HD57 candidates touch on housing, economic issues
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Three candidates vying for the newly redrawn Colorado House District 57 seat addressed issues ranging from economic development to the lagging housing market, at a Wednesday forum sponsored by the Glenwood Springs Realtors Association.
District 57 now includes Garfield, Rio Blanco and Moffat counties, following redistricting of state legislative boundaries earlier this year.
Candidates for the open seat include Democrat Jo Ann Baxter of Craig, Republican Bob Rankin of Carbondale, and Libertarian Dan Enright of Silt.
The state Legislature should work to find ways to bring in new businesses and help existing businesses in northwest Colorado, the candidates agreed. That, in turn, should help the housing market rebound, they said.
“Too many homes are underwater and in foreclosure sale throughout the district,” Baxter acknowledged.
The key is working with local communities to create jobs and build the economy. The GarCo Sewing Works, created through a partnership between Colorado Mountain College and Garfield County, is a good example of taking people from welfare to the workplace, Baxter said.
Working at the state level to provide more educational opportunities, transportation options and promote tourism in the region are also important, she said.
“I think I can work in the middle, as opposed to the fringes, to find solutions and common ground,” Baxter said.
Energy efficiency programs from homes and businesses are also a form of economic development, she said.
“That’s a big deal for real estate, and I do think it’s something that can help homeowners retain value and make a better profit when they sell,” she added.
Rankin pointed to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s efforts to pull together diverse interests to create the Economic Blueprint for Colorado. Contained in that are a variety of opportunities for energy development, tourism and agriculture that can benefit northwest Colorado, he said.
“I support that plan, and if legislation is required in any way to put the plan in place, I would support it and be a part of the process,” Rankin said.
“There are also some gems buried in that plan about streamlining the permitting process and doing away with regulatory barriers,” he said.
Rankin touted the creation of an “energy technology research center” in the region to study everything from renewable energy sources to oil and gas and oil shale research and development.
Enright challenged those gathered at the forum to buck the two-party system and consider the Libertarian brand of fiscal conservatism and free will.
“We need a promoter, not a politician” in the state House of Representatives, he said. “We need to go out and attract businesses that are going to benefit this district. Instead, I see a lot spending of money hand over fist on nothing.”
Enright criticized the recently adopted “Glen Wood” cartoon character for Glenwood Springs’ tourism campaign as an example.
“We need to be promoting what’s really going to sell,” he said, pointing to assets such as the new Valley View Hospital cancer center.
“We also need to be promoting housing sales to people in the oil and gas industry who have money and want to locate here,” Enright said. “A lot of people are packing up and leaving North Dakota, and coming back to Colorado.”
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Over 75,000 hikers visited Hanging Lake during this year’s peak season. Via signage, the city hopes to point more of those hikers also in the direction of downtown Glenwood Springs.