done what I said I would do, and I will move forward and continue to do the right thing. Just to make the record clear, my name is Ray Scott.
Question by Susan Alvillar, WPX Energy: – Colorado higher education has been cut significantly since the beginning of the recession. Do you believe the state should fund higher education, and if so, how do you propose doing that?
Claudette Konola: Actually higher education has been cut for longer than the recession. There are conflicting constitutional amendments in our constitution. One of them requires us to increase K-12 education over a period of time, but another one, the Tabor Amendment, says we cannot pass any new taxes without a vote of the public. So K-12 has seen a benefit despite a shrinking budget, and in order to turn that around, we need to find new ways of financing public education, which I think includes public-private partnerships, which is being done frequently in universities like the University of Colorado and School of Mines, partnering with high tech companies and geology companies, to get research dollars that really help fund the education system.
Moderator: Thank you. Ray?
Ray Scott: That’s a great question ’cause I think we do have to fund higher education. Other states have a great model. It’s called severance taxes. It works great, funds a lot of higher education programs, but you have to have the [unintelligible] to go get that severance tax and CO doesn’t have that [unintelligible] right now so we have to look at other funding sources. Makes it much more difficult. You go to other states, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Wyoming, Utah. They’ve worked out that specific formula and it’s working for them.
Claudette Konola: I find that fascinating. Colorado does have a severance tax. It happens to be the lowest of any of the surrounding states, and the industry that my opponent has represented has fought against raising that particular severance tax from day one. I’m glad to hear you’d like to see us go after the severance tax to support higher education. I think that’s a great thing we may be able to work on together.
Question by Harry Talbott: Water is critical to everyone in Colorado and Colorado is in the process of developing a state water plan. What role do you believe the state senate should have in development of water plan? What are your greatest concerns regarding the state water plan?
Moderator: Ray Scott first on the state water plan.
Ray Scott: Now First of all, it was governor’s water plan. The legislature was not involved in the water plan. Now, you’ve probably heard of that incident, this was last Jan Feb., that Representative Coram and I believe…Representative Sonnenberg and other representatives met with the Department of Natural Resources and they basically told us “You’re out. You have no input into the water plan.” Well, we took the step and said you know what, if we…if the governor doesn’t agree with us…well, we’re now involved with the water plan.
Claudette Konola: Again, that’s an interesting perspective. The legislature actually set up in 2009 river basin roundtables and the purpose of those round tables was to get community input from the users of water, about what threats they saw to their water, how they use their water, how they might react to the projected water shortages in 2050, and what grew out of those round table discussions was an executive order by Governor Hickenlooper to create a Colorado water plan. So there were numerous meetings with public involvement all across the state to talk about a water plan. And the result of that is going to the Colorado Water Board that will make reccommendations to the legislature about laws that will be passed. I’ll be looking forward to seeing the plan because it was truly a process that was citizen-driven.
Ray Scott: Well, part of what was discussed is true and part of it is not true. Yes, citizens were involved, but the state legislature we believed there was some mysterious plan [inaudible]…The governor was going to make decision. End of conversation. There was not any involvement past what we did with the round tables. The round tables were exactly why we had to stand up in the legislature and say “no,” because they were not being operated quickly enough, efficiently enough and we needed to say [unintelligible]…. and we had to protect western Colorado. We had no idea how fast they were attacking and moving our water.
Susan Alvillar question: Fracking has become synonymous with all operations having to do with oil and gas development in Colorado. Efforts to drive traditional energy development out of Colorado has escalated as investment in Colorado, particularly in western Colorado has declined keeking the west slope in a prolonged local recession. If elected, what would you do to address this situation?
Claudette Konola: I’d like to reiterate the question. It is basically because fracking has become synonymous with drilling, there are people that are trying to shut down the industry and drive it out. Is that the gist of it? Well, I sort of reject that premise. I’m a Democrat. I’ve worked with environmental groups, and I don’t know any of them that don’t understand we all heat our homes and drive cars, and we’re sitting on a wonderful resource, so we know that and we need to continue to develop that resource, but it needs to be done right, and unfortunately fracking has become the stepchild of doing it wrong when there are lots of other things about drilling that may be as important to look at, as an example, cement failing on wells and those kinds of things. What I would do is listen carefully to all of the stakeholders, which includes industry. You cannot set good policy unless you talk to everybody.
Ray Scott: I find it interesting that you would say that. I mean now you are pro-fracking when your blogs are clearly anti-fracking. So I’m a little bit confused about how you can stand on this stage and tell this group that “Well, gosh, I think fracking might be okay if the stakeholders are brought to the table.” The bottom line is fracking has been proven to be safe. Over a million fracks have been done.This is not something we need to s”tidy” again. It has been studied. It has been done, it has been tested. A million wells have been fracked with absolutely no negative impacts.
Claudette Konola: 430 wells fracked in Texas are now the cause of an investigation because of arsenic in local well water. There are safe fracking fluids. They were developed my Halliburton,they’re mandated for use on shore, they’re sourced from food products. There are safe ways to do this; we just are not doing it safely.
Question from Harry Talbott: Livestock production is the number one agricultural product in Western Colorado, and many of these producers rely on access to public lands to supplement private grazing allotments. Many federal resources management plans and environmental assessments have resulted in a reduction and/or elimination of grazing allotments on the west slope. The same is true regarding long-established trails on public lands and other access issues. What do you think should state’s role be in managing these public lands?
Video #2-Part 2 of Debate
Ray Scott: We’ve introduced a bill over the last couple of years to turn over state lands to the state of Colorado for management. But that is clear that we can manage it better than the federal government. A lot of people get very confused about what the federal government can and cannot do based on enabling acts back in the 1800s. They cannot operate in the state of Colorado without installed MOU (memorandum of understanding) Right now [unintelligible]…from back in the middle 70s, somewhere in that range.. I’ve proposed a bill to look sit down at those MOUs and we can now start telling the federal government what they can do on our lands, versus having the federal government telling us what we can do on our lands.
Claudette Konola: Let me first start by saying I come from a family of ranchers and I understand the need to have access to public lands, particularly in the west, where the majority of our land is held in trust for all of the American people. I do think that the BLM goes through a very detailed process trying to find ways to make sure that potential users are satisfied, and I think the role the state can play is to advocate on behalf of the statewide users, which includes everything from trout fishers to river rafters.
Ray Scott: I don’t think you answered the question, so why don’t you take more time.
Claudette Konola: Well, I’ll yield too. I don’t know that I’d add any more other than it’s a multiple use program and federal government is responsible for making sure that all stakeholders have access and input into the process.
Moderator: Thank you to our panelists for the questions. We now come to the exciting part and the unique part of the Club 20 Debates for our candidates: the direct exchange between candidates:
Ray Scott: One of the things that I find very interesting is that I read through your blogs a lot, which I knew you’d appreciate that, but I find such conflict. When you come in front of a group, you talk abut the fact that you are pro 2nd Amendment [unintelligible], but then when you are asked specifically about whether or not you would vote yes or no on a gun [bill? unintelligible], you can’t answer that. Uh, You stood here today and talked about fracking as if you really don’t have a problem with fracking, but your blogs that you write say that you do. [unintelligible] protesting…You’re obviously very anti oil and gas, we’ve had these conversations before [unintelligible]…but yet you just will not come out and flat tell people that you don’t want public lands bothered with oil and gas production, or that you really don’t want the gun [unintelligible]. I would appreciate it if you would tell these people exactly what you believe in.
Claudette Konola: Well, I love the way my opponent tries to put words in my mouth….
[Video #1 ends][Start Video#2]
Claudette Konola: I can’t say that, because unlike you, I need to read the entire bill, not just the summaries, before I decide how I vote on them.
Ray Scott: Well the second amendment is really short. It’s not that hard. I don’t know how long it would take you to read it.
Claudette Konola: You know the first part of the 2nd Amendment discusses regulation. Do you remember that part?
Ray Scott: [Sigh] Oh I’m sorry. OK So let’s talk more about peoples’ rights. I know you talk a lot about that you’re for the people and want to be inclusive and everything that I do…
Moderator: You may not now. Your time is up.
Ray Scott: I’m sorry
Claudette Konola: My first question to you, Ray, is I have a lot of people that are concerned about domestic violence and sexual harassment in the workplace, and working women are a voting bloc in Mesa County, so I’d like to hear you discuss your opinions about workplace sexual harassment in the workplace.
Ray Scott: Sure. First of all, let’s go back just a touch to Jessica’s law a few years ago that we tried to pass two years ago and your party said no, “no way,” no way Jessica’s law. As far as they get older, we still have the same problem they do as they get older, which is a huge concern of mine. We’ve also tried to protect a child thats killed in a car accident that may still be in the womb as the child of a 9 month pregnancy…which your party says…
Claudette Konola: I’m glad you brought that up…
Ray Scott: But …
Claudette Konola: This is my time…you opened the Amendment 67, which goes way too far. Imagine this. You’re a woman carrying a child that you desperately want and you miscarry, because that happens actually very frequently in pregnancies…
Ray Scott: But that’s not murder…
Claudette Konola: …And this bill that you are promoting would make that woman come under investigation for criminal activity for the simple act of having lost…[unintelligible]
Ray Scott: Number one, I never said I supported Amendment 67. Number two, I was talking about someone involved in a traffic accident, and I don’t know how you took off on a tangent about that…We’re talking about somebody’s shot…
Claudette Konola: Okay, I have another question for you. And I do want to know why you felt justified in not getting a briefing from James Eklund [Director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board], even though you thought the legislature should be there. Why did you think you did not need to know what the citizens felt at the time about the river waters?
Ray Scott: Okay, here’s the deal. We got elected to represent the people. When James Eklund and Mike King said “You are not allowed, you got nothing’ to say about it,” our job is to represent them. When we’re asked to be not involved in the process, why would we sit there and listen to a briefing from someone who says you’re not involved… [Unintelligible, pointing at Claudette]
Claudette Konola: I have one more question…
Ray Scott: Would you like the answer?
Claudette Konola: You answered it. You answered it enough. What have you actually done to help Mesa County get a more diversified economy? We all know that you’ve supported your oil and gas industry, but it’s not the only industry here, so I’d like hear what bills you’ve sponsored what you’ve actually done to support…
Moderator: Okay, that’s time. For closing remarks we’ll reverse that order. Back to you Ray.
Scott: OK. One of the things you learn about being a legislator is that it’s not all about bringing a bill. I’ll just go ahead and finish answering the question that Claudette asked just a second ago. The thing that you have do is you have to think outside the box. What we did when we approached the Governor back in Dec., we said “Governor, we are in trouble in western Colorado and we need your help.” If you are the leader, come over and talk with us. It took six months to get a “yes” out of his office. We finally got the yes, we met in Glenwood Springs. Some of the folks that are in this room where there also. [ unintelligible]…We sat there for 2 1/2 hours and discussed the specific, primary things we could do in western Colorado to increase our economy. And guess what. It wasn’t all about oil and gas. We had some great ideas and the guava has committed to come back every 6 months until we find a solution.
Claudette Konola: The reason I’m running is because we cannot afford four more years of ineffective leadership. As much as my opponent is proud of his record, including bills that he highlights on his website and which I also read, none of them were passed into law. I find it very difficult that somebody would highlight bills on their website and say “I’m proud of this,” when in fact it did nothing for Mesa County, and it did nothing for the state, because in most cases these bills never got out of committee. I think it’s time for somebody who will work hard for you, the people, who will read the entire bill, not just the summary, and will make sure that the people of Mesa County who are stakeholders in this have some say in all of the bills that are passed. I am working to represent all of the people of Mesa County, not just some of the people, and I’ve proven that by talking to everybody form the Tea Party to the GLBT community.
Moderator: Thank you, Claudette. Thank you everyone.