Guest opinion: Make your voice heard in next month’s municipal election
You’ve remembered to spring forward, you’ve probably made spring break plans, but have you made your plan to vote?
That’s right. Voting. In the spring. Voters in Glenwood Springs have less than two weeks to return their ballots for the city’s April 4 municipal election.
Voces Unidas Action Fund earlier this month considered the candidates running in the four races who will be on the ballot, reviewed submissions from four, interviewed two and ultimately decided not to formally endorse.
However, in the Ward 3 race featuring incumbent Charlie Willman and challenger Sumner Schachter, our endorsement committee reached consensus that both candidates are aligned with our values and every policy area that we tested, including whether community resources should be used to coordinate with federal deportation efforts; improving water quality in mobile home parks; incorporating mobile-home parks into municipal boundaries; and efforts to address housing affordability, including local control and rent stabilization as well as ensuring Latinos have access to housing programs.
Wilman has worked hard to pursue solutions for the community during his four years in office and is well-positioned to continue making progress to address our affordable housing crisis and to improve participation and representation of issues facing Latinos and Latinas.
We were also impressed with Schachter’s long history of service to the community and commission work in Glenwood Springs, along with his understanding of the need to increase the voice and representation of Latinos and Latinas not just in Ward 3, but also the community as a whole.
Glenwood Springs residents would be well-served with either leader as Ward 3 council member. We recognize the different strengths that each candidate brings and look forward to working with either of them. Our committee could not agree on just one of the candidates because we liked them both.
In the race for one at-large seat on council between incumbent Tony Hershey and challenger Erin Zalinski, our endorsement committee decided not to endorse or oppose either candidate. We know that both the incumbent and the challenger share Voces Unidas Action Fund’s value of Glenwood Springs continuing to be an inclusive place for the Latino community. Even if not 100% aligned on policy, it’s important to know that we can agree on making Glenwood Springs more welcoming for all residents, not just some. Hershey and Zalinski believe this. Just as Willman and Schachter also embrace this value.
While both Ward 1 candidate Marco Dehm and Ward 4 candidate Mitchell Weimer are running unopposed, we chose not to endorse in those races because neither candidate filled out the questionnaire that helps us see where they stand on issues that are important to Latinos and Latinas in the community. We cannot — and will not — support candidates whose stances on the issues are unknown to us.
All of the other candidates answered our questionnaire, and regardless of who wins, we appreciate them putting down in writing their views and values around issues facing the Latino community.
Democracy only works when people vote. And an April election is not ideal.
Because Glenwood Springs’ municipal election is held in the spring of off years, participation will undoubtedly be low. In 2021, for example, just 1,875 ballots were cast in the election that featured a race for an at-large council seat and the council seats representing Wards 2 and 5. For comparison’s sake, nearly twice as many, 3,559 ballots, were cast for Issue 2C (lodging tax) in November of last year (The county clerk said there were 5,740 active voters in Glenwood as of last August).
Voters are conditioned to participate in elections in November. That is why, while also encouraging people to cast ballots whenever there is an election, Voces Unidas Action Fund supports moving municipal elections to the fall.
Glenwood Springs is one of the few communities in the region that still conducts its municipal election in the spring, and we would encourage officials to prioritize participation and consider joining those communities that have taken the steps necessary to move municipal elections to a time when more voters are likely to take part.
But this spring, there is an election fast approaching. At Voces Unidas Action Fund, our hope is that our endorsement process will help voters reach decisions on the candidates they support and the need to make their voices heard.
Alex Sánchez is the founder and CEO of Voces Unidas Action Fund, a Latino-created, Latino-led non-profit organization working in Summit, Lake, Eagle, Pitkin and Garfield counties.
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