Senate candidates spar over water rights, Social Security |

Senate candidates spar over water rights, Social Security

Christine Ina Casillas

Allard won, and now the embittered race between the former veterinarian and the politically connected attorney is being reprised. But some of the issues behind the debate have taken an alternate route.

The environment, corporate responsibility, social security and transportation stand high on the candidates’ list of issues, but their strategies differ greatly – and it mostly boils down to individual choice and local decision-making.

Yet, the candidates agree on some issues, such as water rights and the state’s growth and prosperity. The candidates both say that they want to make a difference for Colorado.

Sen. Wayne Allard has spent the last month touring Colorado, stopping in Eagle Monday, to find out from the public some of the issues that face the residents. Strickland also has toured the state, making an appearance in Vail last weekend at the Vail Ski Swap.

Water worries

Allard says one of his visions is to ensure that Colorado keeps its own water, he said in Eagle.

“The Federal Reserves Water Rights allows the federal government to come in and use water that historically has been used by Vail, Eagle and Basalt,” Allard said. “They convert it to their own use, and it harms the farmers and ranchers in the area, who view water as property rights.

“And that’s how it’s supposed to be viewed,” he added. “It’s the state’s role to administer those water rights.”

However, when it comes to the Forest Service, Strickland bashes Allard, saying that the incumbent takes an “anti-environmental” stance. But Allard said that working with the community and with the Forest Service will help Coloradans fulfill their open space needs.

“I believe in local control,” Allard said. “I think (open space) has to be controlled at the local level. I’m not even comfortable with it being controlled at the state level, let alone in Congress.

“I think it’s your county commissioners and city council who need to make those decisions,” he added. “I don’t support heavy mandates out of Washington.”

Grappling with growth

More people are moving into the Vail Valley, creating more traffic, Strickland said.

“Transportation issues aren’t going away, but where’s the leadership to searching for alternatives (to transportation)?” he said. “Wayne Allard in the state Senate and the U.S. Senate has been anything but a leader on transportation.”

A supporter of a monorail from Denver to the mountains and public transportation, Strickland said that he’s “been an ardent advocate for mass transit in urban areas and in other corridors where it makes sense.

“Wayne Allard has opposed transit,” he said.

But Allard disagrees. Allard said he also is a strong supporter of public transportation, but again, he said, it should be started at a local level.

“It shouldn’t be something driven out of Washington. When I was on the environment and public works committee, I helped change the formula to increase Colorado’s share of transportation dollars, and I changed a second formula to increase Colorado’s share of mass transit dollars,” he said.

“I don’t know where my opponent would get out of my record that I haven’t accomplished anything for mass transit in Colorado,” he added.

Restless retirement

On a more national level, Allard and Strickland agree that individual choice – not local mandates – is important when it comes to Social Security. But for the first-term Republican and the Democratic hopeful, those individual choices also differ greatly.

“People count on Social Security,” Strickland said. “It should be a guarantee, not a gamble.”

Strickland charges that investing Social Security into stocks, bonds or savings plans of individual choice is a bad idea. But Allard ranks those choices highly, saying it allows taxpayers the option of storing portions of the money in individual accounts that would otherwise be taken in federal taxes.

“Today’s 20-year-olds will receive significantly reduced benefits when they retire” if lawmakers don’t do something about Social Security, Allard said. “They don’t have to put the money in the stock market, but in some cases they will decide that that’s what they want to do.”

But Strickland says the stock market is the wrong place for those savings.

“Privatizing Social Security was a bad idea before the stock market fell,” Strickland said. “It’s misguided to put Social Security into the market, because right now we’re faced with the worst bear market since 1937.

“And people count on their Social Security,” he said. “They don’t want to see it decline.”

The candidates agree that something must be done to protect those who are now entering the work force when they retire.

Strickland said focusing on restoring the health of the national economy should take top priority instead of toiling with trust funds that might or might not be a guarantee.

“Social Security ought to be there no matter what,” Strickland said. “There are some economic concerns. People have seen their investments dwindle and college savings turn for the worse. Colorado, and the Vail Valley, is not spared from that.”

But Allard alleges that Strickland “mischaracterizes” his position on Social Security.

Allard, who predicts Social Security will be bankrupt by 2016, says Americans could still chose traditional Social Security. But those now entering the labor force could also begin putting money into a savings account in a bank and earn more interest than they would in the Social Security system.

But those young workers do not have to invest the money, he said.

It’s about “giving people choices,” Allard said.

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