With election day looming less than a month away, Park County District 2 Commissioner Richard Elsner and challenger Richie Frangiosa faced off in a cordial but spirited public debate Oct. 6 at Platte Canyon High School.
The debate, which was hosted and moderated by The Flume, touched on a myriad of topics and prompted a bevy of sharp differences between the two candidates.
With regards to the topic of future improvements to U.S. Highway 285, and the planned removal of the traffic light at the intersection of U.S. Highway 285 and Park County Road 43A, there was more agreement than disagreement between the District 2 contenders.
Both men generally agreed that working with the Colorado Department of Transportation was critical to improving and modernizing U.S. Highway 285.
The rub, however, occurred with regards to the removal of the U.S. Highway 285/County Road 43A traffic light.
Frangiosa stated that “CDOT cares about traffic flow through the city, not about the people of Park County,” and added that he did not believe commissioners had been vocal enough in opposition to CDOT’s planned removal of the light.
“We need support,” Frangiosa insisted.
Elsner took exception to Frangiosa’s comments.
“His characterization is totally wrong,” Elsner said. “To be accused of not doing anything makes me a little angry.”
Elsner stated that he had been working with CDOT officials, but insisted that a certain degree of tact was required to achieve the best results for the people of Park County.
“CDOT really does care, and they are people, too,” Elsner said. “If all you do is attack, then they [CDOT] become defensive.”
“I’m glad to hear he’s working on it because I have not heard him say that,” Frangiosa quipped.
With regards to the overall financial health of the county and the commissioners’ role in finding or producing revenue for the county, Elsner stated that the county’s financial health was good, despite taking a hit as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Elsner also stated that the County Fair has grown exponentially, and that it was one example of how revenue is being generated.
Frangiosa stated that he would never, under any circumstances, support raising taxes if elected as commissioner. He added, “It’s not my job to tell others how to do their job, or to tell them where to make cuts within their departments. “It’s my job to find the money.”
The next topic pertained to recreational vehicles in outdoor spaces and whether Park County should cater to such activities, or whether it should be more restrictive.
Frangiosa argued that the county should cater to such activities, and that those involved in such activities were willing to work to maintain or improve conditions in locations where they operate their recreational vehicles. He said the commissioners simply refused to listen to their offers.
“We have people who want to help us, but the county isn’t accepting their help,” Frangiosa said.
Elsner countered, “We are listening to our constuents. And what they say is that they do not want more recreational vehicles up here. Our county is being attacked [by recreational vehicle enthusiasts]. They want to tear up Park County because they don’t have room to do it down there.”
Elsner sharpened that point by stating recreational vehicle enthusiasts have made offers before to maintain the roads on which they ride, but that those promises were not kept and that those roads were destroyed. Elsner added that recreational vehicle enthusiasts also have the capacity to soak the county of its resources.
“If there’s a recreational vehicle upside-down in a river, then the Sheriff’s Office has to respond,” Elsner said.
Elsner also stated that Search and Rescue personnel and resources sometimes have to be utilized at the local taxpayers’ expense to assist or rescue recreational vehicle enthusiasts who hail from distant locations. Finally, Elsner made the argument that recreational vehicle enthusiasts are not significant supporters of the local economy.
Elsner, a Republican, and Frangiosa, a Libertarian, were asked how their political ideologies might impact their decisions or actions as commissioners.
Elsner stated that he rerpresented all the people of Park County, and that political ideology played little or no role in most of the decisions he makes as a commissioner.
Frangiosa stated he agreed that political affiliation was not especially significant, but that that ideology was important. He stated that, as a Libertarian, if something creates more freedom for Park County residents, and it is good, then he would likely be in favor of it. If not, then he would likely oppose it.
Elsner stated that it was a Utopian ideal to think that you can “... let people do what ever they like.”
“If someone wanted to put 12 outhouses on their property, then I suppose a Libertarian would let them,” Elsner said. “We do need guidelines.”
Finally, each man was asked why he was the best candidate for the position of District 2 commissioner.
“I don’t need or want it,” Frangiosa said of the District 2 commissioner’s post. “I feel I have an obligation to run because the county needs to be more transparent and accountable.”
Frangiosa also said Elsner had not been as responsive as he should have been to his constituents, and actually claimed that Elsner had not responded to emails Frangiosa himself had sent to Elsner as a private citizen.
“I will answer your calls, respond to your emails, and I will listen, rather than just talking,” Frangiosa said.
“If you don’t want the job because you have a passion for serving people, then you shouldn’t run,” Elsner responded. “People are really needing help right now, and I do try to work with everyone. It’s not a duty, but a passion.”
Finally, with regards to Proposition 1A, Elsner said he supported the proposition as a means of stabilizing the county’s income, and that is was not associated with raising taxes.
Frangiosa expressed his opposition to the measure, stating that “Not lowering taxes when you have the opportunity to do so is the same as raising taxes.”