Voting time Nov. 7
3 of Westside’s 4 Statehouse seats on the line
Three of the four Statehouse posts that represent the Westside are up for grabs in the election Tuesday, Nov. 7. These are Senate District 11 (incumbent Republican
Ed Jones against Democrat challenger John Morse), House District 18 (incumbent Democrat Michael Merri-field against Republican challenger Kyle Fisk), and
House District 21 (Repub-lican Bob Gardner against Democrat Anna Lord).
Following hodge-podge boundaries, Senate Districts 11 and 12 together cover the Westside. SD 12, held by Republican Andy McElhany, won't be up for election again until 2008.
HD 18 includes the older Westside.
HD 21 includes Westside areas south and north of the older Westside.
Also on the lengthy ballot for Westsiders are the Fifth Congressional District contest (Republican Doug Lamborn vs. Democrat Jay Fawcett), 6 county elected department heads, 18 judge retentions, 2 University of Colorado regents, governor, secretary of state, state treasurer, attorney general, seven state constitutional amendments, seven referendum items and six city questions.
For more information on these issues, where to vote and other related details, call the County Election Department at 575-8683.
Starting below are responses by the six Statehouse candidates to three questions from the Westside Pioneer.
The questions were:
1. In a perfect world, what is the first law you would have the Colorado Legislature enact in the coming session, if you were elected?
2. How would your election to the Legislature be good for the Westside's small businesses?
3. How would your election to the Legislature be good for the Westside's schoolchildren?
SENATE District 11
Senator Ed Jones
1. First law? I would have the legislature enact comprehensive legislation to address Colorado's water supply for our children and our grandchildren. Our state has the right to store about a million acre-feet more water than we currently do now. That's about four Dillon reservoirs that we allow to go to other states because we don't have the storage capacity. We need to bring all Coloradoans, rural and urban, Front Range and Western Slope, to solve our water problem. Colorado's economic future depends upon it. We must conserve water; we must increase water storage; and we must keep more of Colorado's water in Colorado. This is a difficult issue given the various interests throughout the State. In a perfect world, I would bring everyone together to address this issue, which our state's future depends on.
2. Small businesses? As your state senator, I will continue to help all businesses, particularly small businesses, by working to eliminate the onerous business personal property tax, limit unnecessary regulation, and create a strong economic environment for business. The biggest drags on small business are taxation, regulation and litigation. As your state senator, I will continue to work for better ways to fund our highways, our regional airports, and public transportation. My record, both as a county commissioner for eight years and as a state senator, has been as a friend to small business. The National Federation of Independent Business, the leading small business advocacy group, as well as the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, endorse me. Both of these groups, representing many small businesses, have recognized my efforts on behalf of all businesses, small and large.
3. Schoolchildren? I will continue to fight for children and parents in preventing school violence, as well as to provide opportunities for poor and minority children to escape failing schools. My work as your state senator, on behalf of children, included co-sponsoring with Rep. Michael Merrifield, a bill to help preschool- age children whose disruptive behavior may lead to later delinquency. I also co-sponsored a bill to make possession of child pornography a felony and I carried a bill to ensure that parents receive accurate information about the level of violence in their children's' schools. I also have actively encouraged community and faith-based organizations, as well as businesses and government agencies to create alliances to prevent child abuse. Safe, effective, accountable schools are a passion of mine because our children and grandchildren are our future.
SENATE District 11
1. First law? In a perfect world, the first law I would enact would be to re-establish adequate access to health care for the middle class. The rising cost of health care in addition to high- premium, high-deductible health insurance plans are further sinking too many of our families into poverty and preventing many from having access to even basic services. Our most vulnerable-children, seniors and the working poor-do not receive proper preventative care and instead land in the emergency room at a much higher cost to all of us. I believe that access to healthcare is about basic human dignity and I will fight to preserve that right for the hard- working members of Senate District 11 everyday in the Legislature.
2. Small businesses? Small businesses would be best served by my election because I will address their number one concern - health insurance. Employ- ers need to offer health insurance to be competitive in the job market and to keep healthy employees, but for many, the cost is too high. To reduce the costs of health insurance and health care, I will work to ensure every child is immunized and receives those immunizations on time; address issues of smoking, obesity, and substance abuse aggressively to lower the overall cost of treating the diseases that follow; lower the cost of prescription drugs for all our citizens, especially our seniors by creating a multi-state purchasing pool; work to lower administrative costs associated with health care; and create an avenue for small businesses to join together to increase their negotiating power with insurance companies.
3. Schoolchildren? My election would result in a renewed emphasis on public education. I believe our education system should prepare our children for their future and maximize their opportunity to live the American dream. There are several steps needed to achieve this vision. First, we need to reduce class sizes so that teachers have fewer students to mentor. Second, we need to ensure that the teaching profession thrives by attracting the best and brightest to its ranks. Third, we need to be open to new, innovative ways of teaching children based on best practices. Fourth, we need after-school activities that will keep our children safe and focused on becoming productive members of our society. Finally, testing needs to track the child's progress from year to year rather than only providing a snapshot of that class at that particular moment. Our current system is not providing essential data for learning or progress.
HOUSE District 18
Rep. Michael Merrifield
1. First law? I would have the legislature enact health care reform that would address Colorado's health care crisis, that would bring coverage to all of the state's uninsured. Seven hundred seventy thousand Colorado citizens do not have medical insurance. We could pattern it after other states' plans, such as Massachusetts', but with a Colorado personality. We could join other states in a multi-state purchasing pool for the purchase of prescription drugs at reduced prices. Additionally, we should focus on prevention and programs that promote wellness and healthy living.
2. Small businesses? First of all, my past two elections to the legislature have already been good for Westside businesses. I was a major promoter and co- sponsor of the legislation creating a permanent fund in the budget to promote tourism for Colorado, a major industry on the Westside and Manitou Springs. I will continue to push for more affordable health insurance, a major expense for small businesses. Like I did in my support for Referendum C, I will continue to fight for wise investment in transportation and mass transit, infrastructure, and K-12 and Higher Education.
My elections to the legislature have also already been good for Westside schoolchildren. I sponsored schoolchildren. I sponsored legislation creating a program for low-income children to be simultaneously evaluated for free and reduced lunch AND Medicaid/CHP+ health care. An unhealthy child cannot reach his/her potential, while regular visits to the doctor could prevent serious illness and hospitalizations, saving taxpayers $46 million. As chair of the House Education Committee, I co- sponsored legislation expanding pre-school slots and full-day kindergarten for at-risk children. I sponsored legislation that increases accountability and evaluation standards for school principals. I intend to continue to fight to protect, improve, and hold accountable Colorado's public schools system, with plans to emphasize early childhood programs, better preparations for teachers and principals, and creation of a blue-ribbon commission to look at how to make Colorado's system the envy of the country.
HOUSE District 18
1. First law? Honestly, we have too many restrictive state government mandates as it is; I'm not sure we need a lot of new laws regulating life in Colorado. My opponent was part of the majority that passed 16 new mandates last legislative session limiting the growth and success of our business community. My opponent has pushed many state mandates on our schools advocating a one-size fits all cookie cutter approach. I'm for local control and empowering principals, teachers, and parents to make good educational decisions for our kids. These goals do not require additional state mandates. That said, there are obviously issues that may require limited state intervention. We currently have teachers in Colorado that are paid NOT to teach. These are licensed teachers that lobby on behalf of interests that the taxpayers may or may not support. I would want a law that outlaws paying teachers not to teach.
2. Small businesses? Well, to start, I would NOT vote, as my opponent did, for the 16 new mandates on our small business community. I would NOT have voted, as Mr. Merrifield did for HB1174 to increase the cost of healthcare for our small businesses. My opponent introduced a bill so opposed by the business community that he withdrew his own bill! I'll empower our small business community across the district and be their voice in our state capitol. I'll work to make health insurance policies for small-business owners and their employees more accessible and affordable. Small businesses on the Westside need government to get out of the way and allow them to succeed, and I'll help lead the charge in our Statehouse to make sure that happens. When we empower small businesses, we'll help grow our economy and create good jobs for our community.
3. Schoolchildren? My objective for education: equipping students with the academic and interpersonal skills to be successful in life. A cookie-cutter approach with restrictive state mandates is the wrong answer for our schools. My opponent's radical agenda of defending the failing status quo is not working. His own party did not support his 2006 education bill (which died in committee). Healthy families are an integral part of a child's education and we should invest into those best equipped to make educational decisions for kids - parents and families. I'm for empowering principals; site-based management is a good idea. Principals know better than district administrators what's best for their school. Remember, an effective education that WORKS enables our kids to get a good job and be productive members of society. Kids who don't drop out, get a diploma and work at a job don't end up in the criminal justice system.
HOUSE District 21
1. First law? Candidates for the Colorado House of Representa-tives and Senate are limited to a maximum contribution of $400 per individual. However, a legal loophole in campaign finance law has allowed school board candidates to bypass these limitations. I would introduce a law to close this loophole. As a believer in “local control,” I feel that unlimited contributions make it possible for out-of-area, or out-of-state interests to “buy” seats on local school boards, and by doing so, introduce an agenda that may not reflect the needs of the local community. While this law would not affect the vast majority of school board elections, which are low- key, non-partisan, community matters, it would make it more difficult for out-of-area interests to push their agenda through at the cost to our local districts. We have seen these disruptive practices in several recent elections, and this law would reduce the chances of it happening again.
2. Small businesses? I am concerned about, and would like to address the effect of the Gallagher Amendment on the disproportionate property tax burden on Colorado's businesses, and how taxes such as school district mill levy increases have a triple effect on local business owners. This could partly be addressed by improving state funding of public schools, particularly the funding of capital maintenance of aging school buildings, such as those on the Westside, so that local districts weren't having to rely as heavily on local tax increases, as well as by looking for reasonable changes to the Gallagher Amendment that could be presented to Colorado's voters.
I also believe that programs to promote the Colorado tourism industry is a legitimate use of public funds, and believe that promoting tourism would help small independently owned businesses on the Westside.
3. Schoolchildren? I will continue to fight to hold schools to a high standard, while giving districts the resources and flexibility they need to get the job done for their unique communities. There are numerous programs that improve achievement in schools that have high percentages of disadvantaged children. These programs include smaller classes, full-day kindergarten, breakfast programs and after-school tutoring. Unfortunately, all these programs require money, and our schools are facing cost increases that outpace funding increases. I hope to address the often redundant levels of testing and reporting required, allowing districts to save manpower and other resources, allowing schools to operate more efficiently.
I would also advocate cooperation among departments such as Education, Human Services and Health & Environment as well as Smart Start Colorado and the Early Childhood Commission. This would better coordinate early childhood programs and help close the achievement gap by focusing on the important work done before children even enter kindergarten.
HOUSE District 21
1. First law? I would enact legislation to fix Colorado's taxing, financing, and budgetary nightmare caused by the intersection of TABOR, the Gallagher Amendment, and Amendment 23 and then, persuade the voters of Colorado to adopt the fix. These three constitutional provisions make the rational, effective management of the State budget impossible. The passage of Referendum C was not a solution. It was a “baling wire” fix for our State budget problems. The only real solution is a global one that addresses all three of the conflicting constitutional provisions. The solution will take real leadership and genuine compromise on the part of both parties and the legislature and the Governor. Our State's economic future depends upon our political leadership solving this problem. I am committed to working with any and all political leaders in our State to find a long-range solution to what is a looming State constitutional and budgetary crisis.
2. Small businesses? In my law practice, I represent small, and small, disadvantaged businesses in dealing with the burdens of excessive regulation, taxation, and burdensome litigation. As a small-business person myself, I am acutely aware of the challenges of meeting a payroll and dealing with growing healthcare costs, and the burdens imposed by government on business. I support the repeal of the business personal property tax, which is an impediment to business investment. As discussed above, the best thing we could do for our business climate is adopt tax and budgetary reform. My commitment to small business and its concerns has been recognized by the endorsement of the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, the Pikes Peak Association of Realtors, the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs, and the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, as well as the Denver Post, which recognized my “solid views on transportation and water.”
3. Schoolchildren? I am committed to empowering parents and ensuring that they can make the best education choices for their children. One specific proposal I want to pursue is the creation of incentives for school districts to offer greater educational choice and opportunity to “at risk” children. Many of our poor and minority children are trapped in failing schools. Along with other parents, I founded one of the most successful public charter schools in the state - Cheyenne Mountain Charter Academy. CMCA has demonstrated that a public school, even with fewer resources, can produce outstanding results by concentrating on the basics and on accountability in education. There are other examples of this in Colorado, such as Cesar Chavez Academy in Pueblo, which has achieved outstanding results in a community with significant socio-economic challenges. Colorado's children, parents, and taxpayers deserve better. I have the experience and commitment to produce results in education.
Westside Pioneer article