At a forum last week in Hotchkiss that was open to all candidates, four Republicans seeking their party's nomination to run in the November general election responded to questions from the public.
Participating in the forum hosted by the Delta County Republican Women were District 2 candidates Nancy Hovde and Don Suppes, and District 3 candidates, incumbent Mark Roeber and Roger Bentley.
There was broad and sometimes very specific agreement on some of the issues raised (see related story) while discussion of other issues revealed differences.
• Issue: The recently announced DMEA FTTP fiber optic (broadband) initiative.
Suppes: He said that the options becoming available are "absolutely incredible." He noted there are other private sector entrepreneurs also in the business locally, but added that fair competition "is good."
Hovde: She said the DMEA option will be the "most reliable."
Bentley: He said there is a lot of fiber optic cable installed in the county already. There are private Internet service providers that will want to participate in the broadband marketplace. The private sector and the free market should not be ignored.
Roeber: He said DMEA is doing a service. There are "negotiations needed" concerning the county's $750,000 commitment to the Region 10 middle mile system. "The private sector is the way to handle it."
• Issue: The most viable sectors for future economic growth.
Hovde: She said she voted against marijuana [growing]. "Is it an economic benefit or too big of a risk? It may be time to talk about it." She noted broadband, cottage industry, and DMTC as other economic drivers.
Bentley: "The people are the economic growth. Those who want to work will work. Those who don't want to won't."
Roeber: He said that agriculture is an important part of Delta County and will continue to be. The county needs to become a regional hub for agriculture as it has been in the past. Tourism is an option for growth, but not the main one.
Suppes: He is in agreement with Roeber on the issue. Coal used to be number one here and ag number two. Now ag will become number one again. We need to focus on ag in Delta County and make Delta County a brand for produce grown here.
• Issue: Unfunded federal and state mandates on local government.
Bentley: He said he would have to see specific examples of this issue in the budget process to offer a fully informed view.
Roeber: He stated simply that the local level does not have a lot of control over unfunded mandates handed down from higher levels of governmental authority.
Suppes: He said he sees unfunded mandates as a major issue. As a mayor, he has seen bureaucrats actually dictate to the town what ordinances and wording it will adopt while prescribing penalties for non-compliance. "We need to fight back; it can be done."
Hovde: "Mandates are completely out of control."
• Issue: Local influence and control over public lands policies.
Roeber: He said he has always fought for local control. Getting state ownership of BLM/Forest Service managed lands is probably not feasible.
Suppes: More local control over public lands is absolutely necessary. Also, getting state ownership of BLM/Forest Service managed lands is probably not feasible.
Hovde: She said she "believes in local control, but they are federal lands."
Bentley: The federal government has mis-managed public lands. What's needed is a state legislature that will fight for state ownership.
• Issue: Bringing jobs to Delta County.
Suppes: "Get government out of the way and let business come in." Make regulations easier for business. County specific development regulations need to be loosened. It is not government's job to create business.
Hovde: The government's role is to provide infrastructure for business including roads and an educated work force.
Bentley: Government and welfare do not create jobs.
Roeber: As with many issues being discussed, the candidates are "pretty much in agreement" on this one. We need to put "open for business' signs" at entrances to the county.''
Issue: County doing road work for the Forest Service.
Bentley: This is an issue involving intergovernmental agreements with the Forest Service and he disfavors the practice. Roads should be reclassified and taken over if the Forest Service isn't managing them.
Roeber: "What do you have if you don't work with the Forest Service? If you don't have the Schedule A roads, you have roads that are completely shut down. That is bad for tourism and bad for ag."
Suppes: The federal government "holds a real big stick," as he learned dealing with the Forest Service on water issues. Private sector would participate more "in a perfect world." He would like to see and review the intergovernmental agreement with the Forest Service.
Hovde: She said she also wants also to look into the actual intergovernmental agreement in order to understand the issue better.
• Issue: Moratorium on accepting improved subdivision roads for county maintenance.
Roeber: The county is now in the process of looking into it and will establish new criteria. The county needs to live up to any written agreements it has made with subdividers.
Suppes: State payments from the gasoline tax (HUTF) are completely insufficient for maintaining roads. The county should not kill its road budget by taking over maintenance of subdivision roads.
Hovde: A very complex issue. There needs to be a clear, road-by-road standard applied. The county is removing snow from some roads that don't belong to the county.
Bentley: County regulations have created paved subdivision roads that are better than the county's gravel roads they access. "The county should stick to any promises it made."
• Issue: Support for private business.
Suppes: Orchard City has low water rates and no sales or property tax. That helps business.
Hovde: She has since January been president of the Cedaredge Area Chamber of Commerce and has served in other capacities that support business as well.
Bentley: The county needs to avoid economic development disasters like the Stewart Lodges fiasco in its business support efforts.
Roeber: Noted that the audience question was specifically about Orchard City. There is need for great care if failures like Stewart Lodges are to be avoided.
At their March 5 meeting Commissioners Doug Atchley, Mark Roeber and Don Suppes made two appointments to the county planning commission. Steve Shea was reappointed for a three-year term.