Brenner versus White for District 8 senator | PostIndependent.com
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Brenner versus White for District 8 senator

The Senate District 8, race is a battle between Republican Rep. Al White, R-Hayden, and Steamboat Springs resident Ken Brenner, a Democrat. Both men are running to replace Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, who is term-limited and not running for re-election.

Senate District 8 covers most of Eagle County, along with Jackson, Routt, Moffat, Rio Blanco and Garfield counties.

Name: Ken Brenner



Age: 54

Political affiliation: Democrat



Occupation: Coach/therapist

Education: B.A. Regis University

What are the top three issues facing northwest Colorado, in order of importance?

1) Protecting our water supply, both in terms of quantity and quality.

2) Dealing with pressure from natural gas development and the direct impacts to Parachute, Rifle, Silt and the rest of Garfield County.

3) Education funding.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) have tentatively approved about 90 rules for the state’s oil and gas industry. Do you think the commission has gone too far or not far enough?

The new rules are a good first step. Given the intensity of drilling and development of new technology, like directional drilling, it’s important they were updated. Now they must be adopted and enforced. It will be important to monitor air and water quality, wildlife habitat and impacts to the surrounding communities in order to understand their effectiveness. The new rules are also useful in leveling the playing field so that all the energy companies are held to the same standard.

Garfield County already has about 5,000 active wells and it is expected that there will be about 1,000 new wells drilled in the county until 2015. That development is causing stress to the area’s infrastructure. How would you work toward assisting the county to pay for upgrades or rebuilding of area infrastructure like the Interstate 70 interchange?

In Colorado, rebuilding infrastructure, like the I-70 interchange in Parachute, is usually paid for by the business or industry causing the need for the upgrade. Severance tax, federal mineral lease royalties and local energy taxes have not kept up with the impacts to our roads, water supply and wastewater treatment, schools, health care and public safety. As state senator, I will work to ensure that industry pays its own way so that these essential services are properly funded. Colorado residents, whether in Glenwood Springs or Steamboat Springs should not have to subsidize energy companies benefiting from development of natural gas.

The Roaring Fork Valley and surrounding communities have large populations of Latinos. What is your view on immigration in the state and how must communities like Glenwood Springs build a better relationship with Latino residents?

We need comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level that leads to a clear path for citizenship. Immigrants that want to be here and work legally should be allowed to. Part of the reform should be requiring those who are not here legally to leave.

I have knocked on the front doors in many Latino neighborhoods. They have never been anything but polite and courteous. Simply saying hello when you see or work with the Latino population will help to integrate them into Glenwood Springs.

Does the state have a role to play in providing affordable housing in northwest Colorado?

Affordable Housing is chiefly a local issue. It’s up to county and city governments to work together to develop a comprehensive, countywide housing plan with a specific implementation strategy. Each community will contribute support for affordable housing initiatives that work for their constituents.

The plan should give people the opportunity to live near where they work. Good land use planning is more easily supported by transit. The state should support and assist local governments with specific rules about housing and make sure they have appropriate funding mechanisms.

How would you protect Colorado’s water as a state senator?

It will be my top priority to keep Western Slope water on the Western Slope, not in a pipe going to the Front Range. If we allow for our in-basin needs, meet the Colorado River Compact obligation and plan for the decreased water production caused by climate change, then there is no extra water for diversion.

I will protect recreation water rights as a constitutionally guaranteed use of the state’s water resources. I will support changes that will enhance in-stream flow programs. I have found funding for water-quality monitoring that has been chronically underfunded. I will champion these issues.

There have been calls for an investigation of gas prices here in northwest Colorado. Do you support possible legislation against gas price gouging?

Absolutely! I immediately responded to a August Post Independent story recognizing Garfield County as having the highest gasoline prices in Colorado by promising to find an answer why. In August, I asked the Colorado Assistant Attorney General for Consumer Protection to help me find out why we are paying over 50 cents a gallon more than Grand Junction, only an hours drive away.

My opponent dismissed this as a “cheap campaign trick”. Now, a month from the election, my opponent is asking the attorney general to check into this after eight years of doing nothing except voting against price gouging legislation in 2006.

How will the Western Slope weather the current economic crisis roiling the economy? Must anything be done locally or across the state to stave off problems for local residents?

The national financial crisis could have serious consequences throughout Colorado. We can work on foreclosure counseling, renegotiating loans and encouraging reforms to the mortgage industry to support homeowners and buyers.

We must embrace the Governor’s initiative for a New Energy Economy. We can build on our already vibrant energy sector with new jobs that support sustainable, clean energy alternatives. I will advocate tax credits and low interest loans for energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements to homes and businesses. This saves money for consumers, creates new jobs and stimulates the development of new technology.

What are the greatest problems the state faces and what are your solutions to solve them?

We are 49th among states in funding of public schools, and in the bottom 10 percent in funding transportation, healthcare and higher education. Colorado deserves better. We need fresh ideas and new leadership.

Educational opportunity is the best long-term economic strategy. We must prioritize investing in our future ” the children of Colorado.

We need to give Coloradans the opportunity to invest in the infrastructure of their state in a way that makes it possible to fund the things that matter. That means taking a hard look at amendments like Gallagher, TABOR and the School Finance Act. Our children deserve it and our economy needs it.

Name: Al White

Political affiliation: Republican

Occupation: Businessman and legislator

Education: Studied political science at Western Illinois University then volunteered for military duty. Returned to the University of Colorado to study English. No degree earned but began a successful 25-year ski business.

What are the top three issues facing northwest Colorado, in order of importance?

1. Near -term: The biggest issue we are facing is maintaining a healthy and sustainable economy. The world crisis is swirling around us and is bound to touch our lives.

2. Near -and -long term: Water is going to continue to be an issue of significant importance.

3. Beetle infestation is an urgent problem that requires the attention of the legislature.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) has tentatively approved about 90 rules for the state’s oil and gas industry. Do you think the commission has gone too far or not far enough?

At this point, the regulations seem to be a good place to start. After the COGCC and the industry have had a year of operation under the new rules, we will know better where changes need to be made, either tightened if health, environment, citizens and wildlife issues are not properly addressed, or loosened if the new rules prove uneconomically workable for industry and we see a flight of capital expenditure from our state to others.

The good news is they are rules and can be changed when problems arise.

Garfield County already has about 5,000 active wells and it is expected that there will be about 1,000 new wells drilled in the county until 2015 when drilling is expected to move toward Rio Blanco County, according to a recent report from the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado.

That development is causing stress to the area’s infrastructure. How would you work toward to assisting the county to pay for upgrades or rebuilding of area infrastructure like the Parachute Interstate 70 interchange?

I believe we need to vote no on Amendment 58 and revisit the issue at the next general election. The current question returns way too little money to the areas where production impacts are taking place.

Also, the funding for higher education in Amendment 58 doesn’t address higher (education’s) need for operating income. In a year or so, the oil and gas industry will have had an opportunity to digest their new costs of doing business under the rule change.

Once they realize it is still a workable business climate, I believe they will be willing partners in crafting a ballot question to address an increase in mineral severance taxes, and I believe they will want to see more dollars going into local infrastructures where they do business.

In short, we need to do whatever we can to retain more taxes from resource production in the impacted areas.

The Roaring Fork Valley and surrounding communities have large populations of Latinos. What is your view on immigration in the state and how can communities like Glenwood Springs build a better relationship with Latino residents?

The community needs to openly welcome those Latinos that are legal residents in the county. Community fairs celebrating the Hispanic culture would be a great place to start. The federal and state governments need to work harder to ensure that people in the country and state are here legally. I believe the key to this is ensuring that only legal residents are able to secure employment. No jobs, no illegals.

Does the state have a role to play in providing affordable housing in northwest Colorado?

The state already plays a part in our housing issues through the Colorado Division of Housing. Further, I think it is the legislature’s job to provide legislation that enables local cities and counties to address their individual housing issues.

How would you protect Colorado’s water as a state senator?

I have already played a large role in protecting our water. I carried legislation that created the permanent Water Resources Interim Committee. It is the job of the committee to study water projects, issues, and concerns around the state and then create legislation to address those water considerations.

In the legislation creating the committee, I provided for the ability of West Slope legislators on the committee to veto any legislation that is averse to West Slope water interests. On the water committee, as opposed to other committees, there is a requirement of a (two-thirds) vote approval from members. That gives the West Slope members veto power over well intended, but misguided water legislation recommended from East Slope legislators.

There have been calls for an investigation of gas prices here in northwest Colorado. Do you support possible legislation against gas price gouging?

The legislature has already considered legislation to deal with gas price gouging ” as recently as 3 years ago ” and it failed miserably!

The problem is how do you determine what is gouging and what is pricing based on other cost of doing business issues? So no, I do not believe legislation is the way to go. Statutes already exist to ensure against collusion, if it can be proved, as well as any number of other consumer fraud problems.

The (Colorado Attorney General’s Office is well equipped to investigate these consumer abuse issues, not the legislature. Absent illegal pricing schemes, the best solution is to increase competition by convincing Safeway, and City Market to install gas pumps that offer discounts based on grocery purchases. It worked in Grand Junction and more recently in Grand County.

How will the Western Slope weather the current economic crisis roiling the economy? Must anything be done locally or across the state to stave off problems for local residents?

In the (2006) legislative session, I was prime sponsor of a bill that allocates $20 million annually to market tourism in the state of Colorado ” both nationally, and internationally.

A recent study on the first year’s partial funding of this bill has proven that for every dollar spent to market our state, the incremental increase in tourism visits provided $6.25 to the state treasury, and $6.50 to cities and counties treasuries. The study also indicated that for every state dollar spent, $200 were returned to the private sector.

The conclusion of the study was that an additional $2 billion came into Colorado in (2007), because of that $10 million marketing expenditure. My concern going forward is maintaining funding in the next budget year. Given the problems in the economy, it is going to be critical to maintain a significant funding level for tourism marketing in our state.

Statutes provide that if revenues are off, as we currently anticipate they will be, the Joint Budget Committee will determine what amount, if any, will be allocated to tourism funding. My position as a member of the Joint Budget Committee will be critical to this continued funding. Simply put, if I’m not there, there will be no voice championing the importance of tourism funding on the Joint Budget Committee.

What are the greatest problems the state faces and what are you solutions to solve them?

The economy is the greatest problem the state faces. It will be necessary to tighten our belt in order to produce a balanced budget. As a member of the Joint Budget Committee, I will be making those budget reduction decisions with consideration of the needs in Northwest Colorado, Senate District 8, and the citizens I serve.


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