D-3 Commissioner Primary: Incumbent vs. newcomer

       With ballots being mailed out this week for the El Paso County Primary Election, the Westside Pioneer submitted four questions to the Republican candidates for county commissioner, District 3, which includes the Westside. Their responses (a 100-word limit on each) appear below.
       The candidates are incumbent Sallie Clark and challenger Karen Magistrelli. Clark, a Westside resident and owner of a bed-and-breakfast with her husband Welling, has been in office eight years and is seeking a third four-year term. Magistrelli lives in Ute Pass, and runs a nonprofit ministry for male ex-prisoners with her husband Bob.
       The Primary winner can expect to become commissioner because no other party has fielded a candidate.
       Here is a quick look at the first three questions/issues (the fourth is personal to each candidate):
       1. What do you think about the process to replace the Cimarron/I-25 interchange? With money tight, this relates to efforts by the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG) to work with the state and others to develop a funding strategy. The PPACG Board consists of elected representatives from area governments; as county commissioner, Clark has been one of them.
       2. Has the county handled the term-limits matter responsibly? In the 2010 election, El Paso County asked voters to allow county commissioners to seek a third term, instead of being limited to two. After the measure passed, some voters complained that the ballot language had been unclear. Part of the ire was directed at Clark, who would not have been able to seek a third term otherwise.
       3. Do you favor or oppose a conservation easement for Bear Creek Regional Park? Why? Such an easement would protect the Westside parcel from private development, regardless of who owns it, with the Palmer Land Trust holding the easement.

Sallie Clark
1. Cimarron/I-25?
       I wholeheartedly support a phased-in approach for this estimated $95 million project and have championed this project, now designated as #1 in our region through Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG). The state is in the process of purchasing right-of-way, and as a major proponent of this interchange and chair of PPACG, I'll continue to fight for our fair share of funding for this critical improvement. Although hard to predict, I believe that since I-25 north from Academy-Monument to six lanes is moving forward this year, incremental funding will become available soon for the westbound phase from I- 25 north-south.
       2. Term limits handled responsibly?
       Yes. Prior to 2010, some county elected positions had a two-term limit and others three. I supported referring a voter considered ballot measure to make all consistent at three. The wording was taken from another conservative county, with a reference to state law added, and there were no complaints there. While I did not write the language, I voted to approve it and believed it was straightforward. When some citizens said they were confused, the commissioners took the unusual step to place a clarifying initiative on the November 2012 ballot, avoiding costs to the taxpayers for a special election.
       3. Conservation easement for Bear Creek Regional Park?
       Favor. Conservation easements build upon General Palmer's legacy and historic vision guaranteeing that parkland is used for its original intent. Excellent examples include Fox Run Park, Bluestem Prairie and our own Westside Red Rock Canyon and Stratton Open Space. It offers the opportunity to place preservation areas on land, consistent with public use and based on local values. It would protect the park from future sale for commercial or residential development purposes. As the economy changes and basic government services need funding, now is the time to ensure that government will always honor its commitment to Bear Creek Park preservation.
       4. Sallie, you have close to a decade experience in public office. How does this help you?
       Since being elected, I've worked to deliver on promises made - to get things done. I've demanded fiscal accountability, efficiency and transparency, consolidated and downsized and reduced the cost of county government by 18 percent per citizen per year. I've continued to advocate for how you first knew me, for public safety - and especially to protect our most vulnerable - our children. As an innovative thinker - as a small-business owner, neighborhood leader, city councilwoman and county commissioner, I'll continue to champion new ideas to save taxpayers and improve services, especially important during tough economic times, and ask for your support to continue our efforts.
Karen Magistrelli
1. Cimarron/I-25?
       It is good news that the Cimarron/I-25 interchange has been moved up on the priority list. That interchange is obsolete and needs work. In my hours of interviewing citizen advisors and county staff, I have seen how complicated the funding and decision-making is for roads. The balance between capital projects and maintenance is difficult. I look forward to working with the various committees facing these important decisions. As a commissioner, I will be working to promote those projects that benefit the largest number of people.
       2. Term limits handled responsibly?
       Angry voters believe the term-limits question on the 2010 ballot was deceptive. The term-limit language in 2008 asked if the sheriff's term should be extended from two terms to three. Instead of using that clear language, my opponent extended her term by saying they were limiting terms. Voters were confused. The drafters of the ballot admitted they “crafted it for success.” A large majority of voters wanted the question on the ballot in 2011. My opponent voted it off that ballot. The big issue here is integrity - and integrity matters.
       3. Conservation easement for Bear Creek Regional Park?
       I oppose a conservation easement. Bear Creek Park belongs to the people and should remain under their control. The Palmer Land Trust (PLT) removes authority from elected officials and places the decision-making in the hands of an unelected body with no public accountability. After the easement is granted, development is decided by the contract and how the PLT applies the contract. Conflicts will have to be resolved in court. If the public feels the commission is incapable of making decisions in the people's best interest, then a popular vote should be required before such lands could be sold.
       4. Karen, you are seeking public office for the first time. How does this help you?
       Serving the people as a county commissioner would be a great honor. I have spent my life behind the scenes serving others. I enjoy problem solving, resolving conflicts, meeting with people and studying issues. I've been the victim of overreaching government and I want to protect others from that same abuse. I want to help protect the future for my children and the other citizens of EPC. I feel compelled to step out of my comfort zone due to concern for serious and growing public needs. My satisfaction will come from knowing I have done what is good and right.

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