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Al White plans to tackle pine beetles, gas prices

Theo Stroomer/Daily file photoTheo Stroomer | tstroomer@vaildaily.com
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EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Al White is completing his second term as a state representative and wants to tackle issues ranging from high gas prices to the pine beetle infestation as a member of the state Senate.

White, a Republican, is running against Ken Brenner for the state Senate District 8 seat that covers parts of Eagle and Garfield counties, as well as Moffat, Routt, Jackson and Rio Blanco counties.

The District 8 post is occupied by Steamboat resident Jack Taylor. Taylor is term-limited and not running for re-election.



White lives in Hayden with his wife, Jean. He and his wife have been married for 30 years and have a 28-year-old son, Devin, and a 23-year-old daughter, Jenna.

White is a businessman who moved to the Winter Park area 35 years ago. He’s operated skis shops, a bike shop and a mountain lodge. During his second term as a state representative, White served as a member of the Joint Budget Committee.



“I’ve been in the house for the last eight years and having been in the Legislature for that time and having significant accomplishments in education, tourism, property rights and housing, I wanted to continue my efforts in the Senate,” White said.

The Vail Daily interviewed White about a series of issues facing residents of Senate District 8 this week. Look for an interview with Brenner in tomorrow’s Vail Daily.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST ISSUE FACING THE DISTRICT?



Al White said the biggest issue facing the district is the economy.

“We need to deal with it on a state level to see how it impacts our budget ” what items get cut and what items get sustained,” White said. “I think that’s going to be the most critical piece of where we go in the next year.”

WHAT WOULD YOU DO TO HANDLE THE PINE BEETLE PROBLEM IN THE AREA?

Protecting land that could be threatened by wildfires is the first step that needs to be taken to combat the area pine beetle problem, White said.

“We need to come up with dollars and incentives to first of all provide for wildfire hazard mitigation in the urban area around our homes and our property because property damage might occur if and when a fire comes,” White said.

The state also needs to look at using the trees before they’re destroyed, said White.

“We need to do what we can to utilize the natural resource before it either rots or burns, the more timber we can get out of the forest for positive use the better off we’re going to be,” he said. “It’s a shame to leave it to rot. That rot creates that catastrophic fire hazard.”

DOES THE WAY SCHOOLS ARE FUNDED NEED TO BE CHANGED AND TO WHAT EXTENT?

White said the Public School Finance Act of 1994 ” a document that acts as a formula for determining state and local funding for school districts in Colorado ” needs to at least be tweaked, and maybe rewritten.

“The School Finance act of 1994 was a major rewrite of how we funded schools ” it wasn’t bad, but over the years there have been some inadequacies and loopholes surrounding it,” White said. “I think it’s time to modernize that piece of legislation.”

White said he’s already worked once to amend part of the finance act to allow school districts in high-cost-of-living areas to offer teachers higher wages.

BOTH YOU AND YOUR OPPONENT HAVE IDENTIFIED GAS PRICE IRREGULARITIES AS A PROBLEM IN THE DISTRICT. WHAT IS THE SOLUTION TO THAT PROBLEM?

Increasing competition is the answer to lowering gas prices in Senate District 8, White said.

“The ultimate solution is more competition,” he said.

Last week, White sent a letter to the attorney general requesting an investigation into gas price irregularities in the district.

“I still think it’s appropriate to have the attorney general take a look at it to see if there is anything abnormal happening,” he said.

But the long-term answer is more competition, White said.

“I think if we can get the major grocery chains to participate with pumps that utilize discount cards ” I was in Denver for a meeting and accessed the Safeway pump and had $56 worth of free gas based on grocery purchases,” he said. “That kind of thing will put pressure on local outlets to have more competitive prices.”

WHAT STEPS, IF ANY, NEED TO BE TAKEN TO COMBAT CONGESTION ON I-70?

Solving the highway’s congestion issues is a two-step process, White said.

“We’ve got choke points that causes the initial backups,” he said. “I think the quickest and least expensive fix ” although not a long term solution ” is to look at reworking those choke points.”

But there also needs to be a long term fix, White said.

“That’s the first piece ” the second is the reworking of the whole length of the interstate including integration of some sort of mass transit,” White said. “The I-70 corridor commission is meeting to look at that and offer up some proposals. We’ll have to narrow it down to one or two and see what’s most readily accomplishable from a financial standpoint.”

It could take billions of additional dollars to accomplish, White said.

“It’s going to take the will of the citizens to make that happen,” he said.

A NEW STUDY COMMISSIONED BY THE COLORADO WATER CONSERVATION BOARD SUGGESTS THAT THE STATE’S AVERAGE TEMPERATURE IS GOING TO INCREASE OVER THE NEXT 40 YEARS AND WILL AFFECT COLORADO’S WATER SUPPLY. WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE TODAY TO ENSURE THE FUTURE OF THE STATE WATER SUPPLY IS SAFE?

Addressing the water supply issue has to start with conservation, said White.

“A high percentage of water in the state goes to agriculture irrigation or residential irrigation,” he said.

White said conservation efforts could be aided by technology.

“In some cases municipalities might be willing to pay farmers to install this high efficiency equipment,” he said “I think there are some interesting concepts there. That’s where the lion’s share of savings can come from.”

Residential irrigation systems could be made more efficient, too, White said.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP RESIDENTS OF DISTRICT 8 THAT ARE CONCERNED ABOUT THE ECONOMY AND ARE STRUGGLING WITH THEIR OWN FINANCES?

White said his record on tourism has had a positive impact on the economy and will continue to do so.

He touted his support of a bill that put $19 million toward promoting Colorado nationally and internationally. The investment has a return of $10 for every dollar spent, White said.

“I’m concerned going forward that my colleagues are going to want to cut that from our budget,” White said. “When times get tough I think that’s the worst time to cut those dollars ” those dollars make dollars. Given the large tourism industry that exists in Eagle County, I think that’s critical and one that would have some real significant impact on sustaining the economy.”

WHAT QUESTION DO YOU WANT TO BE ASKED?

“Why am I a better candidate than my opponent,” White said. “I have eight years of legislative experience in the arena that I’m specifically seeking. I have a long list of accomplishments that proves my competence in that arena and I also have a seat on the Joint Budget Committee that gives me leverage of significant importance to the citizens of the 8th District.”

Chris Outcalt can be reached at 748-2931 or coutcalt@vaildaily.com.


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