Commission candidates express parallel views on pot, event center
If the dozen or so members of the Redlands Rotary Club who attended a Friday lunchtime debate were expecting fireworks between Mesa County commissioner candidates Rose Pugliese and Dave Edwards, they likely left Redlands Mesa Golf Club disappointed.
Both Pugliese, a Republican lawyer, and Edwards, a Democrat and former health care administrator and certified public accountant, talked a lot about how critical a healthy economy and expanding job market is to Mesa County.
“I got into this race because a lot of young people were leaving the valley because there weren’t any jobs,” Pugliese said in her opening remarks.
“So I want to look at what we can do at the county level to really help that.”
Edwards dedicated much of his opening to exploring the possibility of complex hydrocarbon development in our area.
“One of the things that we need to work on, very, very seriously, is the development of new industries and businesses throughout the valley,” he said.
A question about Amendment 64 — the upcoming ballot measure that would regulate marijuana like alcohol in Colorado — drew mirror-image responses from the candidates as well. Neither supports the measure.
Edwards called the problem of drugs in Mesa County “severe” and said the complex issue often is most damaging to young people.
Pugliese said she was “hopeful that the voters will be educated on the issue,” and she highlighted the inherent conflict with federal law, which classifies marijuana as a controlled substance.
Many of the questions from Rotary members Friday focused on the ongoing issues with Fruitvale and Clifton, and specifically what each of the candidates believed was the best path forward for those dense communities in unincorporated parts of the county.
“I think the voters have spoken on that, and I think we need to respect that,” Pugliese said, in reference to a 2010 petition effort by Mesa County that garnered only half-hearted support for annexing Clifton and Fruitvale into the city of Grand Junction.
“I think that the people of Clifton have demonstrated that they can govern themselves,” Edwards said, citing the community’s independent fire and emergency medical services and separate districts for sanitation and water service.
“We can’t force them to become a municipality, but I think the problem with any area that doesn’t have its own local government is it’s very hard for them to address their own problems.”
Regarding the county fairgrounds, where new plans are under consideration for a multimillion dollar expansion, the candidates again sounded more like running mates rather than opponents.
Pugliese called the annual fair “an important part of our culture,” but she urged a go-slow approach on any expansion.
She added she was “not sold” on the ambitious exposition and event center that has been discussed, but said she could support some smaller-scale plans.
Edwards described himself as “an unmitigated lover of state and county fairs” but later said he “was not in favor of pouring millions of dollars into it” — going so far as to advocate for holding the county fair in a different, higher-altitude location.
In his closing, Edwards drew even closer parallels between himself and Pugliese, saying, “Neither one of us is going to waste your money.”
Both candidates are vying to replace term-limited District 3 Commissioner Janet Rowland.
District 3 mostly encompasses the east end of the county.