At the March 11 Hotchkiss forum, council candidates fielded questions ranging from how to attract business in a time of declining revenues to whether they support creating infrastructure for bicycle and pedestrian traffic. Marijuana, streets and sidewalks, affordable housing and how to bring new revenues to town were among the top issues.
The first question came from Greg Goosens, who asked candidates to describe themselves with a cliché.
"I was brought up to tell the truth and work hard, and don't quit until the job's done," said John Marta, the only life-long resident on the ballot.
"I was always taught to respect my elders," said incumbent James "Jim" Roberts, the eldest of the five candidates.
"That's getting hard, Jim," shouted Dave Mitchell from the audience.
"Never say die; one step at a time," said Patrick Webb, a semi-retired businessman.
"I've never operated in clichés," said incumbent Larry Jakubiak. But his grandfather taught him the 'lazy man's logo' of "Too much to carry, then drop it and make two trips instead of just one."
"I don't know if it's a cliché," said Mary Hockenbery, "but I really like 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.' Although sometimes, 'Mary, Mary, quite contrary.'"
Candidate Ralph Sandmann did not attend the forum, which was moderated by Sally Kane.
Mitchell, a realtor and Creative Coalition member, drew a range of comments when he asked if candidates have creative ideas for improving the economy.
Hockenbery, a member of the arts community, led the citizen's initiative to put marijuana on the April ballot and pushed for support of both the arts and the ballot issue. Webb expressed support for cannabis, pointing out that other small Colorado towns are creating "a robust economy" through cannabis-related businesses. It will be legalized nationally, said Webb. "If we don't take advantage of it, it's going to be diluted ... This is our opportunity."
Jakubiak said the town's job is to provide the services, and not to promote the arts, calling it secondary to the town's main job. Webb said he'd like to see more industry and the jobs it could bring.
Roberts and Marta said they do not support cannabis as an answer to the town's financial problems. Marta recalled when the Cowboy Carnival and drive-in theater brought people to town. "Coal mines, yes, built this valley, and so did ranches," said Marta. He's for bringing businesses to town, "but I don't think marijuana's the way to do it and I will vote against it."
Out-of-town resident Steve Rubik noted that the area is known for its healthy lifestyle, and that Hotchkiss has world-class yoga and pilates facilities and other existing resources that can be built on. "I see features of Hotchkiss that I think are marketable," he said. The area is getting national attention, "and we need to take advantage of that." He asked candidates to realize it's 2016 and consider new ideas for economic development. "Things are different. There's a whole new world out there."
Tom Wills asked if the town should take an active role in facilitating the development of low-income and affordable housing. All five said they are in support of the concept. Hockenbery suggested tiny homes and shared facility housing, and Jakubiak noted that the town already has affordable housing in the form of mobile homes. As for a pro-active approach, Jakubiak said the town could provide tax incentives and breaks on things like water tap fees.
Mayor Wendell Koontz asked the final question: What is the single driving force that makes candidates run for trustee?
Webb said that over the last five years the town has made decisions that he didn't quite agree with and he wants to be more in charge of that process.
"I want to help Hotchkiss out as much as I can," said Marta, who promised to listen to the people. I want to keep it safe for people," and for the town to work within it's budget.
Roberts said he wants to keep the town on its current course and see the completion of projects both in the works and on the horizon. "They're doing a fantastic job, and I'd like to make sure it stays that way."
"I love the people," said Jakubiak, who has already served a total of 20 years.
Hockenbery, who serves on the downtown improvement committee, said people express their opinions to her on a regular basis. She ran once and is running again because she believes she has a lot to offer. "I want to serve," said Hockenbery.