County hopefuls discuss slices of economic pie
Candidates for both open commissioner seats on the Mesa County board gathered Thursday evening in a setting defined by its varied colors and sharp contrasts.
That’s not to say the lines drawn during the Grand Valley Young Professionals forum at the Art Center were all that distinct or definitive.
Candidates for the District 1 seat drew from the same well — jobs and education — when asked what they considered the number one issue.
“It’s the same issue for you folks as it is for everybody else — growing the economic pie,” said independent candidate John Leane.
“We can’t get good quality, high-paying jobs without educational support,” continued unaffiliated candidate Jana Gerow, dressed in her usual down-the-middle purple attire.
“I think we need to work with CMU to make sure that they have programs at the college that will be needed in the community, whether it’s health care or energy development,” said Republican John Justman.
A question about which local social issue was most front and center drew some varied responses, however.
Leane said more needs to be done to “bring along” the east end of the valley, mentioning the Clifton community in particular. Justman centered his answer on drug prevention, and said he’d like to see the momentum achieved by the area’s meth task force continued.
Gerow commented on perceptions from outlying towns.
“I kept hearing from people that they weren’t going to proceed with their business in this community … because they felt that there was a conservativeness in our community that just didn’t look beyond ourselves. That we’re so closed in,” Gerow said. “I don’t think that’s true in every case … I think we’ve done some great things. But what’s important is what people perceive.”
In the District 3 race, the definition and differences between the two candidates has become clearer. Both Democrat Dave Edwards and Republican Rose Pugliese have boosting the economy as their central plank, but take divergent ways to do so.
Edwards lamented our “unstable” local economy and pinned success on new industries. Pugliese targets inefficient regulations and wasteful spending as a spur the local economy needs.
A question about how to deal with a perceived increase in the local transient population was answered quite differently between the two.
While Edwards stressed the need for services, education and job training, Pugliese recounted a story about a mentally-ill transient who confronted her and her 1-year-old daughter in a local parking lot.
“That scared me. Clearly he had issues, and we need to help those people. but we have to have a safe community,” she said.