Elections are opportunity. Opportunity to build on what we as a collective believe is working or an opportunity to bring in fresh blood and start over. Some elections present better opportunities than others. This election offers a historic opportunity for us. Pulling the political garbage out of my P.O. Box Monday and turning on the television news and seeing the same horrible political ads on the replay cycle, we here in Crested Butte and Gunnison County can put a dent in that. It’s harder and actually requires thought to write in a name on your ballot and fill in the box next to that name, but we can send a message to the prevailing political system that we want a higher standard. While political parties can and should provide the outline of a box, we in this town and this county like thinking outside the box and don’t expect our representatives to always fall inside the lines. If the two parties begin to understand this concept, there could be the start of real change away from strict partisanship and toward a middle ground that benefits the people. In the race for Colorado state representative for house district 61 we can send the message that we want an independent thinker to represent us in Denver. We want a woman from the Western Slope who is extremely knowledgeable in water issues, not afraid to ruffle feathers, is willing to push back the political bosses but still work successfully with representatives from both sides of the aisle. We want Kathleen Curry and we want her to let others know that an independent, a candidate not affiliated with the big money or political parties, can get to the statehouse and make a difference. If we can come together to take the extra 10 seconds to write in her last name and check the box on the ballot, we will have participated in the electoral process with a sweet twist. She has been in the legislature and knows how to get things done. She has the respect of her fellow lawmakers. They have worked with her and will sit up and take notice of her victory. But it takes that extra step from you the voter. Look, it couldn’t have been easy for her to leave the Democratic Party and leave a top leadership role in Denver. But she did. And it was noticed and now it is time to support that independent streak. She has proven that she can be effective and take on the tough challenges. She has helped Western State College. She had the guts to go out and try and tackle a contentious rafting issue. She led the charge to reconfigure the state oil and gas commission so it would be better balanced to consider surface owner rights and the environment. She stirs things up. Not everyone does. At the C.B. News Candidate’s Forum Sunday evening, Democrat Roger Wilson came across as smart, intelligent and not short of interesting ideas. Republican Luke Korkowski was articulate and honest in where he wanted to head if elected. But Curry was calm, knowledgeable and proven. Historically, independents don’t win elections. But the parties are watching this race closely. It is said that there is a better chance of the Broncos winning this year’s Super Bowl than of a write-in candidate winning an election like this. The polls apparently say Curry has a real shot at taking this election. Well, it is time for us to step up and make the politicos in Denver and beyond understand that we here in Crested Butte and Gunnison County have a bit of an independent streak. And when someone has tangibly stepped up for us, we will step up for them. We have a serious opportunity to send a strong message in a political system awash in too much crap, covered in too much party arm-twisting and political maneuvering. Kathleen Curry can win this thing but she needs you to take the time to write in her name. So think about doing just that. Pencil in C-U-R-R-Y and then check the box next her name. You might actually be part of history and set in motion some positive change along with returning a really good representative to the state house.
When radical ‘grow the government’ types like local Kristi Hargrove and former Republican governor Bill Owens (cue the sarcasm meter) are loudly opposed to ballot proposals because of the devastating impact they could have on government, it is obviously a bad deal. I’m talking about proposed amendments 60 and 61 and proposition 101. As Kristi pointed out Sunday at the candidates’ forum, it comes down to what kind of Colorado we want to be. She is a consistent advocate for small government but understands the need for some government and she is afraid these measures could cripple the state. Whether you appreciate government or not, it takes a collective process at times to achieve quality communal benefits. Despite the belief that keeping $5,000 in your pocket is better than giving it to the state, that may not be true all the time. Yeah, you can eat out more but how the heck will you get from Crested Butte to Sugah’s if the road is one giant pothole. Government serves a needed function and community schools, roads, bridges, safety are all part of it. Unless you want to start paving the portion of road in front of your house, get a grip and vote against these three proposals. In fact, looking over the state’s blue book, my first reflex is to vote against all the ballot proposals unless they bring something really good to the table.
When Scotto Wimmer asked the commissioner candidates Sunday night what would change at the county if one or the other were elected, a stout Jim Starr supporter sitting near me quipped, “the name plate.”
Reading and listening to their positions, Phil and Jim align on many issues. But there would certainly be a shift to the right if Phil takes the seat. There would be a push for a bit less regulation, a bit more motorized travel encouraged, perhaps a tad less fight against the potential molybdenum mine. But I just get the feeling that for most people, this election has little to do with what Phil would bring to the table. It is less Jim vs. Phil and more Starr vs. Starr. While no one will argue that challenger Phil Chamberland isn’t a “good guy,” this race is really about 12-year incumbent Jim Starr. You’re either for him or against him. The old political theory of spending any time in elected office will result in making enemies and losing friends certainly applies here. Jim’s business decision to represent land developers hoping to utilize high profile land in the county near Crested Butte was a poor choice, and could still put him in a strange conflict-of-interest position down the road. That choice could someday eliminate his voice as county commissioner that would be needed at this end of the valley. His sudden public pronouncement this election season of being “in favor of Snodgrass Light” is a head scratcher given the contentiousness and length of the issue and the timing of his public epiphany. So, there are some questionable judgment calls that have upset some people, including many of his traditional supporters. Starr has baggage. He has attended a kazillion meetings over hundreds of topics and certainly leans to the political left which tends to reflect this end of the valley. It should be pointed out that during this campaign, when it came down to the issue most important to the north end of the valley, the potential of a molybdenum mine in Mt. Emmons, Starr hit the ball out of the park with his direct position opposing such a future. In what appeared to be an attempt at reaching out to the south end of the valley, Phil’s answer to a yes or no question in the paper was a broken bat single to short right field. He moved more toward an anti mine sentiment at the forum but still hedged. For the majority of people I know, if you believe Starr has done a good overall job the last twelve years, you’ll vote for him. If you think he has held back the county, and after three terms a change is in order, you’ll vote against him. Chatting with people on the street, I understand this election is Starr-centric but for one issue...the mine. That’s the trump card at this end of the valley and that’s where I told Phil his position disappointed me. So with not a lot of enthusiasm, I see myself putting a checkmark next to Starr.
As far as the state offices, it will come as no surprise that I tend to lean toward the moderate Democrats. I see no real reason to move away from that leaning in this election. John Hickenlooper could be a great moderate governor. His business experience opening the state’s first brewpub, his independent streak and quirky personality could make him a good fit at the Al Johnson or Chainless race. Congressman John Salazar is actually a bit too conservative for me but that makes him a great fit for the congressional district. This guy is no liberal Democrat but he sticks up for the Third Congressional District and his recent work to bring in some stimulus money for the RMBL shows he knows where Crested Butte is located. Put a checkmark next to Salazar’s name. It sometimes feels like Gail Schwartz has moved over the pass to Crested Butte. She seems to love this valley and while she is being pounded by a few locals over her supposed non-rafting issue stand, she will vote in this area’s interest at the state senate. Schwartz is a keeper for us so let’s try to send her back to Denver as our state senator. While I’d prefer Andrew Romanoff as the U.S. senator from Colorado, Michael Bennet should top Ken Buck. Honestly, we are lucky in this county that our races are civil and the candidates pretty impressive. If you haven’t done it already, take the time to participate in this election and no matter where you place your check mark, feel good that everyone running for office here wants to keep this a special place.