Dist. 1 candidates stake positions on taxes, annexation, monument

PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER TOMLINSON—Seated from left to right, Mesa County commissioner candidates Christi Flynn, Jana Gerow, John Justman, Ken Henry, Wes D’Aponti, John Leane and Ed Stephens participate in the first commissioner candidate forum this morning at the Grand Junction Area Realtor Association office. The seven are vying to replace term-limited District 1 Commissioner Craig Meis in November.Sent as 010412 Commissioner 2.

The candidates vying to replace term-limited Mesa County Commissioner Craig Meis this fall began to distinguish themselves Wednesday on issues ranging from the future of Clifton and Fruitvale to the debate over whether Colorado National Monument should become a national park.

All seven District 1 hopefuls — Republicans Wes D’Aponti, Christi Flynn, Ken Henry, John Justman and Ed Stephens and unaffiliated candidates Jana Gerow and John Leane — fielded roughly a dozen questions during a sparsely attended, 75-minute forum at the Grand Junction Area Realtor Association office. It marked the first opportunity for the candidates to gather in one location to introduce themselves and take stands on a variety of issues.

Although all or most had no answers for or did not directly answer questions such as how the county can combat the state siphoning severance tax dollars or prevent energy workers from living outside the county, the candidates did differentiate from one another on some topics.

Duncan McArthur, governmental affairs director for the Grand Junction Area Realtor Association, asked candidates whether they supported the current property tax imposed on certain new development in Clifton and Fruitvale to help pay for county services, a possible sales tax that would replace the property tax or rejecting both taxes altogether.

Leane said he’s not in favor of either tax proposal.

“We need to start over again,” he said.

Flynn said she believes the city of Grand Junction should annex Clifton and Fruitvale. Unrelated to the question, she added that local governments should eliminate the buffer zones that limit development between Fruita and Grand Junction and Clifton and Palisade.

D’Aponti and Justman said Clifton and Fruitvale property owners should decide that tax question for themselves. Gerow, Henry and Stephens didn’t take a position.

Asked whether they supported the county using certificates of participation — a form of debt — as a method to fund capital projects, Flynn, Justman and Stephens said voters should get to decide that. Gerow said she would favor using them. Leane said it depends on the project, noting that while the county jail couldn’t have been built without certificates of participation, it’s better for the county to use existing savings. Henry called the funding mechanism a “slippery slope” and that the county should be careful about circumventing the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. D’Aponti said he would need to research the issue further before taking a position.

All but Flynn said they opposed a county policy that would give preference to local companies, rather than the lowest price, in bidding out construction projects.

Most candidates were noncommittal on whether they favored the monument transitioning to a national park. Stephens said he’s opposed to the change, while Gerow said she supports it.

The Grand Junction Area Realtor Association will host a forum for the District 3 candidates — currently, Republicans Paul Nelson, Rose Pugliese and Woody Walcher — on Feb. 1. Commissioner Janet Rowland also is term-limited.


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