Clark pledges push for public outreach, county auditor when she becomes commissioner in January
With no opposition for the upcoming general election, West-sider Sallie Clark is already looking to January when she will take
over the District 3 El Paso County commissioner's seat.
The Republican businesswoman and long-time neighborhood advocate told the Westside Pioneer this week that her first proposals will be to improve the county's public “outreach” (in part by televising meetings and providing individual commissioner voice mail), to hire an auditor (likely saving more than the person is paid) and to re-scrutinize the budget she and other new board members will inherit.
Clark, who was on City Council from 2001 to 2003, won her Aug. 10 primary race over Jack Gloriod. Democrat Tom McElroy was unopposed in his primary, but withdrew in late August for health reasons. County election deadlines were Sept. 2 for the Democrats to find a replacement candidate and Sept. 3 for a write-in candidate. Both deadlines passed without any new candidates filing.
“The first thing I'd like to talk about is opening up the government process for citizens and communications,” Clark said, when asked for her early action priorities. “I'd like to explore how we get the county commissioners' meetings televised and broadcast. They are on the Internet, but unless you have a computer you can't see them, and it's on a screen that's like 2 by 2 so you can hardly see what's going on.”
She expressed surprise that commissioners - unlike Colorado Springs City Council members - don't have individual phone numbers and voice mail. “I'm not quite sure why the county numbers work that way,” she said. “You can't just pick up the phone and call direct numbers.”
Overall, she said she wants to make county commissioners “more available. I think we need to outreach more as to what commissioners' roles are in the community. I think that's really important.”
She added her belief that her recent service on City Council will also help in the communications arena. “County commissioners and the city don't have a real close relationship in knowing staff members, and they're the ones who do the work,” Clark said. “I think that's where I'll be able to help because I know so many people at the city. Now I'm learning the county's people, and I'll be able to kind of pull that together.”
Although the county's 2005 budget will have been approved by the time she gets on the board, “one thing I've learned is your budget's never done,” Clark said. “Because sales tax proceeds fluctuate, you're constantly revising.”
She believes that bringing on a county auditor - whether on staff or on contract - would be a fiscally responsible move. Drawing on her city experience, she said, “Generally, an audit position ends up saving more than it costs. The city saves millions each year by finding little glitsches in contracts and how records are kept.”
The county this year has brought in an outside auditor - a more expensive move - and spent thousands of dollars in staff time just to find $150 that was missing in the coroner's budget, Clark said.
Clark is not saying there is fat in the county budget. “I think the county budget is probably pretty lean, but with the COPS [certificates of participation] taken out for the courthouse and jail [last year], we're going to constantly be short of cash now because we've got to pay off those COPS,” she said.
Unanticipated costs might arise with the opening of the new jail, “and other things are going to come up that we're not expecting,” Clark said, adding that commissioners “need a policy on how to issue COPS. It [the COPS funding plan for the courthouse and jail] should have been taken to the voters because it was essentially bonding. I think the county commissioners overstepped their bounds.”
Overall, she compared the county and city to children in stages of development. “The county is sometimes, I think, sort of in an adolescent stage, where the city is more of a teenager,” she said. “The county is just starting to deal with issues now that the city's been dealing with for years. I think it's time the county started catching up with the times and realizing that we are a big community, and we've got to grow up quickly and get some policies into place that will protect our future growth.”
As for her extensive volunteerism - currently including the Citizens Fire Task Force, Council of Neighborhood Organizations (CONO) and the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN), Clark said she will “step back from those that tend to maybe appear more political. But at the same time it's [county commissioner] a political position, and I'll still be active. I'll probably attend the meetings in a different role, involved as an elected official. It depends on how the board feels about that and how much time I have. Time is probably the biggest issue.”
Westside Pioneer article