CENTER — The last commissioner candidates forum, held at the Center Schools auditorium was sparsely attended, something one party official attributed to the unfortunate existence of “apathy among Center residents.”
Republicans, Democrats and Independents sponsored the debate.
Republican Party Chair Richard Drake and Democrat Party Chair Randy Arredondo directed questions to candidates during the debate. Two questions had not been brought up at previous debates — on the application of the Colorado Open Records Act and whether commissioners meetings should be recorded — were posed to candidates.
Candidates respond to questions
How do you feel about the Colorado Open Records Act?
Jason Anderson — “It’s an outstanding act, and I am sure that the intention in enacting it was good, but it’s being abused. Someone from Aspen was invited into the county and walked away with $100,000.” Anderson said he would look at the law and the way it is being used and address any issues.
Ken Anderson — “The law is being abused — outside people were brought in. I think we should get the names [of those who brought Marks in] on paper.” Anderson indicated that the people bringing her in should be held responsible for the $100,000 settlement.
Lisa Cyriacks — “This law was passed about the same time that Watergate happened. It is a tool the media and citizens use to hold the government accountable. It seems to be used differently in the county office by office. It shouldn’t be ‘evaluated’ and it can’t be improved upon. It allows citizens access to records and decisions made [by government officials]. It is important as the county moves forward that citizens have access.”
Joe Cisneros — “I agree. The BOCC should act transparently but it [CORA] can be abused. Everyone in the county needs to be on the same page.”
Rock Finley — “This was all brought on by the Democrat clerk who would not disclose the records. Marks, any reporter or myself should be able to get them. The commissioners are guilty for being sued for having executive sessions [illegally]. Those claiming the abuse [of the open records act] are the ones at fault. It’s a state law and nobody has any business reviewing it.”
Do you favor the electronic recording of commissioner meetings?
Jason Anderson — “I support electronic recording — let’s live stream it. This county is huge and it is difficult for people to drive all the way to Saguache to listen to meetings, so let’s take it to the people. We need to find a way to bring meetings into county homes to make it accessible for everybody.”
Ken Anderson — “I think we should get it out to people, make it available. I have no problem with it.”
Lisa Cyriacks — “I’m in favor of recording. It is the best way to disseminate information. If there’s an item on the agenda I’m interested in now, I have to take an hour from my work schedule [to attend the BOCC meeting]. It should be available to get information to the citizens on how commissioners’ decisions are arrived at.”
Joe Cisneros — “Streaming it; that’s great. I want citizens to hold me accountable and this allows everyone, all commissioners, to be held accountable. I’m definitely in favor of it. It’s what is needed.”
Rock Finley — “Yes, I’m in favor of it. It is the only way to assure that the minutes taken at meetings are put down accurately. It’s done daily everywhere in all kinds of businesses. I believe meetings should be both electronically and visually recorded.”
Other questions candidates answered included the protection of citizens form oil and gas exploration dangers. Jason Anderson said he would fight “fracking” and do everything in his power to protect air and water quality. Joe Cisneros and Ken Anderson said they did not know if fracking polluted water and further studies needed to be done. Anderson added, however, that the county could benefit economically from oil and gas leases.
Cyriacks suggested that commissioners inform the public when an oil and gas drilling permit is received so that commissioners can give input and demand conditions, also inform the citizens who then can comment. Currently, she noted, commissioners seem content to go along with the state and not rock the boat. Cisneros said this is unacceptable and that countywide meetings should be held to invite citizen input.
All also expressed reservations about weather modification in the Valley and agreed that further study into the matter was needed. All candidates also agreed that the Colorado and U.S. flag should be displayed in al county buildings and that the Pledge of Allegiance should be said before commissioner and other public meetings.
Cyriacks pointed out that honoring both flags is especially important because elected county officials take an oath when sworn in to uphold both the U.S. and state constitutions.