District 61: Differing takes on West Slope needs | AspenTimes.com

District 61: Differing takes on West Slope needs

Allyn Harvey

Voters in the sprawling 61st Congressional District, which includes all of Pitkin County and portions of Eagle and Garfield counties, have three distinct personalities to choose from for their representative in Denver.Kathleen Curry, a rancher and Democrat from the Gunnison area, is the most politically experienced, having worked on water issues with a water conservancy district near her home. Her top issue is finding ways to protect Western Slope water interests – agricultural, recreational or environmental – from quenching the never-ending thirst of Front Range developers.Becky Rippy, the Republican cousin-in-law of outgoing state Rep. Gregg Rippy, is running in order to have her human services point of view weigh in on discussions about how to solve the state’s budget crisis. Rippy says her strength as a potential legislator lies in the fact that she has been working in the human services field for 17 years. She believes her people skills will make her effective on issues she’s both familiar and unfamiliar with.Dale Reed, a Libertarian from No Name, is running on a curious platform that supports hefty new spending initiatives in the areas of health care and education, and broad cutbacks throughout much of state government. Reed sees no contradiction between his position and the Libertarian Party’s long-standing position that any government is too much government.Following are brief profiles of each candidate.

As a cattle rancher and Colorado native, Kathleen Curry understands the importance of water to the livelihoods of so many who live on the Western Slope. She believes the 61st District needs a representative who will defend the water rights and needs of its people. Much of her time in the Legislature would be spent protecting Western Slope water interests, whether it’s fighting thirsty municipalities or revising the law to codify the concept of setting minimum stream flows.Curry would also seek to boost the clout of local governments in the debate about natural gas extraction. She says the state needs to be vigorous in its protection of local interests, convincing natural gas companies and the federal government to mitigate the effects drilling has on nearby homes and the surrounding environment. She would begin by convening a summit of all the affected parties to see if the challenges can be solved without legislative action.Curry’s other big issue is the budget crisis. She thinks it’s vital that the state’s elected officials, from representatives to the governor, come to grips with the conflicting demands voters have made by amending the state constitution. In particular, the limits on new spending under the TABOR amendment and the requirements for annual increases in education spending under Amendment 23.Curry would first seek to amend TABOR (Taxpayer Bill of Rights) so the state budget could return to historic spending levels as the economy recovers, which currently isn’t allowed under the law.

Becky Rippy’s first task would be to tackle the impending budget crisis. Like Curry, she believes the restriction in the state constitution that forbids the state government from returning to historic spending levels after a recession is damaging.”The state has a huge impact on what we do here on the Western Slope,” said Rippy, a social worker and guardian. Her work history includes program director for Gateway Youth and Family Services, crisis worker for the Garfield County Department of Social Services, mental health evaluator for Colorado West Mental Health, and treatment counselor for Western Academy Residential Treatment Center.She’s also been part owner of two businesses in New Castle, a store and a cafe. Rippy said the focus of her work as a legislator would be on “people.” So, she’d like to see the state pick up its spending in human services, which have been devastated by the voter-mandated spending cuts in TABOR.”All problems flow from” the budget crisis, she said.Although she doesn’t have any direct experience with the complexities of water law and the politics of diversion, Rippy said she recognizes that it is a critical issue for the 61st District. She said her people skills will be crucial in reaching the kind of compromises that protect the district’s watersheds.”We have to fight transbasin diversion,” she said, “but we also need to find solutions that work for both sides.”

What’s atypical about Dale Reed’s Libertarianism is his support for Amendment 35, the proposed tobacco tax increase that would dedicate funds to health care. He’s also in favor of allocating more state tax dollars to education.”We need to increase education spending and decrease a lot of other things and improve the efficiency of state government,” said Reed, a retired state employee.Reed would look for ways to pressure school districts into lowering administrative costs and put the money saved into the classroom. He also believes the state should be tougher about deporting undocumented immigrants and their children as a means of reducing education costs. Reed spent the bulk of his career working for the Colorado Department of Natural Resources as a wildlife researcher. As an employee in the Division of Wildlife, Reed worked on the deer-vehicle accident study that eventually led to the installation of 8-foot fences along state and interstate highways.”No one thinks it’s a good thing to allow big game on the highways,” he said.Asked if he, as a Libertarian dedicated to small government, would cut his former job off the state payroll, Reed said no. But he did say he’d work toward reforming the culture of state budgeting that forces employees to spend every penny they’re allocated, whether the money is needed or not. “I could have spent less money.”Allyn Harvey’s email address is aharvey@aspentimes.com


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