Western Slope Round-Up: Taking a Wack at Budgets and Issues

Bobby’s gone; Sil’s not expected to live. Paulie is about the only top soldier left. Who’s going to survive the shootout between Tony and Phil? Are we talking about the latest episode of The Sopranos or are we rehashing the race for mayor in Aspen?

The Western Slope is part of the family here at Colorado Confidential. Read more below.Aspen Mayoral Election Most Expensive Ever
Aspen Daily News–Tim Semrau and Mick Ireland have raised almost $90,000 combined for Tuesday’s runoff election for Aspen mayor, beating all previous fundraising totals. Development is-and always has been-the number one issue and the two candidates represent the two sides of the spectrum.

From an article covering a recent debate:

Aspen’s mayoral contest has been depicted as a match between a bicycle-riding environmentalist (Ireland) and a Porsche-driving developer (Semrau) but Friday’s debate underscored the similarities between the two opponents. Both care deeply about the community, have strong track records of building affordable housing and they agree on this city’s most controversial issue: the Entrance to Aspen. Ireland and Semrau are supporters of the “preferred alternative” that would redirect Highway 82 across Marolt open space with an emphasis on mass transportation to reduce traffic congestion.

Ireland is a former Pitkin County Commissioner and in the past, has demonstrated that his people skills are as friendly as a bookie collecting his marker.  Semrau said he feared Ireland would alienate the rich.

With a large cross-section list of supporters, Ireland has countered Samrau’s accusations. He noted that some of his supporters were once involved with a recall effort against him as commissioner and now they back his race for mayor.

Archuleta County Finances Sleep with the Fishes
Durango Herald–Archuleta County is wondering what happened to their money. They hope a “forensic” audit will determine why they face budgetary shortfall of $2.6 million this year. According to the Herald, county officials have overspent every year since 1999 and the county has not filed its annual audit on time with the state for the last three years – a violation of law. The Herald continues:

Among the services to be cut or suspended: five road-improvement projects, three senior programs, an airport runway resurfacing project, a roof repair at the courthouse, flu shots for county employees, a fire-mitigation program and others. In all, 15 programs and projects have been cut or suspended.

The county also is considering charging a fee for commercial recycling collections. And routine road maintenance such as graveling and dust mitigation will be scaled back.

County officials said repeatedly that road and bridge projects and other county services would not be affected by the budget shortfall. But all of that changed May 14 when the county discovered that $3.2 million set aside for those purposes was no longer there.

Other steps the county is taking includes hiring a third-party audit and financial team to review county finances between 2004 and 1999; canceling all county credit cards; selling some of the county-owned properties and vehicles; and reviewing existing contracts and leases for potential savings.

Montrose County Facing Law & Order Budget Shortages
Montrose Daily Press–A one 1 percent sales tax, that used to support the Justice Center, which included the sheriff’s office, jail, district attorney’s office and both county and district courts, sunset last year. With the loss of the tax income, this whole sector has been forced into a budget crunch. As the paper reported:

Montrose County is currently considering whether to ask voters for a new sales tax and exploring additional options under recent legislation that would allow it to seek another sales tax, of up to 2 percent above state limits, specifically to fund law enforcement and public safety.

A committee the county convened recently recommended 4 percent sales and use taxes, plus a 0.75 sales tax under the legislation. The county commissioners have not yet decided on the recommendation.

“What we have is an overall shortfall at the county level,” County Commissioner Bill Patterson said. “What we’re really cutting is the expansion in the budget. We’re not actually reducing the amount of money going to the sheriff, but we’re not keeping up.”

Currently, the sheriff’s department depends on used equipment from the state patrol and has a ten year-old patrol car radio system. Montrose County starts its deputies at $34,059 with a cap of $36, 056. The training budget per officer is $331. In comparison, the City of Montrose starts its officers at $41,046 with a training budget of $1,200 per officer.

Tribes, State Discuss Future Goals
Cortez News Journal–Southwest Colorado might as well be in New Jersey, especially when it comes to the issues concerning Colorado’s American Indians–did you even realize that the state even a Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs? Last week, the commission held its quarterly meeting in Towaoc, which is near Cortez, to discuss education, health care, law enforcement and other issues with the state’s two Ute tribes.

From the Journal:

Regional officials, including those from the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute tribes, and Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1, attended the meeting. Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien also attended.

Manuel Heart, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe chairman, said that for too long, Indian Country has had no voice in federal government.

Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Councilman Gary Hayes told the commission the tribe may explore taking over its law enforcement functions from the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, but he said tribal leaders want to weigh options carefully before making the change.

Ute veterans have limited choices for health care, having to drive at least four hours to Grand Junction or Albuquerque, N.M., for treatment, Heart said. Southwest Colorado needs a veterans hospital so area vets needing medical attention wouldn’t have to drive so far. 

Truancy is a problem on the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation, Heart said. Children and their parents must be held accountable, and work to help solve the issue, he said.

One might agree that two hundred years is long enough for Indian Country to have a say in their welfare with the feds.

LGBT Members Come Out for a Craig Picnic
Craig Daily News–For the first time, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Committee promoted their yearly picnic for the gay community in Craig and Steamboat Springs area, attracting over 25 participants. The paper covered the event:

“We wanted to keep it discreet,” said Paul Auwaerter, a Craig resident and organizer of Saturday’s Fourth Annual LGBT Pride Event. “There is a rural mentality that doesn’t understand it.” However, this year, the LGBT Pride Committee took its first steps toward publicizing the annual event.

Auwaerter said the event is like any other — it is designed to provide a social outing and a circle of friends.

“The only (perception) many people in a town like Craig have is the 20-second film clip they see on the news from a pride festival,” Auwaerter said. “That’s what the average person probably believes the gay lifestyle is.”

The other purpose behind the pride event, and raising awareness to it, Auwaerter said, was to send a message to people living in the community. Based on statistics, he estimated about 200 local residents fall into one of the LGBT demographics.

“I want to talk to the other 175,” he said. “I want to give them a message that says ‘you’re not the only one.’ You’re not alone. That’s my whole message. “There are worse things than being gay in Craig, Colorado. It’s no big deal.”

Ah, yes. There are worse things than being gay in a redneck community, as Vito Spatafore could attest.