Carbondale hopefuls: Left, right, in between |

Carbondale hopefuls: Left, right, in between

From left to right and straight down the middle.

Opinions ranged across the ideological spectrum at Carbondale’s election forum Monday night, and trustee candidate comments were often blunt, apparently honest, and at times soul-searching.

One question had to do with the way the board of trustees sometimes treat the public at meetings. Incumbent Fred Williams leaned forward with his elbows on the table and replied, “We cop an attitude sometimes … we say (to the public) `come up, sit down, shut up’ … it’s terrible; maybe we need to be spanked for this.”

On the topic of affordable housing, Barry Maggert, a Libertarian, simply said “No” when asked if he favors government subsidies.

Krista Paradise, a Green Party member, said she is not opposed to a property tax hike, and that sales taxes are regressive and a burden on the poor. “Second home owners and people who have large houses should pay their share (through property taxes),” said Paradise, an incumbent.

Carbondale residents vote on three board seats April 2, and the nine candidates are incumbents Williams, Paradise and Mark Whalen, plus Scott Chaplin, Maureen “Moe” Miles, Maggert, Chris Kelsey, Russell Hedman, and former trustee David Rippe.

Most of the questions during the three-hour forum came from the audience. The topics that drew the most discussion included affordable housing, the town’s declining economic situation, and the proposed Crystal River Marketplace on Highway 133.

Questioners asked whether candidates support or oppose the 247,000-square-foot Marketplace.

Maggert, Miles, Whalen and Rippe said they support the Marketplace, or support it with conditions.

Hedman said he opposes the Marketplace, which includes space for a 125,000-square-foot retailer.

Williams didn’t give the project unequivocal support but said a Highway 133 location is “where it should be.”

Paradise said she couldn’t comment because the trustees are reviewing it.

Chaplin said the town needs to determine how the Marketplace will affect traffic, and whether there will be a net gain in sales tax, or just a shift in existing business from one place to another.

Town manager John Hier has said the town will start running at a deficit next year if sales taxes don’t increase. The options are an economic development push to increase sales taxes, an increase in property taxes, or a decrease in services.

Chaplin said the town’s economic crisis is “a little overblown.” Paradise agreed, saying, “This is an issue we need to address.”

Maggert referred to a family balancing its budget, and said, “Our first priority is to cut the budget, not look for sources of new revenue.”

Most of the trustees ranked economic development as the best way to address the economic situation, followed by reduced services and a property tax hike.

The question of affordable housing was couched in the framework of Roaring Fork school district teachers and government subsidies. Most of the candidates favored affordable housing. Kelsey was the only one to offer a specific comment, when he said the recently denied Meadowood Ranch project was “a missed opportunity.”

The topic of Carbondale’s Latino population didn’t come up until late in the meeting, but everyone seemed to agree it would be good if Latinos were more involved in the community. The questioner asked what can be done to integrate the town’s different segments.

“The board of trustees must seek out minority opinions,” Kelsey said.

Paradise said, “It’s somewhat arrogant to feel groups in the community should come to us rather than we to them.”

Whalen said the town should be thinking about acceptance rather than assimilation, and get away from “we” and “them,” “But it’s a slow process,” he added.

Chaplin included senior citizens when he said he doesn’t want to look back in 20 years and see the town didn’t welcome “everyone who wants to be part of the community.”

The night’s discussion also include nuts-and-bolts talk about the poor shape of the town’s ballfields.

“The town’s been doing a good job of turf management, but the problem is overuse,” said David Rippe, who served as a trustee from 1996 to 2000. “There aren’t enough ballfields. The key is more fields, now.”

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