A candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters last week highlighted the differences between the three men running for Delta County Commissioner, District 3.
Scott Wilson is a Democrat, Mark Roeber is a Republican and Mike Mason is a write-in candidate.
Roeber is a fourth generation rancher near Paonia and is a lifelong resident of Delta County. He has been active in both the state and national cattlemen's associations and is co-owner of Homestead Meats. He vows to fight for private property rights, advocate for the retention of local businesses, protect water rights, and enhance and preserve the multiple use of our public lands.
Wilson, a Hotchkiss resident, is a career military retiree and disabled veteran whose goal is to bring fairness into Delta County politics. "As it stands right now, there's been no Democratic commissioner in this seat for I believe 18 years. It's time we had representation for the 4,500 Democrats here in Delta County."
Mason lives above Cedaredge. He ran for county commissioner in 2008 and the school board in 2010. He said he had no intention of running for county commissioner until he saw Mark Roeber "as he really is." Mason stresses private property rights, which to him includes the right-to-farm. In his eyes, Roeber does not support those rights. "Mark is the reason I am running," he said. "I don't believe he is the conservative he says he is."
The three candidates shared the stage with four House District 61 candidates. As questions were generated by those in the audience, moderator Ed Baxter alternated between the two races. Just one question was answered by all seven candidates, "Specifically, what regulations, if any, do you feel need to be relaxed to promote local businesses?"
Mason reiterated his opening comments about the right to farm and, more specifically, the recent turmoil over the Hostetler chicken farm. "Number one, I would get rid of the confined animal regulations. I would also go through specific development regulations and see what I could do to roll them back."
He spent the remainder of his allotted response time reading the right-to-farm resolution.
"The chicken farm debacle has caused a lot of heartburn," Wilson agreed. "But I wouldn't roll back any regulations now." Although he recognizes the chicken farm falls under the right-to-farm act in Colorado, he doesn't believe it's the right thing for Delta County. "Major industrial chicken operations don't belong in rural farm areas," he said.
Roeber said his position on right-to-farm has been misstated by Mason, but he does believe language in the specific development regulations needs to be tweaked.
Since the Master Plan and the Specific Development process seem to be so contentious, one audience member asked if it's time to consider zoning for Delta County.
"Absolutely not," Mason quickly responded. "Not only that, I support rolling back the density standards Delta County has in its Master Plan. The only exception would be the density standards that are necessary for the people's health and welfare, like septic systems. Let people be responsible for themselves as much as possible. The county commissioners should stay out of it, completely out of it. If neighbors have problems then they should discuss them with their neighbors or sue their neighbors, I don't care."
Roeber said he is not in favor of zoning. Although it may seem like a straightforward option, the county would still have to deal with variance requests. "I agree with Mike. People need to try to work things out among themselves and not depend on government to do it for them."
Wilson believes zoning would bring "certainty" to people who want to buy property here. "They don't have to worry if the house they buy is up to code or if they're going to move next door to a chicken farm or whatever," he said. He also called for an update to the county Master Plan, which he believes is 16 years old "if not older."
In response to a question about the Bear Ranch Land Exchange, Mason said because of his belief in private property rights, he's in favor of the land exchange.
"I am opposed," Wilson said. "I think trading good land for bad land is bad policy for Delta County."
Roeber also favors the exchange. "Having taken a tour, I think what's being offered has more recreational value for Carbondale, Crested Butte and Paonia. A lot of the opposition is not looking at it from an economic standpoint; they're just opposed to it because it's Bill Koch."
The candidates were asked about their position on term limits for the office of county sheriff and coroner. Two separate questions on the November ballot ask voters to extend the term limits from two terms to three, for a total of 12 years, for both positions.
Wilson said it's "just wrong" for the sheriff to have an unlimited term of office. "It gives him too much power." Although he said he favors term limits across the board, he said he doesn't have a problem with a longer term of office for the county coroner.
"I support lifting the term limits on sheriff and coroner," Roeber said. "I think the voters ultimately have term limits with the right to vote. With those two positions in particular, experience counts for a lot."
"Generally I'm in favor of term limits, however in the case of sheriff and coroner and maybe surveyor, I am not in favor of term limits," Mason said. "It takes a long time for those people to establish an efficient working relationship. If they're abusive you have the right to vote them out."
Following up on an earlier reference to Agenda 21, one person questioned the relevance to Delta County.
Mason explained, "Agenda 21 is a UN directive looking at sustainable development. What it comes down to is literally the confiscation of your property through the county Master Plan, land use regulations and more regulations that take away your property rights. The county commissioners might think Agenda 21 is not in Delta County. I want to tell you it is here, it is here solidly, and the Hostetler chicken farm is a perfect example of that."
"Agenda 21 also encompasses rewilding — moving people into the cities," Wilson said. "It's a UN resolution that's not going anywhere. The UN can't even manage humanitarian aid missions, let alone come in and take our farm and ranches away. When you hear Agenda 21 it's fearmongering, it's scare tactics. Put it out of your mind."
Roeber said he recognizes that some people might try to implement pieces of Agenda 21, and we should be aware the potential is there. "I acknowledge its existence but I'm not in great fear of it."
The candidates were asked about the role of the county in the regulation of gas development.
Roeber said the commissioners should act as a representative of the people, with the ultimate goal of achieving the least amount of impact for the most amount of energy.
"I'm extremely in favor of energy development and energy independence," Mason said. "There's been no track record for fracking being a danger so I want to leave them alone. Not only leave them alone — with the taxes I'd like to build roads to make it easier to do it."
Wilson took the opposite stance. "I believe the county should take a total hands-on approach to energy policy. I'm opposed to fracking, and I was glad to see the [North Fork] parcels from sale, but that's a battle we're going to have to fight again. I do not want to turn Delta County into a Rifle. The coal mining industry is fine but we need to wean ourselves off fossil fuels and we need to do that now."
The final question dealt with cuts that might be necessary to maintain a balanced budget.
"Thanks to the current commissioners, that's probably not an issue at this time, but I'd put the health and welfare of our citizens at the top of the list, the sheriff's office and safe roads," Roeber said.
Wilson said he would cut the salary of the county commissioners in half. "Personally I don't like to see my tax dollars going to pay a bunch of guys that don't listen to me."
"Well, first of all you don't have the power to do that," Mason explained. "County commissioner salaries are set by the state but that's irrelevant. We're way too involved with people's lives — cut the planning department, look at operating the road department more efficiently, look for efficiencies in the government. I would definitely like to make the [commissioner] job one or two days a week, which means I can't control your lives. I don't even want to control your lives, as opposed to some people who want to give you full value for what they're doing."
In closing, Roeber reitered his priorities — to fight for private property rights, advocate for retention of local business, protect water rights and enhance and preserve multiple use concept of our public lands.
"I stand for clean water and no fracking the North Fork," Wilson said. He also referred to a question posed to the House District candidates about the legalization of marijuana. "Amendment 64 not only legalizes marijuana for recreational use, it also legalizes agricultural hemp and agricultural hemp would be a boon to Delta County."
Wilson also supports small business, four-year term limits and the Second Amendment. I might be a Demcrat but I love guns, and I'm a NRA certified instructor."
Mason vowed to protect the rights which are being steadily eroded by the federal government. Above all, he said, he's about the right to farm and distressed about how that right has essentially been sabotaged by the county commissioners.
Mason's name does not appear on the ballot, so voters will have to check the "Write in" box under Delta County Commissioner District 3 and write Mason's name on the line beneath that box.blog comments powered by Disqus