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Skunks stink up political campaigns

Don Rogers

Bad enough with our statewide none-of-the-above choice of Allard-Strickland for senator. I had hoped that was a last vestige of a style of politics that could ruin our style of democracy if run rampant.

Two sickening strains of this disease borne of desperation have lately infected Eagle County, home – whispering quietly about something in a candidate’s personal life, and trying to twist facts into the appearance of something that’s as disingenuous as a flat-out lie. The perpetrators of both could use some time at the pointed end of their rotten game. I personally hope none profit from their tactic. They fully deserve a different message from you, the voters, whatever the merits of their favored candidate.

The personal attack is especially pathetic: Anonymous tipsters whispered about a domestic violence incident in sheriff’s candidate Bill Kaufman’s background, with the obvious assertion. But the truth supports, rather than erodes, this candidate’s fitness for office.



For you cowardly rumor-mongers out there, you know who you are even if I don’t, this comes down to a husband holding his wife’s wrist just tight enough to scare her eight long years ago, in part from her memories of a previous relationship. The two agreed to call the police. A differed judgment and program followed. It wasn’t enough to register a record. The couple have stayed together, and the husband, Kaufman, counts this as a moment that made him a much better person today.

This hardly fits the whisper crappo, since of course the facts don’t fit the image jerks desperate for an edge would like to conjure up. They haven’t done the other candidate, Joy Hoy, any favors. I’m at least glad to see he abhors this appalling behavior.



The other poor excuse for “campaigning” requires a bit more space. Explanation is calculated to require actual thought to counter the easy charges meant to make voters think something different than the reality.

For the sake of electing a good candidate running on integrity, non-partisanship and frank honesty, the local Democratic Party has taken out ads in local papers that stretch truth well beyond heated taffy.

Gerry Sandberg had no knowledge of the ad, by the way, and I hope he realizes the damage allies have done to the central tenets of his candidacy. The irony here is that the “politicized” commissioner he is running against, Tom Stone, is running the clean campaign now.



The bullet items in the ad, “Had Enough? Fire Tom Stone” merit more inspection:

n Stone opposed receiving a federal grant to assist 45 poverty level families, saying, “Some of those people don’t want to be reached.” Whatever he said, and in what context, he joined in a unanimous vote of the commissioners April 23, 2002, to continue funding for an early Head Start program that assists 45 poverty level families. The original funding was secured before Stone took office.

n Stone opposed day-care services, and is quoted saying, “I have a problem with addressing the issue by providing more and more day care so that children can be cared for by somebody else. A lot of the ills of the county reflect who is raising the children.” While he was chairman of the board, the commissioners in May 2001 adopted a five-year strategy for countywide child-care services as part of a regional and national program for dealing with this vexing and expensive problem for families. Most recently the commissioners approved a child-care facility in the Berry Creek 5th. If the intimation is that Stone votes and truly opposes child care help for families, it’s simply wrong.

n Stone shamelessly used the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as an opportunity to attack a fellow commissioner. He did make a fuss about Commissioner Arn Menconi declined to sign a boilerplate resolution condemning terrorism and expressing support for President Bush taking steps he deems necessary to fight it. I recall writing about my own disappointment in Stone and Menconi for their parts in giving something so inconsequential as this piece of paper so much life in political la-la land that the VFW was inspired to take signatures in a bid to recall Menconi over it. Stone will argue that he said what was in his heart and stayed out of the fray from there. I think this was a low moment for all the commissioners, whatever their thinking.

n Stone publicly voiced opposition to the county’s contribution to Brush Creek State Park. (They mean the East Brush Creek land addition to Sylvan Lake State Park.) See the pattern here? The accusers use the words “opposed” and “voice opposition” because the commissioner has VOTED different than what they want to portray. Sigh. Their basis is Stone questioning something during one of those myriad work sessions hammering out agreements. Actually, Stone was instrumental in a county decision to postpone funding for the El Jebel-Basalt Tree Farm project, along with some other steps to make room in the budget for the county’s $1.5 million contribution to the $14 million project. This is actually funny, because Commissioner Stone in fact had a lot to do with making this open space deal work.

n Stone tries to take credit for Berry Creek 5th decisions. In fact, he wasn’t even in office when the plans for Berry Creek were first developed and approved. This one is nonsensical enough to wonder if the author of this charge has spent any time at all in Eagle County over the past four years. All the major decisions about developments at Berry Creek have come during Stone’s watch, and he has been a major force in them. Ironically enough, I’ve only heard the word “we” from the commissioner when discussing the Berry Creek 5th, whether publicly or privately. This accusation is a real head-scratcher.

That said, I do see a penchant for self-promotion in Stone. But that’s also the story with everyone who runs for elected office. Occupational hazard, if you will.

n Stone hides behind the argument that his conflict of interest isn’t illegal. Well sure. Legally, he doesn’t have a conflict of interest in a deal the rivals are trying mightily to exaggerate into votes. We’ve gone over this a few times now: The developer that placed the winning bid to build affordable housing at Berry Creek afterward approached Stone about other possible real estate ventures in Eagle County. After consulting with the county administration and lawyers about whether there could be a conflict by helping the company in his private capacity as a real estate professional, Stone set them up with Cotton Ranch.

We have said that we wish he had instead handed this one to another Realtor, as well as our contention that if he didn’t have a stake in the developer before, he will if they come before the county again in a bid. But there is no factual conflict of interest, only a bloom of rhetoric.

The Democrats, in addition to mocking the very core of their candidate’s approach to life and politics, squandered an opportunity to lay out the genuine differences between candidates.

They could have chosen to educate instead of fool the voters. Their choice was despicable, in my opinion, as is the case with the rotten apples trying to help the Republican candidate for sheriff.

But none of them are overly concerned about my opinion or apparently about the candidates they are trying to “help.” Truth is an acceptable casualty in the grand quest for votes.

Only you can send the message that these slimeball strategies don’t belong in Eagle County, from any party or individual.

Managing Editor Don Rogers can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 600, or editor@vaildaily.com


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