County candidates gauge economy

TABOR limits, energy industry discussed at session for voters

Candidates for the Mesa County Commission were asked during a candidates forum Tuesday night what the county will do in reaction to the nation’s worsening economy. The answers included taking it one day at a time to asking the public to vote on eliminating revenue caps imposed by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

Only time will tell how the national economy will affect Mesa County, Commissioner Janet Rowland said.

“We are going to have to take it one day at a time,” said Rowland, a Republican.

Her opponent in District 3, Democrat Dickie Lewis, said he supports changing TABOR.

“The bust may be here,” Lewis told an audience of about 30 people who gathered at the old Mesa County courthouse. The event was put on by the League of Women Voters.

Lewis said millions of dollars each year are refunded to property owners in the county, many of whom are out of state property owners such as Wal-Mart. Lewis said that needed to change.

Republican Commissioner Craig Meis, who is defending his District 1 seat against Democrat Dan Robinson, said he is more concerned with how the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s rule changes and Amendment 58 will affect the energy industry, and thus the local economy.

Robinson said it is wrong for the county to continue focusing on one sector of the economy. Mesa County is about more than the energy industry and the commissioners must do more to promote jobs in other sectors like alternative energy, agriculture and health and human services, he said.

“We cannot have an imbalance,” Robinson said.

When asked whether they support expanding the commission from three to five members, the Democrats supported going to five. Meis and Rowland said they prefer three commissioners.

The four county commission candidates also were asked whether they support the city of Grand Junction asking voters to increase taxes to build several new public safety facilities for police and fire protection.

Meis said he supports police and fire protection but blasted the city for failing to properly plan and having to wait until a crisis to ask voters for money.

“It was not a priority five years ago, 10 years ago and it should have been,” he said.

Robinson said the county would benefit from the measure but that it would be inappropriate for him to comment on something only residents of the city can vote on.

Rowland said that during tough economic times she would find it hard to ask people to increase their taxes.

“Perhaps they are going to have to look at other ways to fund it,” she said.

Lewis threw his 100-percent support behind the city tax question.

“I support it,” Lewis said. “You just can’t be neutral on public safety and health.”


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