Energy answer to economic woes, candidate says about Eagle County, Colorado | VailDaily.com
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Energy answer to economic woes, candidate says about Eagle County, Colorado

Theo Stroomer/Daily file photoKen Brenner, the Democratic candidate for Eagle County Colorado state's House seat, talks to supporters at the Broadway Cafe in Eagle earlier this year. He says energy independence could have big economic benefits for Colorado.
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EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Ken Brenner says he wants to bring fresh ideas to the state Senate for Eagle County, Colorado.

Brenner, a Democrat, is running against Rep. Al White 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.



Brenner lives in Steamboat Springs with his wife of more than 30 years, Pam. They have three sons: Daniel, Kenyon and Jacob. He was born in Steamboat Springs and grew up on a ranch near town.

The Democratic candidate ” whose family has lived in the Yampa Valley for three generations ” has coached skiing and has climbed 35 of the state’s 14,000-foot peaks. For the last 15 years he’s been involved in local politics, serving as a city councilor and planning commissioner.



“I’ve been very involved with local government groups and really have a very in depth knowledge of local government structures and local government issues,” Brenner said. “It’s critically important to have someone represent this are that really knows what’s going on.”

The Vail Daily interviewed Brenner about a series of issues facing residents of Senate District 8 this week.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST ISSUE FACING THE DISTRICT?



It’s difficult to point to anything other than the economy as the biggest issue facing the district, Brenner said.

“It’s hard to say right now how much impact the financial crisis that’s taking place at the national and international level will have, but likely it will be a lot,” he said. “We depend on second-home owners and the tourist industry to continue coming, and when their retirement income and their personal finances are all challenged they’re going to travel less.”

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

The No. 1 priority when dealing with pine beetles has to be wildfire preparation, Brenner said.

“We need to create buffers around urban areas, transportation corridors, utility corridors, and create fire breaks in these large watersheds,” Brenner said. “But we also want to harvest as much of the timber as we reasonably can.”

Planning to avoid a fire-related disaster is important, he said.

“The No. 1 danger here is a Katrina-like catastrophe in the mountains from an enormous fire,” he said. “It was another dry summer and we got lucky not having and huge wildfires.”

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

The short answer to whether education needs more funding is yes, Brenner said.

“Colorado is 49th in the nation in per-pupil funding,” he said. “That’s embarrassing for one of the most well educated states.”

Brenner said there needs to be consensus on the need for full-day kindergarten, preschool availability for working families, small class sizes, livable wages for teachers, and art, music, dance, physical education and language classes.

“Then we need a comprehensive change to the School Finance Act that will allow us to make sure all those things are in our curriculum,” he said. “Children are our best possible financial investment ” education is our best possible economic development tool.”

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

Brenner said he was first to question high gas prices in the area, not his opponent.

“He has done nothing on it except vote against price gauging legislation,” Brenner said. “A month before the election he decides to find out why gas here is as high as it is in the state.”

Brenner said he has contacted the attorney general and thinks a full investigation of the prices is the best way to handle the issue.

“Hopefully the attorney general’s office will move forward and find out whether it’s a retail or a distribution problem,” Brenner said. “But I know the people deserve an answer to this question of why their (gas) prices are so high.”

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

Brenner said he favors a long-term solution to congestion on I-70.

“What I’ve heard is that people will favor the more long-term, transit-oriented solution,” he said. “Not just the construction of new lanes.”

But the key is funding, said Brenner.

“The elephant in the middle of the room is our transportation portion of the budget is grossly under funded,” he said. “This isn’t about borrowing against future revenues or switching money from higher education or prisons ” we’re talking about $1 or $2 billion annually. The Legislature needs to bring forward some options for the taxpayers and find out if they want to invest in transportation infrastructure.”

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?

The monitoring of water quality and quantity needs to be increased, Brenner said.

“We don’t have enough data to do good accurate models,” he said. “We need to produce more than just a mean ” what if the temperatures change and we end up having a 20 percent decrease in our water supply.”

Brenner is against diverting Western Slope water to the Front Range.

“There is no extra water if you account for climate change and the needs within our senate district,” he said.

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

Residents of the district need to embrace energy as a potential benefit to the struggling economy, Brenner said.

“We need tax credits, low interest loans, or renewable energy and energy efficient improvements to businesses and homes,” he said. “Not only will this save you money, it’s going to create a lot of new jobs and new technology that will make Colorado the national leader in this transition away from fossil fuels.”

The legislation needs to move in that direction, he said.

“In the 90s we saw the dot-com industry have great success and then finally bust,” Brenner said. “I think the next big industry or economic opportunity for Colorado or for our nation is our transition to energy independence.”


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