Know your District 1 County Commissioner candidates
She says balance is what she provides on the board of county commissioners, offering more liberal views against those of her more conservative fellow commissioners, John Martin and Mike Samson.And that is what she hopes to continue providing to a county that is both a Mecca for recreationalists, hunters and others attracted by the natural environment here, and host to a large and intensive energy industry.”I think that balance on a board … is very important,” she said. “I’ve really focused on bringing balance to the debates that we’ve had” concerning land use decisions as well as matters related to the energy industry.”I think that if you lose that balance … those discussions [in which differing viewpoints are expressed] won’t happen,” she said.And having differing viewpoints on the board, she continued, is critical given “the far-reaching decisions that we make, the impact we have on peoples’ lives.”A Denver native with a husband and two kids, now grown, she moved to the Roaring Fork Valley in 1994, served two terms as an elected member of the Roaring Fork School District board and, in 2002, moved over to the board of county commissioners.She said her reason for running again is because “I believe Garfield County deserves to have a thriving economy, and to be a great place to live.”Houpt, who is viewed by some as an enemy of the region’s gas industry, said that is not the case.She said she has welcomed the changes in the industry’s operations since she first came to the BOCC in 2002, specifically mentioning new technology that enables gas drilling companies to drill long distances laterally, and instead of moving its drilling rigs to drill every new well the operators can drill many wells from one pad.”The technology is, in many respects, less intrusive,” she said. “The industry has made great strides in responding to concerns of the population here. I think we’re moving in the right direction.”She has no interest in shutting the industry down, she said, but she remains determined “to make sure it (drilling) is conducted in a manner that is safe for the people and least intrusive on natural areas and wildlife.”Houpt, who serves on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission [COGCC], rejects the notion that the current slump in gas drilling, and gas-related jobs, was caused by tighter regulations crafted by the COGCC in 2008, a notion that has been loudly voiced by industry supporters.Rather, she said, it was caused by a combination of plummeting gas prices and demand on the international market, a lack of pipeline capacity to move the gas out to markets, and the ongoing Great Recession.”So, it was a business decision” to put the brakes on drilling activities in this region , she said, noting that energy industry executives have agreed with her in private conversations on the subject.”But then they always say, ‘And the regulations didn’t help’,” she recalled ruefully, and with a laugh.”When the recession hit, I think people really needed to find somebody to blame the slowdown on,” she concluded.The role of the BOCC in economic recovery, she said, is to continue its efforts to diversify the local economy, such as improvements to the county airport near Rifle that “will attract other businesses and industries to the area” as well as serve the needs of the gas industry.Another important role for the county, she said, is to encourage the “new energy economy” in terms of retrofitting public buildings and facilities for increased energy efficiency, and helping the nascent renewable-energy industry to take root in the county.”I really believe that the new energy economy is going to be one that really helps Garfield County and the State of Colorado” in emerging from the recession, she said.She said she also has been talking with area business leaders about forming “public-private partnerships” and seek ways to get the local economy growing again.And, she pointed out, “The natural gas industry is slowly beginning to come back,” and two of the biggest companies, Williams and EnCana, are working with Colorado Mountain College to ramp up training programs for the industry.The school, which she serves as an advisory board member, also has training programs for people interested in working in the renewable energy field.”We’re putting citizens to work in Garfield County who right now are either unemployed or underemployed,” she declared.There are no rules to require companies to hire locally, Houpt said, adding that if she owned a business she would resist such regulations.”I think it’s a smart business decision for them to hire locally,” she remarked, but not one that should be mandated by government.One thing the county could do to get the economy going, she said, is to appoint an economic development commission to come up with new ideas and programs.For instance, she said, “Tourism cannot be underemphasized,” although she conceded that the county’s expectations for tourism in 2009 and 2010 were off the mark.”Maybe we just didn’t market ourselves well enough,” she mused.Houpt said she is proud of the county’s work in establishing an environmental health component to its public health department, which did not happen until 2005.”They have a lot on their plates, and I really think that they’re moving … in a good direction,” she said of the department.A particular project she is hopeful about is the recently concluded Health Impact Assessment for the Battlement Mesa community, which Houpt said will be helpful in keeping track of the effects on the residents once Antero Resources begins drilling gas wells in the neighborhood.The HIA also will be useful in determining what conditions the county should impose on Antero in return for a special use permit, she said, which is required as part of the community’s Planned Unit Development approvals.”The county can put conditions of approval in place that will protect the health, safety and welfare of the residents,” she predicted.
Jankovsky, a 61-year-old Republican, is challenging incumbent Trsi Houpt, a Democrat, to represent District 1 on Garfield County’s board of county commissioners.He points out that, while he has not run for office or served on any government advisory boards or commissions, he had been involved in some community campaigns concerning “a few issues that I thought were important.”For example, he said, he worked to win voter approval for a one-percent sales tax in the county back in the 1990s, which was passed.He recalled that the county was still staggering from the oil shale bust of the early 1980s. And when the Unocal energy company shut down its Garfield County operations in the early 1990s, he continued, something was needed to keep the county financially solvent.As for his decision to run for the county post, which pays approximately $72,000 per year, he told the Post Independent recently that he is “concerned, almost on a national level about what was happening in our country … the amount of socialization that’s happened in two years [since the election of President Barack Obama] and the amount of our national debt.”He said the encouragement of friends, associates and his wife, Nancy, were instrumental in his decision.Jankovsky is a part owner and general manager of the Sunlight Mountain Resort ski area, and has held that position since he came to the area in 1985. He and his wife have five children, four of whom have moved away and one still in the local public schools.Prior to his job at Sunlight, he said, he worked in the ski business starting in 1973 working for his uncle, who was majority owner of the Arapahoe Basin ski area.Locally, he said, he has served on business-oriented boards, including the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association and Colorado Ski Country USA, serving as chair on both.As a businessman first and foremost, Jankovsky declared, “My platform is to create jobs, to grow the economy.”I believe in the rights of the property owner,” he continued. “Property rights are as sacred as our amendments [in the U.S. Constitution], although he said he does feel local government should have authority to review projects.But, he added, “There’s so many different ideologies [in local government], I think it’s very difficult to get things done through the P&Z and the county commissioners. There needs to be a more capitalist, pro-business approach.”He would help the private sector, he said, by working to “cut the red tape” that he sees in local government, starting with the county’s comprehensive plan.”I feel that should be an advisory document,” he commented. “It sets density for all of Garfield County.”The county’s website says the plan is “to provide a general statement of direction for land use planning,” and which can provide a basis for changes to the county’s land use codes and regulations. Jankovsky called the comprehensive plan “a mandatory document,” and complained that all land use applicants must conform to the comp. plan before they even get to the stage of applying to the planning and zoning commission.He knows this, he said, because he ran into what he felt was a regulatory road block when he recently tried to get county approvals for base-area development at Sunlight. He said the county planning department directed him to reduce the project’s proposed density before it could go to the P&Z.He said that, as a commissioner, he would simply follow the county’s codes and regulations and work with those seeking approvals from the county.”Over-regulating creates added expense for businesses,” he said.Asked for other specific examples of how he would make county government more encouraging to businesses, he said, “I’m hearing from a lot of people in the county who feel like our building inspectors are over-regulating,” though he has no specific changes in mind for that part of the county’s responsibilities.Regarding his pledge to bring jobs into the county, he said, “It’s decisions we make that can help create jobs.”He pointed to recent improvements made to the county airport near Rifle and suggested the county commissioners should be doing more to bring in “businesses that tie into the use of the airport,” such as shipping companies, aeronautic firms and businesses that require quick access to transportation.”We can do a lot more as far as what’s known as economic gardening,” Jankovsky continued, which he described as “giving entrepreneurs the tools they need to be successful.”Some examples, he said, might include help in formulating business plans, obtaining financing and coming up with budgetary and marketing ideas before a business even opens.Reacting to an idea floated by his opponent, Jankovsky added, “I don’t think we need to set up and economic development group through the county.” Instead, he said, the county can work with already established “partnerships.”Regarding the county’s dealings with the energy industry, Jankovsky said, “We do need to work with the oil and gas companies. We need to come to the table with them.”Concerning the regulatory environment, he said, the county needs to “make sure state and federal regulations are being complied with,” through what he termed “best practices” as defined by regulators and the industry.Aside from that, he said, “There’s no reason for us to duplicate those rules at the county level,” something he accused his opponent of trying to do.And, he said, since Houpt serves on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission [COGCC], she must recuse herself often when the county commissioners works on oil and gas issues.”So the commission gets out of balance when only two commissioners are making decisions,” he said. “I think it works better when you have all three commissioners participating.”As for the recently revised state regulations governing oil and gas activities, a revision in which Houpt took part, Jankovsky said, “I think those regulations … we lost a lot of jobs because of those regulations.” He said he hopes the oil and gas industry revives at “not a boom level, but … a sustainable level.”He cited a study by the Fraser Institute, a conservative Canadian think tank, showing that Colorado “went from number one in investment in oil and gas, to dead last” in recent years.He conceded that there also was a drop in the prices companies were getting for natural gas over the last couple of years, which may have contributed to the slump in drilling activities, but insisted the tighter regulations were the chief cause.While generally critical of the commissioners’ actions, or lack thereof, aimed at making Garfield County more friendly to businesses, Jankovsky acknowledged that he has no specific plans to turn things around.”And I won’t ’til I become a commissioner, and have a better operating knowledge of the county,” he firstname.lastname@example.org
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