Commission race rivals come face to face
Candidates for both contested seats on the Mesa County Commission shared the stage Tuesday at a Grand Junction Lions Club luncheon, at times overlapping in their continued calls for economic development and job growth in the region.
In the District 1 race, Republican John Justman and unaffiliated candidate Jana Bingham Gerow appeared at the event, held at Two Rivers Convention Center (unaffiliated candidate John Leane did not take part.) The two candidates for the District 3 seat — Democrat Dave Edwards and Republican Rose Pugliese — also were there.
Though the panel-type format didn’t lend itself to much direct debate between opposing candidates, a number of issues revealed just how aligned the two Republicans are, and at times, the similarity in positions between their counterparts.
That was perhaps most evident in a question posed to all four candidates about the unincorporated areas of Clifton and Fruitvale, and how the county should move forward in governing those areas.
For Edwards, he’s been vocal on the issue at prior events. He maintains that it’s problematic for the county to serve as the de facto governing body for the highly urbanized unincorporated areas of the county. His idea is to form local town councils in those areas, despite the fact that they would lack any decision-making authority.
“There needs to be a way to create local self-government there,” Edwards said.
Gerow traveled a similar path, saying that the county should “foster leadership” in those communities and raised again the issue of annexation into the city of Grand Junction — an effort that never picked up steam under the current board.
“I know that’s not a popular idea, but it’s really been a burden to Mesa County,” Gerow said.
Both Pugliese and Justman cited the previous effort at annexation, saying residents there have already spoken. Justman called it “the same old story” and defended private property rights of residents.
“There’s very little leadership in Clifton, so when it comes to incorporation, that’s not going to happen any time in the near future,” Pugliese said.
Still other areas where Pugliese and Justman seemed to be pulling in the same direction were in connection with regulation and the government’s role in relation to business. Both stressed efficiency, touted limited government and talked about consolidation.
“I’ll work tirelessly to get the government — local, state and federal — off of your backs,” Justman said, returning to one of his common themes.
Gerow, whose background is in planning and development, said she would “dig into the budget,” and provided particular emphasis on attracting new business. She also sounded a theme she has touched on before — that the county should make an effort to “work on our image” and actively market the community to new businesses and opportunities.
This is also a tack Edwards would take, as his plan for broadening the area’s economic base includes attracting new and varied businesses, including plastics industries that would diversify the region’s oil and gas resources.
He again called for a new materials science department at Colorado Mesa University, and encouraged a new level of cooperation between county government, local businesses and higher education.