Eagle County commish race in full
Editor’s note: Beginning today, The Aspen Times will begin running stories each day related to the upcoming election. Eagle County voters will decide two county commissioner races Nov. 7. This story profiles the three candidates in the District 2 race. All voters are eligible to vote in the race.
The three candidates in the Eagle County Commissioner District 2 race have already campaigned long enough to develop the habit of keeping their guard up, as politicians are wont to do.
They answer questions cautiously, seek the middle ground and avoid any statements they sense could turn off voters – until, that is, they are asked how they differ from their foes. Then they become political beasts of a different nature, throwing caution to the wind and, perhaps, revealing a little more about themselves.
Steve Morris, 57, a retired businessman, noted that candidate Arn Menconi “considers himself a classic Democrat.” Morris, who is running as a Republican, applies the “moderate” label to himself, someone who has conservative values but remains flexible.
Morris claimed he is “well-rounded” while Menconi is a “single-issue candidate.” When asked what that issue is, Morris said Menconi’s message is one of “compassion for young, disadvantaged children. That’s what I’ve heard.”
Morris contended he has a greater array of experiences to draw from. He graduated from Boston University in 1965 with a degree in health, physical education and recreation. He served as an officer with the U.S. Army in Vietnam, then built a successful business selling paper products.
His forte, he claimed, is listening to people and forming ideas and plans based on what he heard. That’s a key ingredient to being an effective elected official, he said.
Morris, a resident of Edwards, has lived in Eagle County for six years.
Menconi, 41, has only been in Eagle County two years longer than Morris, but believes his background and experiences have put him in touch with a greater cross-section of the constituency.
Morris “lives in an exclusive golf course community,” Menconi noted, whereas he has lived in rental housing, worked in ski shops, washed dishes and generally scratched to make a living – like many other people.
In 1993 he founded a nonprofit organization called the Snowboard Outreach Society, or SOS, which works with disadvantaged youth of the Front Range and Eagle County. As executive director, he brings kids to resorts for a day.
While he disagreed with Morris’ assessment that he is a one-issue candidate, he said he is very supportive of county efforts to work with youth and would attempt to do more.
“The main difference is I lead with the youth issue,” he said when comparing himself to his foe. He sees his main constituency as young professionals and people with an active lifestyle. He is an avid cyclist, who enjoys ultra-marathon races.
Another difference, Menconi alleged, is the approach to campaigns. While Morris has the money to spend a bundle self-financing his campaign, Menconi is accepting contributions of $100 or less, he said. He’s created a Web site – http://www.votearn.com – to spread his platform.
“He could potentially spend $30,000 on his campaign. I might spend $5,000,” said Menconi.
The third candidate in the race, Edwards resident Kathy Warren, believes she has experiences which differentiate her from both foes. Warren, who is running as an independent candidate, said she’s worked for both the private and public sectors in community development, so she believes she’s trained to deal with one of the biggest issues facing Eagle County – growth.
She worked for a corporate home builder and now works for the community development department of the town of Vail, although she’s required to take a leave of absence while campaigning and said she would quit the job if elected commissioner.
Warren has lived in Eagle County for 13 years and said she has “walked in the same shoes” as many people struggling to make a living in the mountains. She believes lack of affordable housing is a major concern and would ease the shortage by requiring developers to include it in their projects. She doesn’t believe the county government should build housing.
All three candidates share opposition to Amendment 24, the statewide slow-growth initiative that will be on Colorado’s Nov. 7 ballot. But that’s where their similarities on growth end.
Warren advocated the strongest position. “The growth is out of control,” she said. She believes the county must vigorously follow its planning documents and listen to the desires of citizens.
“I don’t think it’s fair for the community to override what the towns want,” said Warren. “I would be unified with the towns.”
Menconi said he opposes Amendment 24 because “it’s poorly written.”
“It’s not a safe remedy,” he said. “I think a safe remedy is voting in the right people.”
And the right people, he contended, would support the idea of discouraging sprawl and promoting growth in urban areas.
Morris said he is against the statewide growth control measure because land use matters are best left in local hands. As commissioner, he would rely heavily on the master plan and sub-area master plans for guidance.
He disagreed with Menconi’s position that growth should be restricted to town cores.
“I would say I’m not for prohibiting growth from anywhere,” he said. “I’m for growth, not against growth. But I think it has to be managed.”
Menconi, Morris and Warren are vying to replace Johnnette Phillips, who has held the District 2 seat for eight years. The winner will earn a four-year term.
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