Housing crisis tops list of concerns at first Garfield County commissioner candidates forum | PostIndependent.com

Housing crisis tops list of concerns at first Garfield County commissioner candidates forum

The lack of affordable-housing options in Garfield County emerged as a priority issue for both county commissioner candidates on Monday in a forum hosted by the Glenwood Springs Lions Club.

It was the first of several forums slated over the next few weeks, as voters prepare to decide between three-term Republican incumbent Tom Jankovsky and Democrat Ryan Gordon for the District 1 seat.

Ballots are to be mailed out to voters on Oct. 17 and must be completed and returned by election day, Nov. 8.

Also on the Garfield County ballot are races for county Clerk and Recorder between Republican Jackie Harmon and Democrat Becky Moller, as well as for county Treasurer between incumbent Republican Carrie Couey and Democrat Aron Diaz.

They, too, participated in the Lions Club forum and are expected to attend the Oct. 5 Glenwood Springs Issues and Answers Night along with the commissioner candidates and candidates for the Colorado House and Senate.

“We are in a housing shortage,” Jankovsky said at the Monday forum held at the First Presbyterian Church on Cooper Avenue in Glenwood Springs, and webcast via Zoom.

“As people have moved into the Roaring Fork Valley, not just from the Front Range but from all over the United States, the cost of housing has more than doubled,” he noted. “The housing crisis affects every sector of our economy, from the private sector to nonprofits and government.”

Incumbent Republican Garfield County District 1 Commissioner Tom Jankovsky.
John Stroud/Post Independent

All of those sectors need to be involved in addressing housing needs, he said, noting the county provides funding for Housing and Urban Development homebuyer assistance and recently provided $200,000 to help build new Habitat for Humanity units in Rifle.

The county also requires one in 10 new residential units that are built in unincorporated areas to be deed-restricted to keep initial costs down and maintain affordability over time, Jankovsky said.

But, the county should do more, Gordon said.

“Affordable housing is by far the biggest issue we face,” he said, adding he agrees with Jankovsky that both the private and public sector should be involved.

Garfield County Commissioner District 1 Democratic candidate Ryan Gordon.
John Stroud/Post Independent

“But, the county also needs to show some leadership on this issue,” Gordon said, noting that the commissioners decided to wait before joining the efforts of the new Roaring Fork Valley Housing Coalition.

“We should be the first ones there and participate and share ideas and have a seat at the table,” he said. “We need to be working collectively as a region because this is a regional problem that needs a regional solution.”

The candidates agreed on some points when the question came up about locating new housing projects in the currently undeveloped areas between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale.

“We can’t fill in everywhere, and we need those open spaces,” Gordon said. “I don’t think that just building is going to get us out of the affordable housing crisis.”

Jankovsky said that, while some rural development might be appropriate with proper infrastructure, “affordable, attainable housing is best located in the municipalities, where you have water, sewer and transportation.”

Aside from housing, he cited public safety as a major issue.

“The increase in crime and violence is no longer just an urban issue; it’s also a rural issue, and it’s also here in Garfield County,” he said. “We fund the sheriff and the DA adequately … there is no defund the police movement here in Garfield County.”

He also took a swipe at the Biden administration and Democrats nationally over energy policy. 

“Garfield County has the second-largest natural-gas reserves in the U.S., and we need to protect the right to drill for natural gas — not just for Garfield County, but also for the foreign nations,” he said.

At the same time, he said the county has an “all-of-the-above” energy policy, with its support for various solar-generation projects and energy-efficiency efforts through Garfield Clean Energy. 

Gordon acknowledged, “We are an oil-and-gas county. 

“We absolutely have to have oil-and-gas drilling,” he said. “But, we are transitioning away from carbon. We should embrace that and continue to drill but find places to invest in solar and renewables even more so than what the county is doing now.”

He also said the county should invest more in diversifying its economy by building and supporting outdoor-recreation facilities, protecting ranchers and farmers by preserving open space as well as looking at light-manufacturing possibilities.

Additional candidates forums

Glenwood Springs Association of Realtors Coffee with the Candidates

10 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 28

Glenwood Springs Community Center, 100 Wulfsohn Road

Inviting candidates for Garfield County Commissioner District 1, incumbent Tom Jankovsky and Ryan Gordon; and for Garfield County Treasurer, incumbent Carrie Couey and Aron Diaz.

Issues and Answers Forum

5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 5, Glenwood Springs City Hall, 101 W. Eighth St.; presented by the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, Glenwood Springs Post Independent and Colorado West Broadcasting (KMTS). Virtual attendance to be provided.

Candidates participating include: 

  • Elizabeth Velasco and Perry Will, Colorado House of Representative District 57 candidates
  • Dylan Roberts and Matt Solomon, Colorado Senate District 8 candidates
  • Ryan Gordon and Tom Jankovsky, Garfield County Board of Commissioners District 1 candidates
  • Jackie Harmon and Becky Moller, Garfield County Clerk and Recorder candidates
  • Carrie Couey and Aron Diaz, Garfield County Treasurer candidates

There will also be representatives speaking both in favor and opposed to Glenwood Springs Ballot Issue 2C Accommodations Tax for Workforce Housing.

Questions will not be taken from the audience during the event, but the public can submit questions online at glenwoodchamber.com/issues-answers. The deadline to submit questions is 5 p.m. Monday.

The commissioner and treasurer candidates meet again on Wednesday in a morning “Coffee with the Candidates” forum hosted by the Glenwood Springs Association of Realtors. The forum takes place at 10 a.m. at the Glenwood Springs Community Center, 100 Wulfsohn Road.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

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