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Eagle commissioner hopefuls redefine

Aspen Times Staff Report

Facing a crowd in the Roaring Fork Valley last night, the five candidates for two Eagle County commissioner seats redefined their positions on funding recreational facilities at the Sopris Tree Farm.

It took three questions from audience members at a forum in Basalt Town Hall before clear positions were stated. Ultimately all five candidates pledged to find funds in the county budget as soon as 2002 to build amenities like soccer and ball fields at the tree farm.

That was a clarification of ambiguities or outright reversal in the positions of all five candidates compared to their positions in interviews with The Aspen Times last week.

The Aspen Times compared their positions from last week to their positions at last night’s forum. The forum, which attracted about 25 midvalley residents, was co-hosted by The Aspen Times, Grassroots TV and KAJX public radio.

Kathy Warren, an unaffiliated candidate in the District 2 race, said last week that she wants to work with communities to provide the services that are important to them. However, she noted, it would be difficult to fund recreational amenities when there are so many other health and human service needs in Eagle County.

Last night Warren said she would commit funds from the 2002 budget for tree farm recreational facilities. “We definitely need to find money to help you,” she said.

Steve Morris, the Republican candidate in District 2, said last week that the county could “possibly” find funds for recreational facilities. Last night he vowed to definitely find the funds. Morris told the audience he wanted to be up front by saying the county shouldn’t maintain those facilities.

“Eagle County shouldn’t be in the recreation business,” he said.

District 2 candidate Arn Menconi waffled the least in responses last week and last night. Last week he said there was little he could do with funds from the 2001 budget to help with recreational facilities at the tree farm, since the winning candidate will take office after the budget is set. But he did vow to seek every possible avenue to find the funds.

“I’d work very hard to try to get that done,” he said.

Last night, Menconi came down a little more solidly for finding funds in the county budget. With a $69 million budget, he said, it’s just a question of priorities.

Like Menconi, District 1 Republican candidate Chuck Crist added to his answer from last week rather than changing it. Last week Crist was up front by saying he couldn’t determine at that point whether he would use money from the county budget to pay for recreation facilities.

Last night he said he would allocate funds from the county budget, though funds for all amenities might not come in one year.

District 1 Democratic candidate Mike Gallagher, who was appointed to the seat in February, softened his stance. Last week, he said Eagle County was playing a major and appropriate role by acquiring the tree farm property, developing infrastructure that would benefit recreational facilities and paying for land-use planning.

However, Gallagher made it clear the county shouldn’t be involved in recreation.

Last night he altered his position to say there “could” be dollars available for construction of recreation amenities in the county budget. He said the money for everything desired at the tree farm couldn’t come from any one year.

The forum also featured district attorney candidates Michael Goodbee, the Democrat incumbent, and Republican challenger Lou Walker, as well as the three candidates for the 56th Colorado House District and two of the three candidates for the state Senate District 8.

The forum will be rebroadcast in its entirety by Grassroots several times. The next showing is Monday, Oct. 23, at 8:30 p.m.

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Posted: Thursday, October 19, 2000


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