Three square off to represent District 61
Glenwood Springs Correspondent
Becky Rippy hears the question often on the campaign trail.
Is she married to state Rep. Gregg Rippy, R-Glenwood Springs, whom she is hoping to succeed in the Colorado House of Representatives?
No, she answers again and again.
“My husband’s name is Steve,” the New Castle Republican says, referring to the man who is town administrator there.
Steve is the cousin of Gregg Rippy, who decided against running again after two terms as District 61 representative so he could make what turned out to be an unsuccessful bid for Congress.
As for Gregg, Becky says, “I’m sure he’s a wonderful husband; he’s just not mine.”
Becky Rippy’s comment was good for some chuckles recently when she, Democrat Kathleen Curry of Gunnison and Libertarian Dale Reed of No Name squared off at a District 61 debate organized by the Club 20 Western Slope lobbying group in Grand Junction.
But if Rippy was quick to distinguish herself from her husband’s cousin, Curry was just as quick to speculate how much like Gregg Rippy Becky might behave if elected.
Specifically, Curry asked whether Becky Rippy would have voted to move a water measure out of a committee to a vote on the House floor, as Gregg did last year. His move, which he has said he felt compelled to do on procedural grounds even though he opposed the measure, helped allow for Referendum A to eventually be placed on the ballot. It was defeated last November, partly out of fear on the Western Slope that it would lead to new diversions of water to the Front Range.
Becky Rippy said she can’t say how she would have acted in the same situation, because she wasn’t there, and doesn’t know all the rules that are involved when it comes to passing measures out of committee.
Both Curry and Reed said they wouldn’t have voted Referendum A out of committee.
The issue is central to Curry’s campaign. She once served on the Colorado Water Conservation Board on instream flow issues, and most recently was manager of the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District. She was named Water Manager of the Year by the Colorado Division of Water Resources in 2003.
It’s important that District 61 has someone representing it who will work to protect its water resources, Curry said.
“I want that someone to be me, who knows about water,” she said.
Rippy agreed that water is an important issue for District 61, which includes eastern Garfield County, the southwestern corner of Eagle County, and all of Pitkin, Gunnison and Hillsdale counties.
She thinks the state Legislature can lead the way in water conservation and reuse, and that dams can be enlarged and repaired so dollars are stretched further and big water projects aren’t required.
Reed said he thinks water conservation on the Front Range, with the encouragement of the legislature, is “going to be very important.”
Front Range water interests are “just about going to work us over if we’re not careful. We need to use every means we have to hold on to our water.”
Three diverse candidates
The District 61 race pits against each other three people with longtime Colorado ties and widely varied experiences.
Rippy has lived in Garfield County 24 years, has 16 years of experience in the human service field and has owned two small businesses. She says that as a lawmaker she would be an advocate for water, agriculture, tourism and local control.
Curry, a Colorado native, lives on a ranch in Gunnison, and has been a Western Slope resident for seven years. She serves on the Club 20 board of directors and is active in local education issues. She says that key issues for her beside water are agriculture, education funding and affordable health care.
Reed taught in Colorado public schools for six years and worked for 31 years in the state Department of Natural Resources. He has lived in the Glenwood area for 30 years and serves on the Glenwood Springs River Commission.
He advocates reforming health care, adequately funding public education, reining in big government, and making changes to the Taxpayers Bill of Rights.
Reed said he believes the concept of TABOR is good.
“I believe that we need to watch the growth and the size of government entities,” he said.
He’s familiar with that issue from the inside, as a former longtime government employee, he said.
“I’ve seen the waste. I’ve seen the good as well, the good services, and there are a number of employees that work hard, but the culture of government is to spend all the money in your budget and to expand your program.”
While TABOR works to control government growth and spending, Reed supports the idea of eliminating its so-called ratchet-down effect. That results in government spending tightening down during slower economic times, but not being able to adequately grow to keep up with increasing demands on services during boom periods.
Curry also supports asking voters to amend TABOR to address the ratcheting effect.
Rippy called for a two-year suspension of TABOR to bring dollars back into state government to help services that have suffered funding cuts.
“There’s a lot of programs out there that are hurting ” human services, health care, higher education,” she said.
She’d like to use the moratorium period to seek reforms to TABOR, and to Amendment 23, which has been requiring more spending for K-12 education even as TABOR gives the state fewer dollars to work with during the current economic slowdown.
Glenwood Springs Post Independent staff writer Dennis Webb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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