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Senate candidate challenging Gardner sees climate change, Trump as biggest issues

In a field of more than a dozen Democratic Senate hopefuls, Dan Baer believes he stands out as the most viable non-politician candidate.

“Of the candidates who have raised enough money to be viable in an election at this level, I’m the only one who isn’t a career politician,” Baer said in an interview in Glenwood Springs.

Baer, a former ambassador under Hillary Clinton and John Kerry in President Barack Obama’s administration, is running for the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican Sen. Cory Gardner.

He and six other Democrats seeking the Senate nod were in Aspen Thursday, hours after former Gov. John Hickenlooper announced he would run for senate.

‘The biggest existential risk’

Climate change is the greatest threat, according to Baer, and will require a “monumental legislative effort,” as well as significant financial investment.

“When I say significant investment, I mean investment on the order of a trillion dollars, not a billion dollars,” Baer said.

The fact that Colorado has significant oil and gas resources is not lost on him, and though he recognizes the need to transition from fossil fuels, he wants to be part of the solution for Colorado energy workers.

“Change always has folks who benefit from it, and folks who, at least in the short term, pay disproportionate costs compared to others. There has to be attention to supporting those for whom this transition is going to be difficult,” Baer said.

Gardner is typically seen as the most vulnerable Republican Senator, which Baer said makes the Colorado Senate race the most important election in 2020 for Democrats wishing to flip the Senate.

“This is a moment when running a campaign against cynicism is important. The biggest existential risk, materially, is climate change. But the biggest existential risk politically speaking is that people give up on institutions of our democracy,” Baer said.

If people don’t believe the American system can work to solve the most important issues, nothing will change, Baer said.

‘Historic candidacy’

Like many other candidates in recent elections, Baer was inspired to run by the 2016 election of President Donald Trump, and encouraged by the 2018 midterm elections.

The race is not short on first-time candidates. Psychologist Diana Bray, Michelle Ferrigno Warren, an immigration activist, Colorado State University professor Ellen Burnes, scientist Trish Zornio and pharmacist Dustin Leitzel are among the crowded field.

Baer said he also “represents a historic candidacy” in that he would be the first openly gay man to serve in the U.S. Senate.

He is not the only LGBTQ candidate, however. Nonprofit activist and candidate for the nomination Lorena Garcia is married to a woman.

Baer believes his experience sets him apart, and positions him to take on Gardner in a unique way.

Gardner, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has positioned himself as strong on China-U.S. relations, and has criticized Trump on a number of foreign policy issues.

Baer said that while Gardner often says the right things on foreign policy, he could use his position in the Senate to confront the president … for example, on his “freelancing, infantile diplomatic approach” to North Korea, but hasn’t done that.

“I think he tries to use foreign policy to separate himself from President Trump, and yet he does nothing to actually stop the devastating actions of the Trump administration and our foreign policy,” Baer said.

The money primary

In the fundraising race, Baer is ahead of Andrew Romanoff, with $1.3 million in contributions as of the June 30 campaign financial reports. But both Baer and Romanoff, who has raised just over $1 million, trail behind Mike Johnston’s $3.4 million in total contributions.

Johnston, a Vail native and former teacher who has served as a state senator and education policy advisor to political candidates, was among the first to announce that he would challenge Gardner.

The other candidates have raised less than $1 million in the race so far.

As a newcomer in the race, Hickenlooper hasn’t disclosed any donations.

Hickenlooper’s wife, Robin Hickenlooper, donated $2,800 (the maximum allowable individual contribution) to Baer in April. She gave the same amount to John Walsh, a former U.S. attorney for Colorado, who is also in the race.

“We need people who we can trust to be in the fight for the right reasons. I think this is a moment when candidates who aren’t conventional are resonating, because people recognize that we’re not living in a conventional time,” Baer said.

tphippen@postindependent.com

Glenwood Springs council candidates opposed to street tax question spending

While the majority of Glenwood Springs City Council candidates support the ¾-cent street sales tax question being posed to voters in the April 2 municipal election, three are on record as opposing it.

At-large candidate Tony Hershey, Ward 4 candidate Paula Stepp, who is unopposed, and Ward 3 candidate Jennifer Vanian have all three stated their opposition to the proposed tax increase.

Ballot Issue A on the city ballot seeks a 3/4-cent increase in the city’s sales tax rate to fund $56 million in needed street rebuilding and repairs, along with underground utility upgrades, over the next decade.

Hershey has been the most vocal opponent of the proposal among the candidates, asserting that the city must tighten the belt on its spending habits. He says that spending often favors council wants instead of city needs.

Before asking voters to support any new tax, projects like the Seventh Street beautification should be heavily scrutinized, he says.

“We have to make streets a priority,” Hershey said. “Police and streets, those are the two things this government has to provide.

“If we have $65 million in revenues and $55 million in expenditures, that sounds like we have money to fix the streets,” he said in reference to figures pulled from the 2019 city budget.

Hershey said he was not insinuating that a $10 million surplus existed. Rather, he said he is just pointing out that the city was not facing a budget crisis.

He said he just wants to see more fiscal responsibility exhibited within the city’s financial parameters.

According to city officials, in 2019, the city’s general fund does have a $101,000 budget surplus forecasted.

And, a claim by Hershey that $2 million a year could be set aside from the general fund and used to issue bonds for the street work without raising taxes is questionable, because any bonding against general fund dollars would require voter approval.

A separate question before voters, Ballot Issue B, seeks authority for up to $16 million in bonding against the new sales tax revenues, as a way to fast-track the projects.

Hershey’s two opponents for the at-large seat, incumbent Jim Ingraham and challenger Erika Gibson, have both said they support the tax proposal as the best way to rebuild and fix city streets — several of which have been deemed as “failing” — and to bring the underground utilities up to par, and in the shortest amount of time.

They and other tax supporters have said that any amount of money that might be shaken loose from the current city budget each year would pale in comparison to the $56 million needed to do the infrastructure work without compromising other city projects.

“I have not heard any other reasonable solution put forth,” Ingraham said in an earlier question-and-answer interview with the candidates. “Doing nothing is not only unreasonable, it is an abdication of our fundamental government responsibility.

“Grousing about past decisions, about how competing priorities were decided in the past, might make some folks feel good. But it won’t fix the problem.”

Tax supporters, including current City Council members and appointed members of the city’s Financial Advisory Board, have pledged that the tax will go away when the work is completed. The proposal calls for all of the street work to be completed within 10 to 12 years.

“It simply is not possible to find enough money within existing revenues to fix our streets,” tax proponents claim on their campaign website. “To meet a $56 million street replacement and repair schedule would require diverting one-third of total revenues ($5.6 million each year for 10 years) and would decimate current levels of city service.”

QUESTION OF PRIORITIES

“We are going to have to make some choices that do not include fountains, festival streets and statues,” Hershey said, referring to some of the amenities associated with the Seventh Street project. “We have to make better choices. That is my bottom line.”

The anti-street-tax Committee for Responsible Taxation, led by former City Council member Ted Edmonds, agrees that the city’s street network needs serious attention.

However, it also says the city should divert special Acquisition and Improvement tax funds from other projects, such as the future South Bridge project and some of the downtown redevelopment efforts, to focus on street needs first.

“The Acquisition and Improvement Fund has bonding capacity sufficient to provide the funds to begin the reconstruction of our streets,” the opposing committee claims on its campaign website. “This would give the city time and experience to consider the proper taxation to continue the work.”

For now, though, a 3/4-cent increase to the city’s sales tax, making Glenwood’s sales tax rate one of the highest in the area at 9.35 percent, is too much to ask, opponents have said.

OTHER CANDIDATE CONCERNS

Hershey has vehemently opposed the street sales tax since formally announcing his candidacy in mid-January. That’s when City Council voted in favor of putting the tax initiative on the ballot.

Ward 4 candidate Paula Stepp had not taken a formal yes or no position on the ¾-cent street sales tax question, until the days leading up to the Imagine Glenwood forum on March 19, she said.

“We asked for a street maintenance tax in 2005, we were asked to renew the A&I fund in 2016, and I think the citizens have been pretty forthcoming on how taxes support the city,” Stepp said Wednesday. “But I am wondering what else we can do besides that.”

Stepp explained that her stance against the new street tax was not intended as a jab at the current City Council, but rather she says she wanted more questions answered and ideas generated before asking residents to support yet another tax.

“When we passed that maintenance street tax in 2005, what did we do before we got that ½-cent street tax, and how were we taking care of our maintenance, our snowplowing, and the other things that we needed to do with our streets?” inquired Stepp, who is running uncontested for the seat being vacated by Michael Gamba due to term limits.

“Was that part of the general fund, and can we be looking at that again? That is my first question,” she said.

Stepp, who ran unsuccessfully last year for Garfield County commissioner, also wanted a more robust conversation about the county’s role as it pertained to former county roads that were annexed into the city over the years.

“When I am told that we took over streets in annexation, and those streets were in disrepair, was there any agreement with the county [that it] would help [the city of Glenwood Springs] with the maintenance?” Stepp asked. “Where is the partnership with the county?”

While Stepp did not dispute the $56 million projected cost to fix the city’s streets, but she believes the proposed tax was rushed without looking at all possible alternatives first.

“If it doesn’t pass, then what is our next step? I want to see that, as well,” Stepp said.

Ward 3 candidate Jennifer Vanian, running against Charlie Willman and Ksana Oglesby for the council seat being vacated by term-limited Councilman Todd Leahy, has also recently come out against the street tax question.

Willman and Oglesby both support the tax measure, joining Ingraham and Gibson in saying it’s the best way to move forward on the street work as quickly as possible without cutting into other important projects.

Vanian, however, thought it was odd for the current council to spend taxpayer money on beautification projects, only to later ask constituents for additional money to rebuild and fix the city’s streets.

“You can see it with projects from Seventh Street … to Two Rivers Park,” Vanian stated. “Some of those projects should have the flourishing touches looked at again, and make sure they are in the best long-term interest, as fixing the streets certainly are.”

The other current City Council member who is running unopposed for re-election, Ward 1 representative Steve Davis, also sided with the council majority in favor of putting the tax question before voters.

mabennett@postindependent.com

Watch: Glenwood City Council candidates answer student questions

The Post Independent, in partnership with a Colorado Mountain College photojournalism class, interviewed the six candidates running for two contested Glenwood Springs City Council seats, up for grabs in the April 2 municipal election.

Led by instructor Joseph Gamble, students researched the current expectations and concerns of local residents, including affordable housing, short-term vacation rentals, construction projects, and the proposed streets sales tax.

All candidates were asked the same questions, and were filmed in their preferred locations over the last several weeks.

At-large candidates


Ward 3 candidates

Imagine Glenwood forum asks council candidates to share views

A third and final forum Tuesday for those seeking a seat on Glenwood Springs City Council gave each candidate five minutes to make a last pitch to city voters.

Taking place at the Glenwood Springs Library and hosted by Imagine Glenwood, forum moderator Sumner Schachter explained that none of the candidates could speak about Rocky Mountain Resources’ controversial limestone expansion plans.

Instead, the forum was intended to allow the candidates to talk about issues and concerns related to Glenwood’s residents and residential neighborhoods.

Although uncontested, Ward 4 candidate Paula Stepp still participated in the forum. She zeroed in on the importance of broadband to the city’s economy.

“You need it at home, you need it in your schools, you need it in your hospitals, and you need it in your workplace. …When broadband is out, you are not working,” Stepp said.

Stepp also announced her formal opposition to the ¾-cent street sales tax question that’s posed to voters on the April 2 municipal election ballot. Stepp said she believes the city can find other means to pay for rebuilding city streets, without imposing a new tax.

Ward 3 race

Seeking the open Ward 3 seat being vacated by Todd Leahy, council candidate Jennifer Vanian wasted no time discussing what she views as the importance of establishing a sound composting program at the South Canyon Landfill.

“My plan is to address climate change on a local level,” Vanian said. “My plan is to start a robust compost food waste program that creates revenue at the landfill.”

According to Vanian, Pitkin County currently makes $2 million annually on a similar program, and Vanian wanted to see such an operation at the city’s landfill.

The confluence area, coupled with the Sixth Street redevelopment was also a primary concern for Vanian, who wanted to see riparian areas along the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers preserved, as well as more pedestrian and bike-friendly options for the areas.

Ksana Oglesby, also seeking the Ward 3 seat, explained her campaign was not focusing on one particular issue but rather spoke generally about the numerous tasks the next City Council would undoubtedly take on.

“As far as what makes me qualified, and why I think you should elect me, my background is in finance accounting, which is something that I feel is often times missing and that the City Council needs more of,” Oglesby said.

After running unsuccessfully for the at-large position two years ago, Charlie Willman is now seeking the Ward 3 seat. He spoke heavily about vacation rentals, an issue on which he said his position had “evolved.”

“One of the reasons I think they are evolving is because one of the strengths that I have as a person on a board or committee is I am going to listen to ideas,” Willman said.

Willman also explained his opposition to the $50 parking permit application fee that he said the current City Council “hastily,” enacted and hoped for its repeal. The matter is on the Thursday City Council agenda for reconsideration.

At Large race

While candidates in both the uncontested and contested races focused on specific policy, at-large candidate Erika Gibson used her five minutes to talk more about her background.

“I moved to Glenwood Springs when I was 32, straight out of law school,” Gibson said. “Previous to that, though, I have worked for the Colorado Governor’s Energy Office, I have interned for both state and United States senators. I moved to Glenwood Springs because I wanted to make it a permanent home.”

Gibson, the youngest candidate in the at-large race, felt that the current council lacked a voice representing Glenwood’s young professionals and hoped to fill that void, if elected.

Sitting City Councilor Jim Ingraham, who was appointed to the at-large seat last year, touted his 30-year career in finance and said he had the temperament for the job and keen ability to strike compromises on controversial issues.

“My most important issues are, one, repair and restore our crumbling infrastructure,” he said. “Number two, preserve and protect the character of our town and its neighborhoods. And, number three, oversight of your tax dollars.”

Ingraham has expressed his support for the ¾-cent street sales tax, and is part of the Fix Our Streets Now tax campaign committee.

At-large candidate Tony Hershey restated his opposition to the ¾-cent street sales tax, joining Stepp and Ward 3 candidate Vanian in opposing the tax. He explained the two fundamental roles he believed city government was responsible for.

“The first is to provide police protection, and we are fortunate in this community that we have an excellent police force and [Police Chief] Terry Wilson,” Hershey, a prosecutor with the 9th District Attorney’s Office, said.

“The second is to fix and maintain our infrastructure, particularly our streets,” he said.

Hershey said the solution to the city’s streets should not come from a new ¾-cent street tax, but rather from the city’s existing budget, which Hershey said was “rosy,” and “looked great.”

mabennett@postindependent.com

(Editor’s note: This story has been revised from the original online and print version to clarify that three City Council candidates have stated opposition to the city streets tax proposal on the April 2 ballot.)

Second of three debates zeroes in on North Glenwood territory

Candidates in the contested Ward 3 and At Large Glenwood Springs City Council races met for a second debate Thursday evening, this time, on the north side of the Colorado River.

Taking place at the Hotel Colorado and put on by the North Glenwood Caucus, candidates dove right into the issues those in attendance wanted discussed.

Namely, each candidate offered their vision for the North Landing site where the former Grand Avenue Bridge touched down, and the surrounding Sixth Street area that’s envisioned for redevelopment.

Ward 3 candidate Charlie Willman touted his eight-year tenure on the city’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) board. He recalled conversations he had with former DDA Executive Director Leslie Bethel, who died in December following a bout with cancer.

“We talked about … [the landing site] being an area that would be activated for a festival type of atmosphere,” Willman said.

Willman floated ideas such as art and car shows during the summer months as examples of the “atmosphere” he had in mind, but thought such exhibits would only work with trees providing shade and maintaining as much open space as possible.

Jennifer Vanian, also seeking the Ward 3 seat, liked the idea of public restrooms being on the north side of the river and showed her continued support for environmentally friendly options for Sixth Street.

“Have more green space, but I am also thinking we are more suited for xeriscaping, curbed paths and shade,” Vanian said.

The final Ward 3 candidate to answer, Ksana Oglesby, like Willman and Vanian, wanted to see the North Landing site and surrounding Sixth Street area not lose any of its open space.

“Whether that takes the form of a park or a plaza of some sort, to me, the ideal use would be some place where people could gather,” Oglesby said.

Additionally, Oglesby wanted Seventh and Sixth Street to act as a gateway to each other and promoted a symbiotic relationship between the two.

Calling the space between Devereux Road and the former Glenwood Springs Hydroelectric Plant building a “tourist corridor,” At Large candidate Tony Hershey wanted to see the area become even more pedestrian and tourist friendly, at the appropriate time.

“I am concerned about the city spending a lot of money that we clearly do not have on plans and charettes and diagrams and pictures and statues,” Hershey said.

While he agreed the ideas were nice, Hershey wanted to keep options for the North Landing open for future discussions when they were financially feasible.

At Large candidate Erika Gibson described the need to maintain the connectivity between Sixth Street and the downtown, particularly in the form of aesthetic similarities.

Gibson recognized the North Glenwood Caucus’ push to maintain open space, and said she liked that there wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction in favor of a two-story development.

Speaking to the larger Sixth Street area, Gibson believed the city could and should do more to incentivize appropriate, private development.

“I think the way to do that is to focus on some of the infrastructure like the sidewalks and pedestrian and bicycle friendly modes of transportation,” she said.

Gibson explained how that type of infrastructure would encourage the right type of developer and subsequent development for the Sixth Street area.

Current At Large City Councilor Jim Ingraham said the North Landing property belonged to city residents, and wanted to give them options for it.

“I do believe a consensus is starting to form and people are coalescing around an idea that is clearly open — some sort of plaza,” Ingraham said.

However the North Landing site is ultimately designed and implemented would set the tone for the entire Sixth Street area, he said.

“It is really important that we get it right,” said Ingraham, who is seeking formal election after being appointed to the seat vacated by former Councilwoman Kathryn Trauger last year. 

mabennett@postindependent.com

Money starting to talk in Glenwood City Council election

As ballots for Glenwood Springs’ April 2 election hit voters’ hands this week, candidates were required to file their first set of campaign finance reports with the City Clerk’s office on Tuesday.

According to Glenwood Springs City Clerk Catherine Fletcher, no official write-in candidates have filed for the now-uncontested Ward 1 and Ward 4 seats, where Steve Davis and Paula Stepp are running unopposed for the respective seats.

The two contested races include that for the At Large seat currently held by Councilor Jim Ingraham, and the Ward 3 seat being vacated by Councilman Todd Leahy, who cannot seek re-election due to term limits.

AT LARGE MONEY

As of Tuesday, the first mandatory filing date for campaign contributions and expenditures, Ingraham received the highest dollar amount, with total monetary contributions amounting to $4,931.

From that, the Committee to Elect Jim Ingraham had thus-far spent $2,453.98, leaving the campaign with $2,447.02 left on hand.

Ingraham was appointed to the at large seat in 2018 after former Councilwoman Kathryn Trauger vacated the seat due to work conflicts after taking a job with neighboring Pitkin County.

According to the report, Ingraham personally has put $900 toward the campaign. Among his largest donors so far have been, at $500 each, Mark and Mary Gould and Mary Boyd; at $400, John Haines; at $250, Henry and Sheryl Doll; at $220, Patricia Helling; and at $200, Rob Jankovsky and former Councilor Trauger.

Local restaurant owners Jonathan Gorst and James Cleaver also provided in-kind support for Ingraham valued at about $2,500 for hosting and catering campaign fundraising events.

At Large candidate Tony Hershey had received the second-highest amount of monetary contributions in the At Large race, amounting to $1,730 for the first filing period.

Tony Hershey for Council had spent $1,683.68, leaving the campaign with $46.32 on hand at the end of the reporting period.

Hershey contributed $1,000 to his own campaign. Most of his campaign’s contributions have been in the range of $150 or less; among them were donations from former City Councilor Stephen Bershenyi ($100) and Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky ($50)

Erika Gibson, also seeking the At Large seat, reported $900 in total monetary contributions, all from her own pockets at this point. Gibson for Glenwood spent $826.06 of that amount, leaving the campaign with $73.94 on hand.

AND IN WARD 3

In the Ward 3 race, candidate Charlie Willman led the three-candidate field with total monetary contributions amounting to $2,200, according to the Tuesday report filed with the city.

Willman had spent $1,660.79 of that amount, leaving the Committee to Elect Charlie Willman with $539.22 on hand at the end of the reporting period.

Willman reported a $250 personal contribution to his own campaign. His contributors also included some of Ingraham’s supporters, the Mark and Mary Gould and Mary Boyd, at $500 each.

Ward 3 Candidates Jennifer Vanian and Ksana Oglesby had not received any contributions as of the first filing deadline, nor did either candidate have formal committees.

However, each candidate still filed statements of personal expenditures.

Vanian, as of Tuesday, had itemized $696.98 worth of expenditures. And Oglesby, as of that same date, had itemized $551.85 in expenditures.

The campaign committees supporting and opposing the 0.75 percent streets tax question that is also on the April 2 ballot are not expected to file full campaign finance reports until next week.

mabennett@postindependent.com

Council candidates address homeless concerns, fate of Glenwood Springs Airport

In addition to numerous other topics covered at Monday’s Issues and Answers Forum, Glenwood Springs’ Ward 3 candidates took on the issue of homelessness, while the At Large contenders weighed in on the future of the city’s airport.

“It affects my ward in that we have a lot of homeless people who will walk through. I know we have found syringes in our front yard from time to time so it definitely is an issue,” said Ward 3 candidate Ksana Oglesby, who answered first in response to question about how the city’s homeless population had impacted her ward and what solutions the council could utilize to address those issues in the future.

Oglesby said she wanted to see the issue of homelessness addressed with more “heart and compassion,” and was in favor of studying ways in which other cities dealt with their homeless populations, as opposed to simply “kicking the can down the road.”

“If you do not put bathrooms downtown where everybody can use bathrooms, then people will go in the river and then you have created a problem,” Ward 3 candidate Jennifer Vanian answered.

Vanian believed the homeless population deserved to be treated with dignity and respect, and said she wanted mental health to play a larger role in the ongoing conversation. She said she would like to see a mental health center located in town.

Ward 3 candidate Charlie Willman agreed with Oglesby and Vanian that the city’s homeless population deserved to be treated with dignity and respect. But he had two concerns.

“We need to protect our citizens from being harassed by people on the street. … It is something that we have to work in conjunction with the Forest Service, the [Bureau of Land Management], the county on how to best make sure that the people who live in the hills do not start a fire and cause a problem,” Willman said.

While the At Large council candidates were not asked specifically about Glenwood’s homeless population, they were questioned about another complex issue: That being the future of the municipal airport.

Consultants have presented three options to the city regarding the future of the facility — expanded and improved aviation services, mixed-use redevelopment with a helipad to accommodate emergency flight services, or full residential redevelopment of the property.

Current At Large Councilor Jim Ingraham said he recognized the airport’s importance to the community, but also heard from those who wanted to see it developed to provide more housing in the area.

“I am not sure what the right answer is. It is premature to try to pick one,” Ingraham said. “Ultimately, that land belongs to our citizens, [and] they will pick. But, we need to provide them with options and information.”

At Large Candidate Erika Gibson, like Ingraham, wanted more information regarding possible land-use scenarios. She did emphasize the airport’s importance to the community.

“We need more information. But, one thing that I did hear loud and clear is that it does serve a real service to our hospital in terms of the landing pad for the helicopter [and] the refueling center,” Gibson said.

At Large Candidate Tony Hershey did not want to see the airport removed and argued that if it did, Glenwood would never have an airport within its city limits again.

“If South Midland gets any worse we are going to need that airport because the people are going to have to fly to get to their homes,” Hershey halfway joked before showing his support for the airport.

“There will never be another airport within the city limits, and I don’t want to lose that resource. I think it is way too important,” Hershey said.

mabennett@postindependent.com

Street tax looms over Glenwood At-Large council debate

Three candidates for the At-Large City Council seat presented their visions for Glenwood Springs and discussed a wide range of issues Monday. But the most prevalent topic to arise at the Issues and Answers forum was the proposed street tax and bond referendum also on the April 2 ballot.

Voters throughout the city elect the At-Large councilor seats. Questions at the forum, sponsored by the Glenwood Springs Chamber and Resort Association, KMTS and the Post Independent, touched on many specific issues, including the Glenwood Springs Mall, the city airport, South Canyon Landfill, short-term vacation rentals, and encouraging a diverse economy.

The candidates on the ballot, Jim Ingraham, the incumbent appointed to the seat in 2018, local water attorney Erika Gibson, and prosecuting attorney Tony Hershey, each had two-minute opening and closing statements, and one minute to answer each posed questions.

Ingraham quoted Winston Churchill in his opening statement: “Politics isn’t a game, it is earnest business.” He said he is not politically ambitious, but decided to run for reelection on the advice of constituents who said he was “a good listener, thoughtful, communicated well.”

Gibson, who moved to Glenwood Springs three years ago, said her vision is to make the city more viable for the next generation.

“As much as we want to be in Glenwood, I am currently experiencing how hard it is to live here. It’s not just affordable rentals; it is trying to find a place to start your first home. I want affordability to be a more consistent focus for City Council,” Gibson said.

As the only candidate for City Council opposed to the street tax, Hershey made his position clear.

“I think this City Council has abdicated its responsibility,” in not keeping up with street maintenance, which will now cost $56 million, Hershey said.

Hershey said he had identified $2 million in the current budget that could be used immediately to repair streets without a sales tax.

“If I sound like a broken record, it’s because I am. If we raise our sales tax, people are going to go shopping in Rifle, in Eagle, in Grand Junction, even in Aspen,” Hershey said in answer to one of the questions.

If passed, the sales tax would push the city’s tax rate to 9.35 percent, the highest in the region besides Snowmass Village, which has a rate of 10.4 percent. The sales tax rate at Glenwood Meadows, which has an extra 1.5 percent public improvements fee, would jump to more than 10.9 percent, at least until 2025 when the PIF is set to expire.

Hershey offered that money from the Seventh Street project and funds from other parts of the budget (he mentioned that an intern was being paid who didn’t need to be) could be used to bond for the street restoration without a tax.

As a current member of the council, Ingraham defended the work of the city in the past year, noting the completion of the Grand Avenue Bridge, restoration started on 27th Street, Seventh Street beautification, Veltus Park improvements, the Hanging Lake shuttle, and a plan for fixing the infrastructure.

Regarding the Seventh Street project, “it was worthwhile to spend a couple extra million to make it a very nice, attractive space,” Ingraham said.

“A lot of good things have been accomplished in the last year by [the council] working together a coming up with practical solutions,” Ingraham said.

“What could this council do much better? Communicating with its citizens,” he said.

Gibson mostly agreed with Ingraham that the sales tax was the only solution to fix the roads, and that Seventh Street needed the money to be activated, particularly after the bridge reconstruction. But she also noted that the cost of the project and some of the processes concerned citizens.

“I think it’s now time to focus our efforts elsewhere,” she said.

On other issues, there was far less disagreement. Hershey did criticize the Urban Renewal Authority being formed to encompass the West Glenwood mall property as a “bailout” of a private business owner who made a bad decision.

Ingraham said it was not about a bailout, but an act to fix a blighted area. Gibson said what started out as a contract issue “turned into a problem for our community,” and now the area has real potential.

tphippen@postindependent.com

(Editor’s note: This story has been revised from the print version to more accurately reflect the exact sales tax rates that are being proposed.)

Glenwood’s Ward 3 candidates tackle downtown issues

Several downtown issues topped the list of questions at Monday’s Issues and Answers Forum for three candidates seeking the open Ward 3 Glenwood Springs City Council seat in next month’s election.

Vying for the seat are local attorney Charlie Willman, longtime resident and community activist Jennifer Vanian, and Ksana Oglesby, finance officer for the nonprofit Mountain Valley Developmental Services.

Only voters residing within Ward 3 — covering the area east of Grand Avenue from Seventh to 14th streets, and the neighborhoods immediately north of the Colorado River and Interstate 70 — can vote for the seat in the April 2 mail ballot election.

Oglesby and Willman both touted their volunteer work on the city’s Financial Advisory Board, past and present, in qualifying them for a City Council seat.

“There needs to be more financial knowledge on City Council, which is the reason that I’m running,” Oglesby said.

Willman, a current member of the FAB and past volunteer on the city’s Downtown Development Authority board and Transportation Commission, said that background is important in understanding city issues.

Vanian, meanwhile, spoke to some of the concerns downtown residents have with the city’s focus on recent downtown improvements aimed at boosting tourism. Among them, she said, is the ongoing investment into Seventh Street beautification, which was one of the questions asked of the ward candidates.

“While that does need to be finished, I have felt like there could have been a little more balance in looking at the community as a whole,” Vanian said.

Willman and Oglesby agreed that Seventh Street and other downtown beautification projects shouldn’t be done to the detriment of other city infrastructure needs.

But, “the completion of the Seventh Street project is very important to the city,” Willman added. “It sounds like a big cost, but the return on the investment, I think, will be many fold.”

Added Oglesby, “We are, at heart, a tourist town. And I think it’s important to make our downtown an area where tourists want to come.”

That goes for future improvements along Sixth Street as that area begins to see similar beautification efforts, the three candidates agreed.

The Sixth Street corridor has “huge potential,” Vanian said.

“I see Sixth Street as the best opportunity to create a healing community … where we can rebuild and make a beautiful gem over there,” Vanian said.

Oglesby and Willman said they would like to see the area become more walkable and bikeable.

“My vision would be to make it into an extension of the current downtown,” Oglesby said.

Said Willman, “We need to make sure the people staying in the hotels in that area and living in north Glenwood have the ability to move through the neighborhood in a pedestrian-friendly way.”

Each of the Ward 3 candidates said they disagree with a recent City Council decision to impose a downtown resident parking permit application fee of $50. Council has since backed away from that plan, and may rescind the fee.

The candidates also touched on issues ranging from ways the city can address the worker housing shortage, concerns about the city homeless population, and the recently introduced SB 181 in the state Legislature.

The bill proposes sweeping changes to the way oil and gas operations are regulated in Colorado. All three of the ward candidates said they support local control over such operations.

jstroud@postindependent.com

Glenwood Springs’ Issues & Answers Forum Monday night

Glenwood Springs’ Issues and Answers Night takes place Monday evening, inviting City Council candidates to share their views and providing a forum for supporters and opponents of the proposed 3/4-cent (0.75 percent) streets tax to debate the topic.

Ballots for the April 2 city election are being mailed to all registered voters in Glenwood Springs on Monday.

Moderated by KMTS News Director Ron Milhorn, the event begins at 5 p.m. Monday at Glenwood Springs City Hall, located at 101 W. Eigth St. It will also be streamed live on KMTS’ YouTube channel.

According to Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association President and CEO Angie Anderson, all six of the At Large and Ward 3 candidates are expected to be on hand to field questions in their respective debates.

The At Large race includes Tony Hershey, who works as a deputy district attorney for the 9th District Attorney’s Office; Erika Gibson, an attorney with the law firm Balcomb and Green; and current At Large City Councilor Jim Ingraham, a retired finance professional who will seek formal election to the seat. Ingraham was appointed to the seat last year following the resignation of former councilor Kathryn Trauger.

“Each candidate or issue representative has been asked to prepare a brief, 2-minute opening statement and 2-minute closing statement,” Anderson said. “There will be one minute assigned for answering questions asked by the moderator.”

According to Anderson, organizers have prepared and collected questions from community members in advance.

“[The questions] will be sorted by a media panel to avoid duplication and to ensure that a wide variety of topics are addressed in the short period of time,” Anderson said.

The Ward 3 (east and north sides of downtown) race includes Ksana Oglesby, who works for Mountain Valley Developmental Services; local attorney Charlie Willman, a 2016 candidate for one of the two At-Large City Council seats; and longtime community activist Jennifer Vanian. The Ward 3 seat is being vacated by Todd Leahy, who is term-limited.

Running uncontested for the Ward 4 seat is Paula Stepp, a candidate for Garfield County commissioner last fall. She will provide a 5-minute statement. The Ward 4 seat is being vacated by current Mayor Michael Gamba, who is also term-limited.

Current Ward 1 Councilor Steve Davis, also running unopposed, is unable to attend the event, Anderson said.

The election forum will also feature a debate regarding the city’s proposed ¾-cent streets sales tax, which would raise $56 million over 20 years to rebuild failing streets and underground utilities throughout Glenwood.

Jonathan Godes, representing the campaign to Fix Our Streets, and Ted Edmonds, representing the Committee For Responsible Taxation, will provide the pro and con perspectives for this portion of the event.

“They will follow the same format as the candidates,” Anderson said. “I hope that Issues and Answers helps voters to make an informed decision in the election. The event provides a great opportunity for voters to hear from all the candidates and issue representatives at once, providing insights into similarities and differences.”

The Post Independent will also be providing coverage of the event, including Facebook live video of some segments.

mabennett@postindependent.com