Candidates Clark, Berry differ on proposed 1-cent sales tax

       A clear difference, at least on one key point, has emerged between the two candidates for a four-year job as District 3 county commissioner.
       Speaking at a Sept. 16 multi-candidate forum at the Hillside Center southeast of downtown, incumbent Republican Commis-sioner Sallie Clark praised a proposed 1-cent sales tax, which is intended to plug funding gaps in county and city health and safety areas and, as a result, help alleviate the county budget crunch. She said the need is real, resulting from federal and state service mandates, compounded by a bad economy, a low mill levy and state laws restricting government in gathering property tax revenues.
       Her opponent in the Nov. 4 election, Democrat Pam Berry, expressed opposition to the tax, saying she did not think the county needs another jail (one of the expenditures envisioned with its proceeds). A black woman, she expressed displeasure that a high percentage of the inmates are black, saying that government should facilitate job creation instead of levying a regressive sales tax on people who are hurting financially.
       Regarding TABOR, a state amendment that is blamed for at least part of the property-tax bind, she said it should be “fixed” before putting in a new tax.
       Clark stressed that the county “does not discriminate” and that for the safety of deputies and the public a new jail is needed to handle overwhelming numbers of inmates.
       The meeting featured candidates for state and county offices in the region, including those such as Commissioner District 3 that take in all or part of the Westside.
       From House District 18 were incumbent Democrat Michael Merrifield (for about half the meeting) and Republican challenger Kate Szot; from House District 21 was Democrat challenger Anna Lord (for about half the meeting), while incumbent Republican Robert Gardner was not present; and from Senate District 12 were Republican Keith King and Democrat Pete Lee (incumbent Republican Andy McElhany is not able to run again because of term limitations).
       Merrifield, running for a fourth and final term, touted legislation he has led in the areas of health, education and renters' rights. Szot, a paralegal, stressed education as a “core thing” in her campaign and said she wants to “help make a level playing field” in the community.
       Lord, who also ran against Gardner in '06, is president of the Manitou Board of Education. She got into politics through support of her children in schools, she said. She described education as “a passion for me.”
       King emphasized the success of the Early Colleges charter high school he started last year on the Colorado Technical University campus, saying it has helped many low-income, minority students get a chance at college who might not otherwise be able to afford it. He also noted a law he wrote as the District 21 representative in 2003, which changed auto insurance to the tort system and has “saved people an average of $400 a year.”
       Lee, a lawyer running for office for the first time, pushed (as a citizen) for a Restorative Justice bill that was approved, putting Colorado among states that give crime victims more standing in the legal system. He also serves on the District 11 task force for dropout recovery and wants to see more government action on health, education and jobs.
       In other comments, Clark said she got her start in politics by “working with neighborhoods and I've never forgotten that.” Berry said she wants to change a situation in which the current county personnel “does not reflect our communities.”

Westside Pioneer article