Where I Stand
The issues facing Clear Creek County are what got me into this race, and I take a values-based approach to these issues. The values I rely on are the ones that have made America great: hard work, inclusivity, honesty and concern for one's neighbors. These values were passed on to me by members of this community; the one in which I was born and raised. We are at our best when we help one-another out, celebrate our common love for this place and come together to solve common problems.
I’m running because I want to involve everyone in the process of seeking solutions to these issues. As you will see, this is not only a moral issue. It is a practical issue. The only way to get more done faster is to involve more people. While this can be a messier process than the "smoke-filled-room" model, it results in more energy and less resistance to the solutions that emerge. The most admirable quality of a person with authority is restraint. For that reason, I am identifying the values I have that will guide my approach to these issues, but am largely quieting my own opinion to better hear yours.
Denver population growth and tourism
It is not a question of whether we want tourism, it is a question of how we respond to its inevitable presence. When I was born, Clear Creek County was a collection of sleepy communities next to a city of 1 million. That city now has 3 million people and is growing rapidly. We see the effects everyday with highway congestion, full parking spaces, housing shortfalls and damage to our forests and other natural areas. We need to organize and capitalize on the increasing number of people visiting our community because they aren’t going away.
Especially with regards to recreational tourism, it is irresponsible to sacrifice our natural areas on the altar of economic growth. A frequent refrain in the county is that we need to stop being "cheap dates", and I agree. I think it is equally important that we choose the right date. There is a big difference between the impacts of hikers and ATV riders, for example. Hikers are denser with regards to carrying capacity of the forest and built accommodations such as parking, which results in more dollars per person, and do less damage per person as a matter of physics. For this reason, we need to carefully target groups that maximize the economic impact and minimize environmental damage. There are enough people looking to "get away to the mountains" that we can choose who to invite into our communities via marketing and the design of accommodations and still fill our main streets.
Henderson Mine Closure
This community has been talking about what to do when the mine closes for as long as I can remember, and the implication of a 50% reduction in revenues is clear. At this rate, the county will not be able to afford to maintain roads, provide for public safety, fight against I-70 expansion, or pursue broadband development, not to mention the dire situation in every special district in the county. Our schools, libraries and recreation district face even steeper revenue shortfalls.
First and foremost, we need to learn to live within our means, however uncomfortable that may sound. However, the county and our special districts will not be able to provide the services that members of our community expect and deserve without economic growth. We need growth, but we must find options that don’t hollow out our community. Summit County and Vail are great examples of growth that hollowed out their communities. To avoid this hollowing-out, I will seek alternatives to tourism that provide good jobs for locals while also protecting our natural resources.
After the 2008 financial crash, businesses around the country found opportunities that they had not previously seen or explored in order save money and operate more efficiently. The businesses that did best engaged people at all levels of their organization to seek opportunities to save. They empowered everyone by laying out the hard facts and challenging them to find creative solutions. It worked because the people on the front lines have the best information. My leadership style is in this mold. Positivity, collaboration and openness create the conditions for the best ideas to rise to the top where they can be implemented.
Economic diversification, translated as the attempt to seek opportunities outside of tourism and mining, has been a goal of every county commission for as long as I can remember. Numerous studies have been performed but little has been accomplished in this area despite honest effort from our leaders. I believe that this is because the county has not been able to engage enough people in the conversation to develop a common vision for the future that everyone can get behind. The best and only way to achieve economic development that is good for our community is to involve everyone in the conversation. That conversation will be messier and more drawn-out than the ones that happen in smoke-filled rooms, but the result will be a vision that can finally be implemented. The real question is not the ideas that i have, it is the ideas the we have.
Access to healthcare is one of the things that make a community thrive. The recent opening of a clinic in Idaho Springs has been a boon for our community. The clinic has far exceeded their projections and has improved many lives on the West side of the county. However, what we’ve learned in recent decades is that if you don’t address mental health you can’t meaningfully impact physical health. Combining these services under the same roof is the best way to help people thrive. When individuals thrive, our community will thrive as well. The next step is to build a collaborative-care facility that will bring mental health services and public health into the same building with a primary care doctor. I will continue to expand on the success we’ve seen by seeking outside funds to build a collaborative-care facility.
For the communities on the West end of the county, fighting against I-70 expansion is a survival issue. Adding lanes to the highway will not only destroy large portions of our historic communities; such as homes being torn down to accommodate those lanes, but will also represent another failure to address Climate Change. Mass transit is the solution that saves our communities in the near and long term. Clear Creek County has been David to CDOT’s Goliath for many years. The efforts of former county commissioners are the reason that I-70 expansion has not already happened. Instead, there is a record of decision that names mass transit as the preferred alternative and won’t allow expansion until 2020. I will continue this fight with every bit of tenacity and determination as those who have served before me.
Currently CDOT claims that mass transit is "too expensive" to be realistic without having performed an investment-level study of the project. Instead they compare the cost of yesterday’s mass transit technology to tomorrow’s individual transit technology. The record of decision (ROD) that has protected our communities for the last ten years is set to expire in 2025. The clock is ticking to use the ROD to force CDOT to take a more honest look at mass transit.
The housing shortage is an issue that nearly every community in Colorado is facing, due to the huge wave of people moving to Denver and Colorado in general. The last housing study performed found that we need roughly 600 more housing units to meet demand. This is a human issue as well as an economic issue. As the manager of the Georgetown Market, I’ve seen the impact firsthand. I’ve watched good people be forced to leave our community due to rising rents, and people who love and contribute to this community being priced out of buying a home even if they can find one for sale. This means a taking second job instead of buying a ski pass or lost time spent with family and friends. It means inordinate amounts of stress and time spent looking for a home even when you have a job.
On the economic front, the housing shortage means that there isn’t a strong, populous enough workforce to attract businesses that would create stable, well-paying jobs. Numerous studies have identified that housing development within cities is where affordability and fiscal improvement are possible. Our most recent master plan concluded that this is also the preference of the community. I will seek to support the cities in identifying buildable land, giving reasonable incentives to responsible developers and supporting affordable housing applications to the state.
The other issue affecting housing is the rapid growth of Short Term Rentals. Many homes are being taken off the long-term rental market so that they can be rented like hotels. While this does bring money into the county, it also reduces the availability of housing to locals who want to live here and contribute to our communities. This is particularly true when done the home is a second or third home with no primary resident. This is not a new issue and is one that the county just passed regulations on, requiring registration and establishing safety and nuisance rules. Unfortunately, the rules did not include any type of cap on the number of homes. Some type of cap is necessary to ensure that our limited housing stock is available to people who want to live here and contribute to our communities. I believe that this will get done in 2018, but I’m prepared to push for such a cap in 2019 if one is not already in place.