Candidates weigh in on public-safety issue

Candidates for the Grand Junction City Council answered questions during a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters at the City Hall auditorium Thursday. From left to right are Teresa Coons, Bill Pitts, Roland Cole, Sam Sursuras, moderator Shandie Case, Reford Theobold, Bonnie Beckstein, Thomas Kenyon and Ken Sublett.

Grand Junction City Council candidates said Thursday night the city must drastically alter its plans to build a series of new public safety buildings, with most saying they would not support going back to voters and asking for a tax increase.

District A candidates Tom Kenyon and Ken Sublett, District D candidates Bonnie Beckstein and Reford Theobold and at-large candidate Bill Pitts said they would not vote to ask residents to approve a sales-tax hike and indicated the city needs to somehow find the funding within its own budget.

“This is not the time to be asking voters for a tax increase,” Theobold said. “We’re in an economic downturn. We’re in a recession. People are struggling.”

Kenyon said going back before the voters and asking for additional funding would be “a waste of time” and said the project needs to be broken down into pieces.

Sublett said asking votes to approve a Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights override in addition to a quarter-cent sales-tax increase likely killed the $98 million ballot measures. But he also criticized the wording of the questions as difficult to understand.

“Next time we should get an English teacher to write it,” he said. “Use words that are not archaic.”

Candidates also suggested the city build elements of the project in phases and eliminate unnecessary amenities.

Those candidates, along with at-large candidates Roland Cole and Sam Susuras and District E unchallenged incumbent Teresa Coons, participated in a two-hour forum at City Hall. League of Women Voters of Mesa County and Kids Voting of Mesa County sponsored the forum.

Candidates touched on other issues including the potential annexation of Clifton, contested zoning issues with Brady Trucking and City Market, the recent spate of fatal drunken-driving accidents and the city’s response to the economic downturn locally and the recession nationally.

Theobold complimented city leaders for cutting or deferring $6 million in spending earlier this week but said more reductions are needed in case sales-tax revenues continue to drop.

Kenyon said his top priority as a councilman would be completing the city’s comprehensive plan, which will plot how the city will grow over the next 25 years.

“If we get that right, that will drive the economy and jobs,” he said.


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