Meet the candIdates for districts 1 & 2 gunnison county commissioners
Written by CB Staff   
Wednesday, 03 October 2012
Between now and the end of October, the Crested Butte News will be asking the six candidates for Gunnison County Commissioner questions related to issues in the community. We have requested they keep their answers to 350 words or less.
If you have any specific question you’d like to see the six candidates address, email it to This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it and we will consider posing the query to the politicos. Remember, all qualified county voters get to cast a ballot for one candidate in each district.
Also...everyone is invited to the Crested Butte News Candidates Forum being held this year on Thursday, October 18 at 6 o’clock at the Center for the Arts. Everyone is welcome.

—Mark Reaman

Stu Ferguson
district 1 candidate

Q: Two county commissioners sit on the RTA board and the regional airline situation has recently been in the news. With airline guarantees on the rise and airline seats on the decline, do you see a way to reverse that trend? Is the current air situation robust and/or sustainable enough for the county? Any new ideas on how to attract more airline seats into the area? Thoughts on the Telluride-Montrose-Allegiant Air proposal?
The present airline situation at G-CB Airport is not sustainable but change is within our reach. The solution involves all stakeholders: all who need reliable, cost-effective air transportation, including but not limited to the tourism industry. Tourism is the largest segment and will have the greatest impact. The issue is not how many seats there are, it is how many of those seats are occupied! Step one is to work together to create an even better product than exists. If you have something everyone wants, they will find a way to get here. CBMR is the nucleus of winter tourism but we all have a responsibility to support product improvement and support the collateral offerings that add up to the “ideal” experience. These include entertainment, outstanding food and lodging, spectacular service and complementary activities such as Nordic skiing, snowmobiling, the arts and more. Step two is to eliminate fragmentation in our local tourism industry. Product, marketing, transportation, business, government, and our chambers of commerce must overcome differences to assure a seamless, visitor experience like none other. Our own diversity of opinion and rugged independence can be our greatest challenge. We will have to dig deeper to cherish that which we have in common and overcome our differences.
Allegiant Air has merit. This serves a market not presently served by G-CB Airport so it is not in competition with our own airport. More market coverage creates the opportunity for more business.

Q: Briefly, would you support the proposed Bear Ranch Land Exchange?
It’s hard to find an unbiased assessment of the proposed exchange. I’ve met with people in Somerset who would be negatively affected. I see value in adding to great resources like Curecanti and obtaining in-holdings in national parks. The answers I need before making a call are: how is public access to public lands affected—net gain or loss? Are historic or natural resource features gained or lost for public benefit? These issues are rarely clear. We must balance public benefit over public loss.

Q: What is your favorite fast food restaurant?
We try to circulate among all the restaurants in Gunnison County, no favorites, just an amazing variety of choices.

 

Steve Schechter
district 1 candidate

Q: Two county commissioners sit on the RTA board and the regional airline situation has recently been in the news. With airline guarantees on the rise and airline seats on the decline, do you see a way to reverse that trend? Is the current air situation robust and/or sustainable enough for the county? Any new ideas on how to attract more airline seats into the area? Thoughts on the Telluride-Montrose-Allegiant Air proposal?
United Airlines wants $699, or $237 more, per round trip seat from Houston to the Gunnison airport than to Salt Lake City over the holiday season. This, along with seat guarantees, shows how little interest airlines have to service smaller markets no matter how much we want them. Of course we want to keep our winter economy strong, but it’s time to look at new ideas. The Allegiant Air proposal is a step in the right direction to help with seat prices. I also think RTA needs a ground transportation pilot project to attract Denver/Front Range skiers, perhaps with a low-fare bus from Denver for skiers with lodging reservations. As I-70 weekend ski traffic snarls continue to impact travelers, maybe they are ready for a stress-free bus ride, with great on-board amenities, direct to CBMR. There could also be a round trip bus to DIA where a non-stop ticket from Houston is $268, giving a skier affordable transportation, a reasonable travel time, and great Gunnison County amenities on the bus as a plus. Perhaps we use some of the seat guarantee money to try something new.

Q: Briefly, would you support the proposed Bear Ranch Land Exchange?
I don’t think this land exchange is a win for Gunnison County. Public lands should stay in public hands. As Tom Chapman, wilderness developer said, “A land exchange always involves a loser and a winner.” With parts of the exchanged lands in Dinosaur National Monument, I don’t see the benefit to Gunnison County.

Q- What is your favorite fast food restaurant?
Teocalli Tamale. I always eat at locally owned, non-franchise restaurants.

 

Paula Swenson
district 1 candidate

Q: Two county commissioners sit on the RTA board and the regional airline situation has recently been in the news. With airline guarantees on the rise and airline seats on the decline, do you see a way to reverse that trend? Is the current air situation robust and/or sustainable enough for the county? Any new ideas on how to attract more airline seats into the area? Thoughts on the Telluride-Montrose- Allegiant Air proposal?
I have been on the RTA board for almost three years now. When I first got on the board, the economy had tanked, we had not come close to filling planes the previous two years, we were paying full guarantees, borrowed money every year to meet the guarantees, had no reserves and had no plan. We are now building reserves, did not borrow money this year, have sustained both the Houston and Dallas flight for two years and did not pay the full guarantees last year and are looking even better, so far, this year about filling the seats. Getting stable was our first step in reversing the downward trend and we are getting there. We must now start concentrating on our year-round service to and from Denver to create a sustainable air situation in the county. We need to focus on securing an overnight flight that arrives late in the evening and leaves early in the morning to accommodate our business and local customers. Once we have secured and stabilized this, then we can start exploring other markets. However, we need to have a plan to fill added seats prior to jumping into new markets. Once a destination is identified we need to join with our partners, CBMR and the TA, to launch an aggressive marketing campaign to grow the demand before we contract for air service. We can track where people originate from when they are traveling to our valley, so we can be more certain that we will be able to fill the planes. We must build demand and then we will attract more airline seats to the area. As for the Allegiant Air proposal, it was interesting and I think that we should always look at regional partnerships when we can, however, if we are going to re-build our air program, we need to stay focused and utilize our dollars to receive the best bang for our buck.

Q: Briefly, would you support the proposed Bear Ranch Land Exchange?
I have supported it, but only after additional requirements were put into place and an agreement was entered into.

Q: What is your favorite fast food restaurant?
Gas Café....Cheese Burger Friday!

 

Jonathan Houck
district 2 candidate

Q: Two county commissioners sit on the RTA board and the regional airline situation has recently been in the news. With airline guarantees on the rise and airline seats on the decline, do you see a way to reverse that trend? Is the current air situation robust and/or sustainable enough for the county? Any new ideas on how to attract more airline seats into the area? Thoughts on the Telluride-Montrose-Allegiant Air proposal?
First, airline service to this community in both seasonal and year-round markets is very important and we can’t afford to lose it. Last year’s service, despite the low snow, was promising and we did not pay full guarantees. Hopefully, this year’s service will continue in that direction. We need to stay in markets long enough for them to become successful and for now that is Dallas and Houston. Having the flights is only half the battle; the marketing is the other half of a successful program and the TA, CBMR and others have been working to close the gaps on those efforts. The goal is to have air programs being self sustaining and the revenue collected be directed at cultivating and opening new markets. The only way to reverse the decline and have a robust air service is to have better load factors. Paying the full MRGs is not sustainable.
We must also remember that we have year-round air service needs for our business community, WSCU students and parents and for visitors and locals outside our seasonal service. When you leave Gunnison mid-day, often you cannot make connections to the East Coast and the same holds true for getting here, thus spending a night in Denver, makes us a less appealing choice. We need to find better options for schedule, price and duration with our Denver service.
As far as Allegiant Air’s proposal, these flights are loaded into the system and that does not prevent our community from using them as a tool to get people here. We need to focus on our air service.

Q: Briefly, would you support the proposed Bear Ranch Land Exchange?
At this time, no. I am not completely opposed to land exchanges but am not convinced that what has been offered by Bear Ranch is equal in value for what they gain in joining their two holdings. Public input from here and Delta County is important because we are in this decision together. There is more to this than just securing the Curecanti National Recreation Area parcel, which is already in a conservation agreement.

Q: What is your favorite fast food restaurant?
Lucky Dog…Gunnison’s gourmet hot dog cart business!

 

Polly Oberosler
district 2 candidate

Q: Two county commissioners sit on the RTA board and the regional airline situation has recently been in the news. With airline guarantees on the rise and airline seats on the decline, do you see a way to reverse that trend? Is the current air situation robust and/or sustainable enough for the county? Any new ideas on how to attract more airline seats into the area? Thoughts on the Telluride-Montrose- Allegiant Air proposal?
The trend is certainly not sustainable for Gunnison County and since we cannot offer timely and reasonable commuter flights we are effectively subsidizing the Montrose airport. The skier traffic is also suffering from the lack of connectivity in Denver, often taking them two days to actually hit the slopes once they board in their home cities.
The biggest thing we can offer the airlines are passengers, that is the only thing that will reverse the trend. Ideas for better service? Sure...let’s take a look at a regional co-op to entice two Denver or Colorado Springs commuters to a number of small towns on the Western Slope...all are struggling to deal with a fickle airline industry, maybe we can combine our efforts.
While the proposed connections would be great, financially subsidizing Montrose Regional’s current endeavor is shooting ourselves in the foot; they get all the passengers, the jet fuel sales and the landing fees; we get better connection, but folks are still driving and we are losing the revenue.

Q: Briefly, would you support the proposed Bear Ranch Land Exchange?
Losing public access is not good and it happens all too often. Exchanges like that should be decided on a case by case basis, but overall we should keep our public land access public. I think the public has spoken on that one.

Q: What is your favorite fast food restaurant?
There are lots of local coffee shops and lunch counters to choose from here so I avoid fast food places where our money goes out of town.

 

 

News Generic

 

Warren Wilcox, district 2 candidate

Q: Two county commissioners sit on the RTA board and the regional airline situation has recently been in the news. With airline
guarantees on the rise and airline seats on the decline, do you see a way to reverse that trend? Is the current air situation robust and/or sustainable enough for the county? Any new ideas on how to attract more airline seats into the area? Thoughts on the Telluride-Montrose-Allegiant Air proposal?
The RTA board has eight members appointed by the RTA partners, Mt. Crested Butte, Crested Butte, City of Gunnison and Gunnison County. I believe the RTA board should have at least four representatives from the business community. Business people add a business perspective. I believe the strength of the organization could be enhanced by considering it more regional rather than strictly local. In order to reverse the trend of fewer filled airline seats, I think an adjustment in paradigm is needed. The Telluride-Montrose-Allegiant Air’s proposal, with their method of advertising could actually benefit our mix of transportation services. They serve different geographic areas than airlines currently serving the Gunnison-Crested Butte Airport and because of that, I believe it will not have a negative effect on our airport fee income. I believe we need to study the possibilities of widening our marketing to include Monarch, which has very limited facilities for guests, but good snow and large acreage of terrain. This could enhance usage of county-wide lodging and result in filling more seats. Skiers like having variety of terrain and choice of snow conditions. As CBMR grows both in infrastructure, trail diversity and numbers of trails, I believe it will always be the premiere venue. But having more choices would increase the volume of visitors by allowing them to determine their level of spending, the type and cost of lodging, the degree of luxury and the atmosphere they desire.

Q: Briefly, would you support the proposed Bear Ranch Land Exchange?
I do support the Bear Ranch Land Exchange. The exchange is equitable and even generous to the public lands side of the equation. A part of the exchange agreement funds amenities that would improve the trails system between Crested Butte and Carbondale. The agreement also provides for a parking area that would enhance the safety of service to the Ragged Mountain trail system.

Q: What is your favorite fast food restaurant?
My favorite fast food restaurant is Subway.