Rowland in District 3
Although this newspaper endorsed Janet Rowland’s Republican opponent during the primary election campaign, she wins our endorsement for the general election.
First, she offers far more specific ideas on operating county government than her opponent, Democrat Dickie Lewis.
She worked with her colleagues to develop a program to aid methamphetamine users and thereby hold down the county jail population. She helped get Clifton residents together to talk about their community’s future. There is her effort to make more citizens aware of child abuse, how to recognize and report it.
There were undertakings with her fellow commissioners to revise the land-use code, revamp the county budget process, reorganize county departments and — yes — develop an energy master plan.
One may not agree with all of those efforts, but Rowland can’t be accused of offering platitudes instead of action.
In contrast, Lewis says growth is a major reason for his entering this race, and he believes we need to begin discussing growth limits for the county. But he offers no specific proposals for doing that or ideas about what growth limits might look like.
His criticism that Mesa County may be creating new Clifton-like communities with developments it has approved in Loma, Mack and Whitewater is not without merit. But, conversely, he argues that the county is too doctrinaire in its development rules by requiring things like sidewalks, curbs and gutters. Some parts of Clifton offer evidence of too-lax county development rules.
On energy, Lewis points to a court ruling in a Gunnison County case as evidence that the county can do far more to regulate gas drilling within its borders. But Rowland is better versed in the specifics of that case and why it doesn’t grant Mesa County the authority that many people seek.
Also, although Lewis and others have criticized the county commissioners for making little progress on their energy master plan, it has been moving forward, even if the pace seems maddeningly slow. An evaporative pond policy was adopted by the commissioners, and a list of important scenic and geologic areas is available to energy companies seeking to build things like compressor stations in the county.
It was a dispute about the energy master plan that caused Lewis to walk out of a candidate debate last week, and that raises another important question about him.
Rowland accused Lewis of either being ignorant about the energy master plan or lying about it — not exactly a polite comment, but politics has never been for the faint of heart.
Lewis walked out, and clearly sees that as a principled decision, saying he’d do it again. That’s fine for a private citizens. But elected officials must develop thick skins and endure frequent tongue lashings from constituents.
Will Lewis walk out of a public hearing if he is elected commissioner and constituents attack him forcefully? Rowland has experienced that very thing, and remained to do her job.
For that, and her record of accomplishments, she deserves to be re-elected.