Gubernatorial candidates discuss drought, disease and congestion |

Gubernatorial candidates discuss drought, disease and congestion

Cliff Thompson

Heath: “I don’t know the answer but it’s probably time to convene immediately a statewide water summit and get the top people in the state to define the problems and truly understand the issues.

“We’ve got to see what the alternatives are. We need to link water conservation with land use planning and also look at what we need to do to repair reservoirs and build more new storage.”

Owens: “While much of it is constitutional there does need to be allowance for conservation. We do need to provide incentives for conservation, both household and agricultural, up and down the water system. We also need more mountain storage and aquifers. Lake Dillon was very unpopular until it was built. We need to do better job of conserving and saving water we already have.”

Vail Daily: On what issue are you and your opponent polar opposites?

Heath: “I think he (Governor Owens) probably would say the economy is going to recover by itself. That’s what got us into the position we’re in. We need to aggressively work our way out of this.”

Owens: “Probably on the issue of taxes. He has made it plain he would be willing to go to voters and ask to increase taxes. He has introduced a plan based on taxing the Internet. He also has a tax of $250 million taxing cigarettes.

“I’m going to have government live within its means.”

Vail Daily: Colorado’s worst wildfire season is now behind us, and 500,000 acres were blackened. What specifically do you propose to ensure wildlands will be managed to avoid catastrophic fires?

Heath: “I’ve said Bill Owens didn’t plan to fail but he failed to plan. We don’t have a fire plan in this state. We discovered that during the Hayman Fire – one county couldn’t communicate with another.

“I think we’ve also got to require thinning in red zones (where houses are built in forests) and have got to require homeowners to have fire retardant materials on their homes.

“We also have to thin the forests.”

Owens: “I’m working closely with the U.S. Forest Service and Congress. Both Colorado senators are aware of the need to manage the forest. Fires have pointed out the danger of having the huge density we have. I was told that today’s federal forests have 10 times the trees of forests 50 years ago. I’m not suggesting going back to 50 years ago but current policy is the policy of failure. Hopefully we can get some assistance to do a better job of managing our lands.”

Vail Daily: If you had a magic wand and could affect change with a single stroke, what would be your first act?

Heath: “I would figure out a way to get the economy moving again and get people back to work. I have a huge issue with work force training so people could upgrade skills so they could contribute to being a part of the economy.”

Owens: “Hmmm … I can’t answer that. I don’t have a magic wand. I have to deal with mundane affairs of state. Just can’t answer that.”

Vail Daily: Does the state need more wilderness?

Heath: “I would say no. What we need to do is make better use of wilderness. We have to develop a plan to get maximum use of the wilderness. We have to balance the needs of all people.”

Owens: “I appreciate the fact that about 70 percent of Colorado is non-urban in terms of wilderness. It depends on where the wilderness is and what access it has. I don’t want to lock up wilderness so it’s just accessible to backpackers. I want to keep it open for families and those who want to enjoy those public lands. I’d have to decide by each specific wilderness.”

Vail Daily: What concrete steps need be taken to help resolve the state’s chronic wasting disease?

Heath: “We need to take this a lot more seriously than it’s being taken. – hunting is a huge part of the economy. We need more test stations to aggressively tackle this so we don’t destroy a huge part of tourism.”

Owens: “At a recent national Chronic Wasting Disease conference in Denver, Colorado’s actions were called a model in terms of quarantine and aggressively dealing with the challenge. It’s perhaps perhaps spreading, but we won’t know until hunting season when there will be lots of carcasses to sample. We have been very aggressive in trying to stem it.”

Vail Daily: How do you envision resolving the traffic congestion on Interstate 70 through the mountains? Is the high-speed monorail an option worth exploring?

Heath: “Bill Owens beat the heck out of me on this issue. I signed the petition to put the monorail on the ballot. I didn’t vote for it. My reason for putting it on the ballot is we need to change the whole dialogue about what the alternatives are.

“I lived in Europe, where every form of transportation to get people up and down – and to ski slopes – is available. If you don’t put the time and energy behind a study of solutions you will never get there. Bill Owens has given lip service.

“The Colorado Department of Transportation is one of five state transportation departments in the country without one person in alternative transportation.

“We also need more regional air service and direct flights into the Western Slope. I wouldn’t stop with the I-70 Corridor.”

Owens: “We’re doing an environmental impact statement on some options. It will tell us what sort of mix of mass transit or widening lanes we will need.”

Rollie Heath

Age: 64

Marital status: Married, three children

Party affiliation: Democratic

Governmental experience: None. He’s the former president of the international division of Johns Manville, has served on numerous volunteer committees with the Denver Chamber of Commerce and says he has created many business and education-partnership programs.

Education: University of Wisconsin, B.B.A, 1959, J.D. 1961


Bill Owens

On the Web:

Age: 51

Marital status: Married, three children

Party affiliation: Republican, conservative

Governmental experience: Former Colorado treasurer and Colorado senator. Seeking second term as governor.

Education: Denver University, degree in in art history.


Editor’s Note: Gov. Bill Owens, Republican, is running for reelection against Democratic challenger, Rollie Heath. This is the second in a series of three interviews with the Vail Daily.


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