24 October 2012: Commission picks have large implications

Commission picks have large implications

It’s not likely Adam Ochs (R) will unseat Rep. Claire Levy (D) in House District 13 that includes Clear Creek, but that didn’t stop Ochs from entering the race or coming onto KYGT to engage with Levy with me facilitating in an open-ended conversation.

After the show, I told Ochs he’s a rare local Republican candidate: no fear of stating unequivocally what he stands for in an unscripted manner and having his words recorded for future reference.

It’s unfortunate both Republican commissioner candidates ducked the opportunity to sit down next to their Democratic opponents on the air and expound.  The result is Clear Creek voters are lesser for it.

One of the issues on which it would have been great to hear from them is that of open space, and by extension public lands, and of our recreational economy.

At the Georgetown candidate forum, the candidates were asked to share their views on open space.  While I heard both Democrats, Randy Wheelock and George Clark, talk about its economic benefits—contributing directly to business uptick with visitors frequenting stores, restaurants and lodging facilities and indirectly by attracting younger families—both Phil Buckland and Tom Hayden came across as equivocal in their support for it.  That in turn leads to a deeper question about their commitment to public land preservation, whether environmental or historical, and thus their potential role in defining state and national policies.

The 2012 Republican platform declares, “Congress should reconsider whether parts of the federal government’s enormous landholdings and control of water in the West could be better used for ranching, mining, or forestry through private ownership.”

That idea flies in the face of many if not most of Clear Creek residents’ values.  If we preferred living in a sea of strip malls and other tawdry edifices, we would live in the metro area.  The mountains Denverites and out-of-staters drive great distances to see and enjoy are just beyond our front doors.

Our new commissioners will be members of Colorado Counties Inc. (CCI), an organization that lobbies for statewide policies including natural resource management and public lands.  As members of CCI, they will belong to the National Association of County Officials (NACO), an organization that identifies a national agenda for county commissioners to pursue with Congress.

Because of a right-leaning public lands subcommittee of NACO, this group has considered platforms supporting the sale of our public lands, similar to a state policy recently passed in Utah and promoted by the national Republican Party.

As Clear Creekers, we inherently share in the value and importance of public lands, both to the quality of our life, and economic impact on our community.  These are lands on which you and I hike, lands that lure visitors into our community to recreate and spend money in our towns.

Some of us fish, hunt, ski, and mountain bike on these lands, and those unable to actively participate in such activities each day relish the breath-taking beauty surrounding them…They are the reasons we live here.

I’m not inferring the Republican candidates for Clear Creek County Commissioner support the sale of our public lands.  Nevertheless, the question looms:  Will they buck their party leadership and members of their party that do support the sale of public lands and thus oppose measures in their own party’s national platform calling for such?  Will they be willing and able to resist the pressure to do likewise on other issues important to Creekers?

Quite frankly, we’d be rolling the dice on our future if we bank on Republicans opposing Republicans when it comes to state and national issues.  That’s not the Republican way.

The sale of our public lands is only one example.  Year after year, our commissioners are setting the platforms for CCI and NACO on other issues—healthcare, elections administration, transportation, and education—and lobbying our state and national representatives who see our commissioners as representatives of their communities.

Each candidate for Clear Creek County commissioner might be a friend or neighbor, and as fellow residents, we may very well agree with many of them on local decisions.  However, as commissioners they will also be helping to develop a national agenda.

Your vote has meaning, far deeper than personal loyalty.  Elections have consequences and in Clear Creek, it is imperative we vote in leaders who not only share our values and but will also fight to include those values such as responsible energy development, affordable healthcare, and free and fair elections locally, at the state level, and within the CCI and NACO.


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