Stavney, Buckley debate |

Stavney, Buckley debate

EAGLE COUNTY ” County commissioner candidates Jon Stavney and Debbie Buckley traded jabs over spending and who was most qualified to lead the county at a debate Wednesday night.

The debate was hosted by KZYR 97.7 and broadcast on ECOTV 18. Local attorney Rohn Robbins moderated.

“Do you want local government to be robust, proactive and productive, or do you want leadership that is passive and reactionary?” Democrat and former Eagle Mayor Stavney asked. “That’s the choice.”

However, Buckley, a Republican and former Avon town council member, said that if elected, she would change the way county decisions are made and how money was spent.

“(Stavney) thinks were on the right track, and I don’t,” she said. “I’m going to change some things.”

The two midvalley candidates, who are running to replace term-limited Arn Menconi, elaborated on their disagreement over county spending ” one of the key issues of this year’s race.

Buckley said she thought the county needed to cut a lot of its discretionary funding that has been spent on early childhood development programs, housing studies and xeriscaping the county campus.

Much of that money, including a $7 million revenue increase from property taxes this year, could be returned to tax payers, she said.

“I could put the county on a diet ” it’s gotten very fat,” she said.

Stavney, on the other hand, said he believed that cutting things like child care or stopping efforts to find solutions to the county’s housing shortage, would hurt the community.

Cuts need to come from the personnel budget, which is the largest portion of the county pie, he said.

“But these are people’s lives, and it not something we can cut glibly,” he said. “The fact is that the cost of government and doing business has gone up.”

While Buckley wanted to reduce mill levies, Stavney defended the county’s decision to freeze the mill levy by pointing out the county only collects 15 percent of total property taxes.

Buckley said that small portion counted, too.

“Who gets to decide when an amount is trivial to a taxpayer?” she asked.

The candidates clashed on housing, too. Stavney applauded the county for investing in Stratton Flats, an affordable neighborhood in Gypsum, and trying to sell Lake Creek Village apartments to use that money to invest in other affordable housing opportunities.

In fact, he saw the downturn in the economy as a prime time for the county to buy and partner in workforce housing.

“Eagle County should be doing everything we can to facilitate affordable housing,” he said.

Buckley said she wanted to give incentives to private developers to build housing instead. Doing another study isn’t going to help either, she said.

“Let’s stop studying housing and start building housing,” she said.

Buckley, who also has been on the boards for ECO Transit and the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, said she was better equipped to handle a huge budget and manage a county than Stavney.

Stavney, however, said it came down to results ” he pointed out deals for open space he was able to negotiate from developers in Eagle, helping rejuvenate the historic downtown, and being able to work with people from across the county.

“We’ve both had a chance to get things done,” he said.

Stavney called out Buckley on a conservative, anonymous blog site widely believed to be run by her husband. It might not be appropriate for a commissioner to be connected with such a site, which is often very critical of the county, he said.

Buckley called the comment a personal attack, and said she wanted to “stick to the issues.”

When asked what role party affiliation should have in a commissioner’s job, Buckley said she wanted to bring her party back to policies of fiscal responsibility, environmentalism and limited government, while Stavney said he simply wanted to be a commissioner for the whole county.

Party politics have damaged past county boards and led to one-sided decisions, he said.

“I’ve served shoulder-to-shoulder with people that I didn’t even know their party affiliation,” he said. “It doesn’t matter in 99 percent of county business.”

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or

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