Challengers: Time for new blood
EAGLE, Colorado – Voters will choose between two very different kinds of experience when they cast ballots for either Sara Fisher or Claudia Alexander on Nov. 2.At a Wednesday evening candidates’ forum in Eagle, Fisher, who is seeking a second term as Eagle County commissioner, told the nearly full house in the commissioners’ meeting room that she’s the best candidate because of her experience in both county government and the community.Alexander, who is challenging Fisher for the commissioner job, said her experience in business makes her the best person for the job.These days, differences of opinion about running the county involve money – or, more accurately, the lack of it.Fisher defended the work she and fellow commissioners Peter Runyon and Jon Stavney have done to trim the county’s budget and payroll. Fisher said the commissioners have cut more than $11 million in county spending for 2010 and 2011.Alexander said those cuts haven’t come in the right places and said the current commissioners haven’t listened to employees about where spending could be cut. Commissioners need to be willing to cut “touchy-feely” programs that aren’t required by state or federal statute, Alexander said.”Re-electing my opponent will cost you more,” Alexander said.Fisher countered by saying budget cuts have come from the county’s departments. “We have listened,” she said, adding that the county is fiscally positioned for 2012 and 2013, when property tax revenue is expected to drop by at least 30 percent.Alexander said county taxpayers need a break now. She said she’d push to hold another vote on the county’s open space tax, narrowly approved in 2000. She said she’d also push to suspend collection of the tax until the economy turns around.”We need to put money in the hands of people, where it will do the most good,” she said.Alexander also said the county needs to get out of the development business. The county’s decision to enter into a joint venture to build a senior housing facility would be better handled by the private sector, she said.Fisher said the county needs to continue to collect the open space tax, especially since local property values have dropped, making potential open space purchases more affordable.The open space tax isn’t “warm and fuzzy,” Fisher said. Instead, it serves a real purpose – to protect wildlife and the space between communities. And, Fisher said, the county is on the right track with its involvement.While both candidates said government needs to be “run like a business,” they differed on just what that means, with Alexander saying the county needs to roll back many of its current regulations to encourage businesses to come to the county.Fisher said the county’s business is tourism and that rebuilding that part of the county’s economy would lift the rest.In making her final argument to the audience, Alexander said she’s seen county government from the perspective of an employee.”I didn’t see anything happening except the government taking control,” she said.Fisher said many of the claims Alexander is making this fall aren’t right.”She doesn’t understand the business of running a government,” Fisher said.After the forum, Eagle resident Glenda Kempton said she was glad she’d come out.”It gave us a chance to hear what they think,” she said.Bob Foley, of Gypsum, said he’d met Alexander previously but hadn’t yet had a chance to see Fisher in person. That said, Foley said he came away impressed with Ted Archibeque, who is challenging incumbent Eagle County Surveyor Dan Corcoran.”He had some good ideas,” Foley said.