Debating the big issues |

Debating the big issues

Cliff Thompson

Sandy Hume, Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District, shakes hands with his opponent, incumbent Mark Udall, a Democrat, right, at the conclusion of Thursday’s debate at the Vilar Center in Beaver Creek. The debate was moderated by Vail Daily Publisher Steve Pope, center.|Vail Daily/Brad Hartman| |

Thursday’s debate between candidates in Colorado’s reconfigured 2nd Congressional District was more congenial than confrontational.

With more than 100 people listening at Beaver Creek’s Vilar Center, Democrat Mark Udall and his Republican challenger, Sandy Hume, both of Boulder, agreed in principle on many issues. But they disagreed on the role of government and how it should influence the economy, as well as the protocol needed to deal with Iraq’s terrorism alliance. Their exchanges drew scattered, partisan applause.

The 2nd District now encompasses Eagle, Clear Creek, Summit and Boulder Counties.

Their courtly conduct during the two-hour discussion contrasts sharply with the conduct of other politicians in many other political races, in which attack ads and confrontation are the norm.

“I hope you don’t think I’m criticizing you, Mark,” said Hume after one exchange. “Because I’m not.”

“I’d like to work more on this issue,” replied Udall after an exchange on how to re-energize the flagging national economy.

In a lighter moment, Udall said he likes it when people wave to him, provided he can see all five fingers.

Hume, 56, an articulate and scholarly speaker, labels himself a “Teddy Roosevelt Republican.” But he doesn’t elaborate on the title. He’s a professional photographer when not attending to the affairs of Boulder County, and in a low-budget campaign he has been spotted in Eagle County placing his own campaign posters.

Udall, 52, refrains from labeling himself, but is viewed as a moderate liberal Democrat who has a family political heritage.

His father, Mo, was a one-time candidate for president, a congressman from Arizona and the U.S. secretary of the interior. Mark Udall operated Colorado Outward Bound for more than a decade before being elected to the Colorado House of Representatives and, two years ago, to Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District. His brother Brad is a former executive director of the the Eagle Valley Land Trust.

Hume’s background includes terms in the Colorado House of Representatives and a term as Boulder County Commissioner. He’s now the Boulder County Treasurer and is term-limited. He is a Boulder native.

How do you propose solving the transportation issues in the 2nd District?

Hume – “Things really happen at the local level. It’s the federal, state and local government arrangement that works well together. The problems is, there is never enough capital to do what needs to be done.

“Building a monorail (along the Interstate 70 corridor) should be high on the agenda, but how to pay for it is the question. The problem isn’t just building it. It will have an enormous operational loss. The dollar amount becomes out of control. I don’t have an answer here.

“The capital formation to solve the I-70 problem has to come sooner or later.”

Udall – “The Owens administration shelved the state’s Major Investment Study that outlined what needed to be done (to resolve highway transportation issues). I have written to Transportation Director Tom Norton urging that the Transportation Department engage in some early intervention of the problem with merge lanes, pull-outs and increased electronic signage. I’ve even suggested restricting slow-moving vehicles on the highway during peak Saturday and Sunday periods.

“On the urban corridor of the district, I’ve suggested a pilot rapid transit bus route -a poor man’s light rail that uses the center lane. I believe there needs to be a public private group consisting of the state, federal government and private interests like Vail Resorts and Intrawest to work toward a solution. We can’t afford not to figure out additional ways to solve the transportations problems in the mountains.”

How should growth be managed?

Udall – “Growth policies are generated at the local level. The federal government doesn’t have a role in that. I love the West and I want to be smart about how we grow. The federal government often provides bad incentives. Post offices don’t have to comply with local zoning and are often the magnet around which development occurs.

Housing policies are biased toward outlying developments. We also need to reduce the liabilities in cleaning up and developing Superfund sites.

“In the mountains we are surrounded by public lands. The federal government needs to take a look at providing land for affordable housing, so people can live where they work.

“We also need to increase air access. I’ve worked with Senator Campbell on getting a better radar at the Eagle County Airport. We need to get people here by air and let them travel on a transit system.”

Hume – “Land-use decisions need to be local. When they come from the federal government, it’s apocalyptic. The federal government is the worst manager in America.

“Rail is inherently a good thing on the land-use agenda. Urban rail areas eventually grow with apartment houses and commercial developments.”

What should we do with Iraq?

Hume – “The president’s leadership has been decisive. We are under attack, the dictators and sovereigns in the Middle East need to be replaced with constitutional democracies.

“We’re so forgiving and trusting and giving. We assume everyone else will do good. They’re trying to wreck our economy. It’s either us or them and it needs to be them.

“Saddam Hussein needs to be in a cell in The Hague next to Milosevich.”

Udall – “I too stand with the president. I voted no on the Iraq vote. My question was have we done everything we can do (besides going to war) to pressure Hussein to unfettered weapons inspections?

“Saddam is a ruthless tyrant. He does have a return address. We know where he lives. If he uses weapons of mass destruction, we will annihilate him.

“This issue is a combination of law enforcement and military action; that’s tough because they (terrorists) don’t have uniforms.”

Does the U.S. have an international credibility crisis?

Udall – “The international community has been confused by our unilateral action (on Iraq). It’s my opinion that it’s important to work with other countries. We’ll be more effective and it will make the world safer.

“The ripple effects of war on Iraq will destabilize the Middle East. I agree with Sandy that a constitutional democracy is best.

“If we think people there want to turn to democracy, we’re deluding ourselves. We have to be careful of how we make these kinds of efforts.

We do live in a global village. If there’s a problem in one part of the village you can be sure it will arrive here.”

Hume – “When I was in Pakistan, I was asked by a man about our slavery and our lack of health care for the poor. People pick up on hypocrisy. That’s that they focus on.

“We admit our mistakes. Look where we are now. We’re the light of liberty in the world. People tend to resent our success and they let the perfect become the enemy of good.”

“The Vietnam era is the largest millstone around our neck, but we’re still the voice of freedom.

“The terrorists are trying to take away our humanity by chaotic activity.”

Should we pursue the president’s energy policy?

Hume – “We need an across-the-board inventory of our capability to produce energy from all available energy sources.

“There’s a high probability that there is a lack of realism of what it will take to make us energy independent.

“We also need to conserve energy and explore new technology. I’ve been to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and it’s stunningly beautiful. It needs to stay that way.”

Udall – “Congress gets a failing grade on energy. We need a comprehensive energy policy. We should not drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

“We can’t drill our way out of this energy challenge. We need to examine using the natural gas reserves we already have. We have 25 trillion cubic feet of gas at Prudhoe Bay.”

What about our water crisis?

Hume – “Conservation needs to be on the forefront of the agenda. On the Great Plains of Colorado we live in the the Great American Desert. It’s only going to rain and snow so much. What do we do with what we have?

“There has to be new (reservoir) storage. It’s just a question of whose back yard it will be in.

“The federal government needs to be a reasonable partner in this.”

Udall – “We need to look at a new strategy of conjunctive use where in wet years we inject surplus water into aquifers. We also need to rehabilitate old reservoirs and add storage. The federal government doesn’t have a whole lot to do. Colorado needs a water policy.”

How should we manage forests to prevent catastrophic wildfires?

Udall -“For 50 years we were enamored with the icon of Smoky the Bear. Fire is a natural part of the forest ecosystem.

“I’ve called on the U.S. Forest Service to focus on the Red Zone (where homes and forest meet) and on watersheds. Catastrophic fires in watersheds create some major issues.

“I’ve also asked the Forest Service to bring in a number of experts to identify problems and the best way to deal with them. This was 100 years in the making and we all share some responsibility.

“We need to build trust between the environmental community and loggers. Forest management is a significant policy issue. I’ve had to step back and decide what a healthy forest is.”

Hume – “The pilot program on the Red Zone is good, but nowhere enough. No one could find the money to intervene and reduce fuel loading. If I could find the money, I would spend it on education, not on thinning the forest.

“The forest industry needs to be involved. We have to cut down trees but there should be no clear-cutting.

“Nobody likes to harvest trees, but everyone likes wood. The damage of logging is worth it compared to catastrophic fires.”

How will you best represent the Vail Valley?

Hume – “I don’t like the design of the (2nd) District. It was not a good re-apportionment. We have more in common (with the Front Range part of the district) than differences between us. Everybody wants the same thing.”

Udall – “I’ll be up here as much as I can. I will have to upgrade my skis. I will open an office in the mountains.”

Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555 ext 450 or

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