Heavy equipment operator faces incumbent in 57th District race | PostIndependent.com

Heavy equipment operator faces incumbent in 57th District race

Lynn Burton

The 57th District General Assembly race pits an incumbent Republican who touts his legislative accomplishments against a Democratic challenger who says organized labor needs a bigger voice in Colorado government.

Al White, 52, a Winter Park Republican, was named Freshman Legislator of the Year by the Independent Bankers Association of Colorado in 2000, and Legislator of the Year in 2001 by Colorado Ski County USA. He said he is the only member of the House on the Colorado Tourism Board, and the Speaker of the House recently appointed him to the Legislative Audit Committee.

Terry Carwile, 54, a Craig Democrat, is a union member and heavy equipment operator at the Trapper coal mine near Craig.

“I think I more accurately reflect my district’s values and culture. There’s not enough representation for working people,” Carwile said.

The 57th District covers the west part of Garfield County, starting west of Silt, plus Moffat, Rio Blanco, Routt, Jackson and Grand counties.

The Glenwood Springs Post Independent asked the two candidates about their views on four issues: rural health care, wildfire control, budget cuts and the drought.

Rural health care

Carwile said he favors preferred-provider systems and health management organizations, which can be structured for businesses and individuals similar to the method his union uses to deliver health care insurance. When businesses and individuals get together in groups, they can access health care providers such as Sloan’s Lake, Carwile said.

Carwile said he isn’t sure how the Legislature could become involved in this approach to health care, “But I’m sure somebody has thought of this idea.”

White said the state mandates “Cadillac” health insurance policies for many businesses, but a “Chevy” level should also be available. For example, in 2001 the Legislature mandated that hearing amplifiers for children be included in insurance policies, although the governor vetoed it.

“Over the years, the state has mandated more coverage,” White said, which drives up costs.

Wildfire control

Carwile said he saw how Moffat and Rio Blanco counties worked together fighting the Big Fish Fire at Trappers Lake, and such cooperative efforts should be considered in other areas around the state.

He said educating the public about building defensible perimeters around their rural homes to repel wildfire is an important component of his firefighting philosophy. Workplace safety for firefighters rounds out Carwile’s wildfire concerns.

White said he likes the “patch cutting and thinning” approach the state uses on its forests in Grand and Jackson counties. Not only does this technique reduce fuels and slow wildfires from spreading, it also helps restore groundwater because there are fewer trees to trap and hold snow on their leaves and branches.

Budget cuts

Carwile said he “shudders” at the thought the legislature must cut approximately $380 million in next year’s budget. He said in the past, “cuts have fallen disproportionately in the rural parts of the state. Even a 1 percent cut is big time in places like Craig and Meeker.”

Carwile said budget shortfalls are part of a “downward trend,” but until he understands the budget process better he wouldn’t want to get into specifics on where the cuts should be made. “But I’ll keep in mind what happens in the rural part of the state,” Carwile said.

White said, “The pain should be spread across the board as much as possible.”

He also said kindergarten through 12th-grade school programs must be funded, as well as Medicaid and the Colorado Department of Corrections. As a result, approximately 90 percent of the general fund budget is almost off limits to budget cuts.

“So we might look at cutting capital spending, and after that, cutting capital projects that are already under way,” White said. “The Legislature will also ask department heads where to make cuts.”

The drought

Carwile said as a heavy equipment operator, he has a lot of experience in building and maintaining dams. Carwile said the state should conduct a study to determine Colorado’s existing water storage capacity compared to what the reservoirs were designed to hold.

Next, the study should look at downstream uses. By determining existing capacity compared to original capacity, engineers could calculate how much existing storage facilities have silted up, then plot a course of action.

“This would give us a clear picture of what we can do to prioritize water projects,” Carwile said.

Carwile said the state should also look at how turbidity in streams and rivers increases reservoir silting, and take steps to inhibit that process.

White said the state should consider long-term and interim solutions to drought and related issues.

For the short term, the states should study which dams and storage facilities must be repaired, and how their holding capacity can be increased. Tamarisk, an introduced bush that grows along riverbanks at lower elevations, sucks millions of gallons from the the state’s rivers.

“Colorado should pursue a program to control and eradicate tamarisk,” White said.

As for long term solutions, White said Colorado should consider building more water storage capacity. “Usually, the users pay for it,” White said.

Other issues

Local control of education is also a priority for Carwile. “I hate to see teachers constrained by centralized policies,” Carwile said. He said local control isn’t an “abstraction,” because residents pay for their school systems through property taxes.

White, who got the “No Call” bill passed restricting the telemarketing industry, said he will introduce a similar bill to restrict telemarketers who are increasingly calling cell phones.

White said he also wants to introduce a bill to create more funding for marketing and tourism, but is not yet ready to present specifics. “It’s not a tax hike,” White said.

Carwile enlisted in the Navy Reserve in 1966, served a year in Vietnam from 1968-69, and was honorably discharged in 1972. He is single and his children are grown.

White and his wife, Jean, owned and operated ski shops, a bike shop and a 25-room ski lodge in Grand County for 25 years. They are retired. The couple has three grown children.

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