A Republican candidate forum for Park County Commissioner District 2 was held June 6 on Zoom, a virtual meeting software.

Park County Republican Party Chairman Tim Peterson moderated the question and answer forum.

Cyndie Sherriff is challenging incumbent Dick Elsner, who is running for a second term.

The first day for the Clerk and Recorder Debra Green to start mailing ballots was June 8. Ballots must be received by 7 p.m., June 30, primary election day. Postmarks do not count.

A similar forum was held May 30 for District 1 Republican candidates (see article in this issue).

The recording of both forums can be found on www.parkcogop.org.

Between 17 and 20 citizens listened to the forum that started Saturday evening at 7 p.m..

Answers were summarized by The Flume and are listed in the order candidates spoke.

Introductions

  Sherriff has lived in the county for about nine years. The family, with four children, had a farm in Wiggins before moving here. She has owned her own business since 1996. She is a virtual executive assistant and business consultant for property management companies and nonprofits. She provides financial analysis for clients to make informed decisions. She manages over $1 million in rentals, sales and assets for one property brokerage firm, her largest client.

She is well versed in Robert’s Rules of Order and Colorado Revised Statutes.

She was involved in the 2016 attempted recall of the Platte Canyon School Board.  She did it because of her strong conviction for transparency, due process and communications.

Even though the recall failed, good things came out of it. The students no longer drink water with lead and the board is more transparent.

Those involved with the recall found over $500,000 in inappropriate expenditures. When the review was over, it was near $1.9 million. This led the school board to create a Financial Oversight Advisory Subcommittee, for which she is the chair.

Recently, the speed limit was changed on County Road 43 by the county manager without an open process or following the law. After a little research, it took her several phone calls and emails to the county manager and current District 2 commissioner to get it changed back to the legal speed limit.

She is a no-nonsense leader who welcomes all ideas and supports transparency in meetings and budgets.

Elsner, current District 2 commissioner, grew up in Arapahoe County before moving here 41 years ago. His family homesteaded in Arapahoe County in 1883. He met his wife in college and they’ve been married 46 years.

When first elected, he wanted to change the Land Use Regulations to be more user friendly and give people more options for using their property. The first two years as a commissioner, he got nowhere.

But since Ray Douglas was elected, they’ve been able to do some good things. For example, residential zoning now allows more uses and more outbuildings. On agricultural land, now owners can build a house without rezoning it. He wanted to take the county from “no, you can’t do that” to “it’s not allowed in the LURs, but let’s take a look to see if we can’t get that done.”

A high priority for all candidates is finding more money to improve roads. The road and bridge budget has stayed the same for the past five to 10 years. The county had to let people go so salaries could be competitive with other counties. Public works has a long term plan for purchasing equipment and for road improvements, plus planned road maintenance.

Petersen explained the Gallagher amendment before asking the first question. It states 45 percent of property taxes must be from residential property and 55 percent from business or other types of property. As property values go up, the mill levy goes down.

1. The state legislature is looking at rescinding the Gallagher Amendment. What impacts could this have on the county?

Elsner: Gallagher was based on the amount of taxes paid in the past by residential and commercial.

No assessed value can be higher than 29 percent of actual value. As residential values go up, the assessment percentage goes down. The repeal has passed in one chamber and is now waiting on a vote in the second chamber. If it passes the legislature, it will go to the ballot box for voter approval in November. The residual assessment won’t be changed this year, but will next year if Gallagher is rescinded.

Sherriff: She thinks it will be a challenge to get Gallagher rescinded since it has to go to the voters. Since most of the county’s income is from property tax, if rescinded, it could have a dramatic positive impact on counties, but not on the taxpayer.

Rebuttal:

Elsner said Gallagher is also a Taxpayer Bill of Rights issue. The commissioners might try to pass a modified DeBrucing of TABOR in Park County. This will allow the commissioners to change the mill levy in order to backfill anything the state might take away.

2. How will you help increase business opportunities to get our economy going again in the county?

Sherriff: Expand tourism. That is also a goal in the 2015 strategic master plan. Most businesses in the county depend on tourists to survive. There is a tourism line item in the general fund budget, but no dollars are in it. By approving a short term rental tax, the county would have money in the tourism line item to attract more tourists.

Elsner: The best way is to look at personal property taxes on businesses. The county can be flexible with personal property tax to reduce the overall taxes on businesses. A tourism tax is a way to bring in money by a vote of the people. But it is to support only tourism-related businesses. The fund is set up by people in the industry who decide where the money goes. The commissioners would not control the money brought in by the tax.

The empty line item is in the South Park National Heritage Area budget. It has no money in it because it is a match for the $350,000 federal money we get for the Heritage Area.

Rebuttal:

Elsner: Tourism is a big driver in the county. Most people don’t want more tourists. We need to look for new business opportunities.

3. Are the LURs and permitting processes doing enough to insure the public’s interest or are they too onerous?

Elsner: In many ways they are too much and cost too much to enforce. But we do need some regulations that we can enforce. We have one judge that doesn’t like the county enforcing LURs. He thinks the people should do better, but not all people are good. Some want to do anything and everything on their property and don’t care if it hurts their neighbors. In that case, we need to have regulations we can enforce and stop injury to others.

Sherriff: The LURs are very restrictive. There are other county laws to use when needed such as trash accumulation or leaving human waste on a property instead of having a septic system. She supports personal property rights and a person’s right to do what they want. The founding fathers covered this in the Declaration of Independence. She quoted “We hold these truths to be self evident … right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Our LURs are restricting those rights.

Rebuttal:

Elsner: Camping regulations adopted just before he was elected. He didn’t like them and spoke out against them. The commissioners are now considering regulations that are more lenient. Remember, the reason we have camping regulations is because people were abusing their right to camp on their property.

Sherriff: If elected, she will have regulations better addressed within two years.

4. What policy changes or investments are necessary to ensure broader employment in Park County?

Sherriff: She asked if the question was for county government or businesses in general. In general, she would encourage our businesses so they would be able to hire. Her goal would be people living and working in the same county.

Elsner: Businesses can’t hire without low-income housing being available. The county is doing a project in Fairplay with Habitat for Humanity to provide housing for school teachers, county employees and those who work in neighboring counties, but live here. The bus service to Breckenridge helps, too. The county can’t afford large salaries. We have to figure out a way to provide housing that workers can afford.

5. What revenues streams would you encourage and how?

Elsner: We are limited on ability to raise revenue. Not many options, can go for grants like SPNHA, FASTER and highway bridge replacement grants. Grants can assist us with our projects. We received an $80,000 bridge grant to repair the bridge in Bailey. The county will match it with another $80,000. Problem with all counties: how can we raise more money and keep the state from taking it with unfunded mandates?

Sherriff: A short-term rental tax can free up general fund dollars to use for something else. The general fund typically runs about $254,000 in deficit. STRT could take care of that and free up other money to transfer to funds that need it, like public works to repair our roads.

Elsner: A STRT will not go into our general fund. It is controlled by someone else. It’s against the law to take money from the general fund and put it into road and bridge. We are kind of stuck.

6.  If elected, what are three key objectives you’d like to see implemented?

Sherriff: Quality communications, authentic communications and thirdly, how to deal with roads, the jail and LURs. If we don’t change how we communicate with the citizens, nothing in the third priority will get done. With good communications, we can establish joint participation in our communities and work in partnership with our citizens.

Elsner: First objective is to make the LURs easier to understand and friendlier. Use more overlay zoning. Camping could be allowed in an overlay zone that has specific boundaries. His second objective is to continue searching for road and bridge funding by working with CDOT and looking for grants. Third is working with the Sheriff on a plan for sustainable funding for the Sheriff’s Office.

Rebuttal:

Elsner: We have lots of issues. In order to get things done, all three commissioners must work on some of the issues and must also work together.  One can’t do it all.

Closing

Elsner: Now is a challenging time with most days spent online in Zoom meetings. He will continue to try to get as much as possible from the state for Park County. People have a tendency to ignore Park County since we are in the middle of the state.

 He’s on the executive committee on Pike Peak Area Council of Governments. That’s where most money for senior programs is generated.

He’s on Central Front Range Regional Advisory Council for Colorado Department of Transportation and also represents the regional council on the Statewide Transportation Advisory Council.

He’s a co-chair of the Colorado Workforce Advisory Council. It allocates state Temporary Aid to Needy Families money to counties for their program. He’s chair of Colorado Counties, Inc.’s taxation and finance committee and treasurer of the State Republican Party. He is also a member of the Eleventh Judicial review committee.

Sherriff: “If you like the direction the county has been moving in the past three years; if you like the decisions that have been made in the past few months; if you like the business as usual model, then I’m not your candidate.”

If not, let me tell you about the candidate I am. I promise to be transparent in all county business. I promise to treat everyone with respect. I promise to listen and be considerate of your opinion.  I will review budgets line item by line item. I want to earn your trust and bring our county together to solve our problems. I want you to hold me accountable for everything I’ve said and promised. I’m committed to Park County, creating community and to do so with a servile leadership mind set.

Peterson urged everyone to vote in the primary Jan. 30.

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