Garfield County commissioner candidates talk distinctions, approach to housing needs at Realtors’ forum
The race for the Garfield County District 1 Commissioner seat in next month’s election pits executive experience against an engineers’ problem-solving mindset, in the words of the two candidates vying for the position.
Democrat Ryan Gordon is challenging Republican incumbent Tom Jankovsky for commissioner in the Nov. 8 election, for which ballots are to be sent to registered county voters on Oct. 17.
As a practicing civil engineer and partner in the longtime engineering firm of SGM in Glenwood Springs, Gordon said he hopes to bring his engineering mentality to the job of county commissioner.
“Engineers, for better or worse, we’re problem-solvers,” he said during the Sept. 28 Glenwood Springs Association of Realtors candidates forum at the Glenwood Springs Community Center.
“We’re problem-solvers, and we’re very practical and pragmatic,” said the Glenwood Springs native, who currently is town engineer for Snowmass Village, water engineer for the town of Minturn and was previously town engineer for Parachute.
“I want to bring that mentality to the commissioners’ role,” he said. “Whenever we do projects, one of the first things we do is involve all the stakeholders and talk to everybody who is being affected.
“I really think we need to do that extensively at the county level because our problems are pretty complex and challenging, and they generally need a regional solution,” he said. “That spirit of cooperation and collaboration must be how we move forward and resolve a lot of our issues.”
Jankovsky, who is seeking a fourth term as commissioner, touts his longtime business experience as the former general manager and part owner of Sunlight Mountain Resort and his volunteer work with the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association and Colorado Ski Country USA.
“What differentiates the two of us is experience, (especially) executive experience and administrative experience,” he said. “I have a lot of executive experience and a lot of public service experience. … You also know who I am, and that I have common sense.”
Both candidates said their attributes can be applied to one of the key issues in the campaign, and the one that happened to dominate questioning from the Realtors’ group — housing availability and affordability.
“When people talk about economic development, housing is our number one concern,” Jankovsky said. “If we can’t house employees, we’re not going to grow.”
Building more types of housing in the county, especially within District 1, which takes in Carbondale and much of Glenwood Springs, will require all sectors to be involved, he said.
That means the private sector, in addition to government and nonprofit agencies, he said.
“The private sector is still going to play the biggest part in that,” Jankovsky said.
But, Gordon criticized the current Board of County Commissioners for not immediately joining the new Roaring Fork Housing Coalition, which aims to join forces between area governments and other partner organizations to develop more affordable housing in the region.
“This must be a regional solution, and we must all work together,” he said. “I feel we should have taken the first step and be the leaders out there. One of the ways we can work to address affordable housing is being the leaders and stepping up and showing that we care and want to do something.”
Jankovsky noted that he was out-voted 2-1 on the Commission on the question of whether to join the Housing Coalition and provide $10,000 in seed money.
He does have concerns about the regional approach, and that the coalition seems weighted toward Aspen and Pitkin County interests.
“It doesn’t include anything west of Glenwood Springs,” Jankovsky said, offering that New Castle, Silt, Rifle and Parachute should be involved if it’s to be a true regional effort.
Gordon said he supports Glenwood Springs ballot question 2C that’s also on the Nov. 8 ballot, which would increase the city’s accommodations (lodging) tax by 2.5% to help fund affordable housing efforts.
But, it’s just a drop in the bucket in terms of addressing the broader problem, he said.
“Glenwood alone is not going to solve this because it’s an issue that is affecting everyone from Aspen to Parachute,” Gordon said. “We have to be really creative in how we address affordable housing … and to turn over every stone for how we raise money to do that.”
Jankovsky said he is neutral on the city ballot question and a similar question before Carbondale voters to tax short-term vacation rentals, also to address affordable housing needs.
However, “I am kind of leaning in support,” he admitted.
“It’s a tax that doesn’t affect the residents of Glenwood Springs, and it will generate funds that are available for affordable and attainable housing,” Jankovsky said.
Statewide, Proposition 123 on the fall ballot, which would take some dollars out of Colorado’s TABOR refund pool and put it into local grants for affordable housing projects, also has some merit and could bolster those efforts in Garfield County, he said.
Gordon said the county should be careful in allowing developers to transfer their 10% requirement for inclusionary (deed-restricted) housing units to other entities, as happened recently with an Oak Meadows subdivision developer that plans to pay Habitat for Humanity to build those units elsewhere in the county.
“It’s important that we hold land developers’ feet to the fire on this,” Gordon said. “It’s a slippery slope to start to defer that requirement to others.”
Jankovsky said it made sense in that particular case because Oak Meadows and many other rural residential subdivisions are often too far removed from other public services, such as transportation, to work well for residents of affordable housing.
The county commissioner candidates, along with candidates for county clerk and recorder and treasurer, Colorado House District 57 and Senate District 8, meet again at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday for the Glenwood Springs Issues and Answers Forum.
What: Issues and Answers Forum, presented by the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, Glenwood Springs Post Independent and Colorado West Broadcasting (KMTS).
When: 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 5
Where: Glenwood Springs City Hall, 101 W. Eighth St.; virtual attendance also offered
- Elizabeth Velasco and Perry Will, candidates for Colorado House of Representative District 57
- Dylan Roberts and Matt Solomon, candidates for Colorado Senate District 8
- Ryan Gordon and Tom Jankovsky, candidates for Garfield County Board of Commissioners District 1
- Jackie Harmon and Becky Moller, candidates for Garfield County Clerk and Recorder
- Carrie Couey and Aron Diaz, candidates for Garfield County Treasurer
- Representatives for and against Glenwood Springs Ballot Issue 2C, “Accommodations Tax for Workforce Housing.”
Note: Questions are being prepared in advance by a media panel to avoid duplication and to ensure that a wide variety of topics are addressed. Questions will not be taken from the audience during the event.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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