Commissioner candidates debate in Edwards
EDWARDS, Colorado – There weren’t a lot of people at a Thursday candidates’ forum at the Homestead Court Club, but they asked a lot of questions.
Eagle County commissioner candidates Sara Fisher and Claudia Alexander were the featured guests at the forum, sponsored by the Homestead Homeowners Association. They answered questions for a crowd that topped out at about a dozen people and answered more questions about open space, housing and running the county “like a business.”
The candidates had heard most of the questions before and repeated previously expressed positions.
Alexander reiterated her opinion that the county’s open space tax should be suspended for two years while the local economy is in the doldrums.
Fisher disagrees, saying the county’s open space tax is a useful tool for preserving spaces around communities and some of the county’s remaining agricultural land.
The two also repeated their disagreement about the county’s involvement in housing, particularly the Stratton Flats development in Gypsum.
Fisher said Stratton Flats – in which the county invested $4.5 million during the boom year of 2007 and which has since foundered and been sold to a new developer – remains a good investment for the county.
“We started the search for a new developer that would be healthy and revive Stratton Flats,” Fisher said. “We will see this project be successful.”
Alexander believes the county would have been better off investing its money instead of putting into a private development.
“It’s not up to the county to bail out private investors,” she said.
Alexander continued her campaign theme that county officials are out of touch with employees and that employees are told not to take problems to the county commissioners.
“If you’re being ignored by (human resources), who do you got to?” Alexander said. “When I’ve gone in to talk to the (human resources) director, I was told, ‘If you don’t like it, you can leave.’ That’s not how to run a business or a government.”
Fisher disagreed, saying in particular that she had worked closely with Alexander when Alexander was the manager of the Golden Eagle apartments in Eagle.
“The idea that employees can’t talk to commissioners is just not true,” Fisher said.
While the candidates talked about familiar themes, there were a few new questions, too.
The candidates were asked if medical marijuana should be taxed.
Alexander, who said she favors medical marijuana but not necessarily in unincorporated Eagle County, said that if marijuana is prescribed, it shouldn’t be taxed because traditional prescriptions are exempt from sales taxes.
Fisher countered that medical marijuana isn’t prescribed but “referred.” That makes it a commodity and eligible to be taxed like any other item sold at retail.
The candidates also disagreed sharply over how the Riverview apartment complex is being financed.
Alexander produced a document she said shows that the county has refinanced the complex for more than $8 million over 40 years.
Fisher countered that Riverview’s renovation is being financed by grants.
“It’s money that’s not required to be repaid. … And we’ve created quite a few jobs there,” she said.
The small crowd also asked some Homestead-specific questions, particularly about an on-again, off-again development proposal in which the developer is asking to have some previously deeded open space converted back to buildable land.
“When an owner makes a commitment to open space, it has to be kept,” Alexander said.
Fisher said the decision to change previous land uses has to be treated carefully. While she wasn’t as firm in her statement, she did say, “You don’t renege on something that was a commitment already made.”
The candidates also were asked to give their own ideas for a slogan contest the Edwards Community Authority is sponsoring for signs at the new roundabouts there.
“Put it into five words or less,” forum moderator Richard Carnes said.
“A locals’ community,” Fisher said.
“Welcome home,” Alexander said.