Candidates go green at Monday forum

How green is your candidate for county commissioner?

That’s what 20 attendees set out to discover Monday during a candidate forum sponsored by the Southwest Organization for Sustainability (SOS).

A group of environmentally-minded citizens formed the SOS in February 2006 under the leadership of Denise Rue-Pastin, and hence the organization’s name.

Candidates fielded six questions on green topics and issues of sustainability. According to Rue-Pastin, the questions were generated by the organization’s six-person steering committee and were provided to the candidates about a week prior to the event. Moderator and steering committee member C.J. Rapp also allowed time at the end for individuals from the audience to ask questions.

When asked about their “sustainable” or “green” priorities should they be elected to office, District 1 Democrat Ron Chacey said he would work to combat sprawl, develop and improve the county’s recycling program and would continue upgrading the county’s land use and building code.

District 1 Republican John Ranson was not at the event, and according to SOS staff, was out of town on family matters linked to the recent death of his father.

In District 2, unaffiliated candidate Natalie Carpenter alluded to her support of impact fees and said long-term planning tools such as the county’s community plan shouldn’t be disregarded when the local economy is under duress or changes. Carpenter also called for growth that would provide more services to county residents without compromising quality of life. She said water and energy conservation and using renewables were at the top of her priority list.

Marion Francis, also an unaffiliated candidate in District 2, said he would work to expand the county’s recycling program, would stage road and bridge equipment at various locations in the county in order to reduce fuel consumption and costs, and would treat the use of magnesium chloride or other dust abatement products as an environmental issue.

Francis added that economic sustainability was of paramount importance and said he supports programs and entities such as Archuleta Economic Development Association that would help existing and new businesses succeed in Archuleta County.

District 2 Republican Ray Keyawa advocated finishing the county’s land use code; developing a comprehensive recycling program and recruiting green companies to the county. Keyawa said he would seek ways to use the Archuleta County Education Center and selective business recruitment to create a strong local job market.

District 2 Democrat Clifford Lucero said he would work toward: creating a positive relationship with the town and community; launching a full-scale recycling center, and saying he supports green building. Lucero said if elected he would push for creating a strategic recycling plan that would take into consideration current and future recycling infrastructure, grant funding and the costs of expanding the county’s recycling program.

During questions from the floor, the candidates were asked about the size of the proposed Dry Gulch Reservoir.

In District 1, Chacey said it is “grossly premature to determine size.” He added that forthcoming data, such as refined population and growth projections would ultimately dictate the dam’s size.

In District 2, Francis and Lucero said they generally supported the current board of county commissioner position of building the reservoir to hold 12,500 acre feet of water.

Carpenter recognized the board of county commissioners has no authority over the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District, but said the commissioners could advocate for a particular size based on data presented.

Keyawa said he supported the water district and said, “PAWSD is doing something right.”

Keyawa advocated building a dam sufficient for the area’s needs in 2060, and that the size will be determined at a later date. He said he would seek Dry Gulch project funding from the state and federal government.

Although the general election is Nov. 4, early voting continues through Oct. 31 in the county clerk’s election office, downstairs in the Archuleta County Courthouse.

Those wishing to vote early can do so between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Mail-in ballots are also available, and the last day to pick up a mail-in ballot is Oct. 31.

In order to be counted, mail-in ballots must be in the clerk’s office by 7 p.m Nov. 4.

Although county commissioners represent specific districts, the commissioners are chosen at large. This means that during this year’s general election, each voter, regardless of the commissioner district in which they live, can choose one candidate from District 1 and one candidate from District 2.

For more information, contact the clerk’s election office at 264-8331.

The SOS is a charter member of the Sustainability Alliance of Southwest Colorado (SASCO). SASCO is a 501c(3) nonprofit organization based in Durango.

james@pagosasun.com