Kids quiz candidates | VailDaily.com

Kids quiz candidates

Eagle Valley High School senior Xochilt Venzor poses a question related to her Capstone Project to a forum consisting of candidates for Eagle town board and Gypsum town council in Gypsum on Tuesday. Candidates were able to answer student questions about topics related to both the Eagle and Gypsum communities.

GYPSUM — Town Council candidates usually face the public in various forums before election day. Tuesday, most of the candidates for the Gypsum Town Council and the Eagle Town Board met some young potential voters.

Eagle Valley High School teacher Weston Gleiss pulled most of this year's senior class into the school's auditorium to meet candidates and learn a bit about what prompts people to run for those jobs. But the students also got to question the candidates about issues ranging from marijuana to traffic to poverty.

"You're asking way harder questions than the adults at a forum three weeks ago," Eagle Town Board candidate Matt Solomon said.

Randy Hovey asked the candidates about poverty and what they could do about it.

"I don't like it," Gypsum Town Council candidate Tom Edwards said, getting a laugh from the several dozen students in attendance.

Turning serious, Edwards told the students that key to battling poverty in the valley is creating a more vibrant year-round economy, a sentiment shared by other candidates on the stage.

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But most of the time, local governments deal with less-weighty issues like traffic.

Candidates used a question about traffic around the school to talk a bit about the towns' cooperation with the Colorado Department of Transportation on an agreement that would cede control of U.S. Highway 6 to the towns.

Gypsum candidate Chris Huffman said that the town has hired a company to study traffic patterns. Edwards added that those studies for Highway 6 will be far less expensive without the state agency involved.

While town government is one of the most basic levels, it can still be the source of some confusion. Candidates found themselves explaining master plans — they guide, but don't dictate, development — and talking about the limitations of local government.

Student Hayden Gitchell asked about Eagle County's open space program and how the roughly $4 million per year in tax collections for that program are budgeted.

Anne McKibbin, who's running unopposed for the mayoral position in Eagle, told Gitchell that fund is out of the towns' control. But Eagle does have a much smaller open space fund, she said, and the town recently worked with the county recently to purchase a 160-acre parcel between Eagle Ranch and Bureau of Land Management property. That purchase has opened up more federal land for local recreation.

The students' questions often opened broader discussions about several topics.

Leonel Herrera's question about marijuana prompted a broader discussion about the two towns' different views on the retail sale of the substance. The town of Eagle is the only town in the valley with retail marijuana sales. Gypsum has banned those sales.

And, Solomon said, a customer of Eagle's marijuana dispensary can't legally be a customer of his shop, Alpine Arms, since federal law prohibits gun sales to anyone who admits to drug use.

Facing a group of 17- and 18-year-olds, the candidates also found themselves talking about bullying, an issue that doesn't usually come up during town government meetings.

All the candidates told senior Xochilt Venzor that there isn't much a town government can do, urging students instead to use their own power to support those who are being bullied in school or on social media.

But, Solomon said, "We can set an example for you."

After the fast-moving two hour session, both candidates and a few students lingered.

Gleiss and Edwards talked about the possibility Gypsum's council holding regular meetings with students to get a better feeling for what younger residents want to see in town.

Gitchell said he'd learned about how open space funding works in the county, of course. But, he added, he was also able to learn a little bit about the candidates. As opposed to national elections, information about local races can be hard to come by.

Yaqui Garcia said she'd learned about how people in a community can help make it better.

"I liked how I can go talk to (council members) about the needs in the community," Venzor said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, smiller@vaildaily.com and @scottnmiller.

What to know

• Election day: April 5.

• Eagle voters can mail their ballots or drop them at town hall.

• Gypsum is holding a polling-place election Tuesday.