Candidates speak on housing, transportation
All four Garfield County commissioner candidates tackled questions on affordable and low-income housing, public transportation, and funding for the county’s human service programs at Wednesday’s Issues & Answers Forum. The forum, sponsored by the Glenwood Springs Resort Association and the Human Services Commission, attracted more than 60 people to the Glenwood Springs City Council chambers during a two-hour morning session. The event was free and open to the public. Commissioners responded to about a half-dozen questions posed by audience members and by moderator Shelly Hanan, chairperson of the Human Service Commission, at Wednesday morning’s forum. Here are two examples of how each answered a question about low-income housing, and a second question on public transportation. Low-income housingTom Ziemann, executive director of Catholic Charities, asked candidates about the need in the county for low-income housing.”Carbondale voted down a housing project Tuesday,” said Ziemann, referring to the 8th Street Village. “We keep seeing low-income housing go further and further downvalley. Do you see a role for the county in resolving this problem?”District 3 incumbent Commissioner Larry McCown answered first, saying that the county has already taken a lead in this issue, requiring 10 percent of each new residential development to be designated for affordable housing. He added that the price of land makes it difficult to make housing more affordable.Ziemann said affordable housing and low-income rental housing are two different things. McCown said if a developer came with a proposal to build such housing, he would be willing to listen. District 2 challenger Greg Jeung said that he worked with Glenwood’s housing commission when he was on city council and was a part of developing a low-income West Glenwood apartment complex. He said he would like to do a land survey to see what property is available, and create partnerships, working with the private sector. He said worker housing could have been put into place at the Glenwood Meadows site, that could have been converted to low-income housing when the project was completed.District 2 incumbent John Martin said economic development loans are currently available, but that no one has stepped forward to take advantage of them. And he said that the Supreme Court does not allow government to control rents. “How many people provided you with a house?” he asked the crowd. “Let’s be honest.” District 3 challenger, Rifle Mayor Keith Lambert said Rifle has been providing low-income housing for the past 20 years. “We’ve carried the brunt of the transient worker,” he said, adding that it takes partnerships between government and private industry to attract grants. “I advocate that the county be an active partner in addressing this issue.” Public transportationDeb Stewart, who serves on the Human Services Commission and works with Rifle senior services, asked the candidates about public transportation.”Do you support the concept of mass transit, and do you think that putting money into public transportation is a better answer than expanding highways?” she asked. Jeung said he supports expanding public transportation to the west, even though it means that vehicle registration fees will increase. He added that he thinks public transit, like RFTA bus service, provides a better option that building bigger roads, and building more parking lots. “Parking structures are expensive,” Jeung said, “and the price of fuel is high.” “I agree with everything Greg said and more,” Lambert said. “The time is now. I support the Traveler (the senior citizen transport van). It’s a wonderful service. It helps seniors be part of our community.”He added that along with public transportation, he also favors trail systems because “they meet the needs of many.” “Do I support public transportation? I do,” said McCown. “The Traveler, school buses – these are critical to seniors and kids. But we need to remember, we live in the U.S., in a free society, and it’s not mandated to ride public transportation. We have the freedom to get into our cars and go where we want.”McCown said that commissioners have already decided to put a tax question on the ballot in November for voters in unincorporated Garfield County to support a public transportation tax. “Let the voters decide,” he said. He didn’t feel roads and pubic transportation were mutually exclusive.”You have to have roads to have public transportation,” he said. John Martin said that the concept of mass transit is valid, since it gives people a choice. “But the world economy is going to force us into mass transit,” he said.He favors balancing public transportation with roads expansion.”You can also choose to ride your bike, or live closer to where you work,” Martin said. Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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