Meet the candidates
Ryan Summerlin October 18, 2012
The candidates for Colorado State Senate District 8 and for the Colorado House of Representatives District 13 were sent a questionnaire at the end of September and were given two weeks to formulate their responses and submit the to the Sky-Hi News staff. The candidates for Colorado Senate District 8 are Randy Baumgardner, a Republican, and Emily Tracy, a Democrat. The candidates for state representative District 13 are Claire Levy, a Democrat, and Adam Ochs, a Republican. Ochs declined to submit answers to the questionnaire, citing a campaign policy not to answer questionnaires. The questionnaire appeared as follows:
1. What is your name?
2. Where is your permanent residence?
3. Where did you receive your education and what area/s did you study?
4. What is your current occupation?
5. Please list the members of your immediate family.
6. How many years have you been a resident of Colorado?
7. What qualifies you to hold the position you are running for?
8. What do you see as the most pressing issues for the state of Colorado and why? How do you plan to address these issues?
9. Do you support basin of origin legislation that would make it mandatory for those who divert water from one basin to another to mitigate the damage in the basin where the water originates?
10. Are you comfortable with the way the state Legislature has handled budget shortfalls in the past few years? If not, what would you change?
11. Do you see any opportunities for reducing the taxpayer’s burden in the state of Colorado?
12. Do you feel oil and gas regulations in Colorado are adequate, inadequate, or over-reaching?
13. Do you believe local governments should be allowed to regulate practices such as hydraulic fracking?
14. Do you believe state funding for k-12 education are adequate? If not, how would you propose to stabilize funding for k-12 education? If so, do you see any changes that need to be made?
15. Do you believe state laws regarding teacher tenure, collective bargaining rights for teachers, and education labor laws are adequate? If not, what would you change?
16. Do you believe state funding mechanisms for higher education are adequate? If not, what would you change?
17. In the wake of the Aurora movie theater shooting, do you believe the state should implement stricter gun controls? If so, in what way? If not, why not?
18. What measures do you favor or oppose to help alleviate congestion on the I-70 mountain corridor?
19. Why are you a better choice for this position than your opponent?
1. Emily Tracy
2. Breckenridge, CO
3. I graduated from Belton High School in Belton, Mo. I have a bachelor’s degree in humanities: German and English literature from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and a master’s in public administration with an emphasis in environmental management from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. My graduate-level coursework included public administration, human resources management, financial management, statistics, applied analytic methods, natural resources policy, environmental economics, and experimental urban design.
4. I am a Resource Coordinator in 38 western, central and southern counties for the Colorado Post-Adoption Resource Center. We provide support and referral services to families who have adopted children through the child welfare system.
5. Husband, Del Bush. Two grown sons, Christopher and Neil. Both sons are married. My husband and I share nine grandchildren.
6. 47 years.
7. My public policy experience includes serving eight years on the City Council of Canon City. I’ve served more than 12 years on land use planning commissions in two jurisdictions; I served five years on a county economic development board. I was appointed by Governor Romer to the original Great Outdoors Colorado committee which created the framework for dedicated funding for trails, parks, open space and wildlife. More recently, I Co-Chaired the Legislative Affairs Council of the Summit Chamber of Commerce for five years, and also served business members as a part-time staffer for two years. My longest career was in child protection; I also worked for the Colorado Judicial branch in their court-based mediation program; for a local police department; and worked on a temporary project with Colorado’s Sex Offender Management Board. My rich variety of policy experience plus my conflict resolution skills provide an excellent background for a Senator.
8. First, Colorado’s conflicting constitutional provisions regarding revenue and spending (the constraints of TABOR, the Gallagher Amendment and Amendment 23) are the overriding issue for state government. Though there have been positive aspects to our 20 years of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights – for example, requiring a vote of the people to raise taxes has broad public support – over time the restrictions have shrunk the state’s buying power resulting in a limited ability to address new needs such as forest health and fire mitigation, and to address the greater safety net needs during an economic downturn. The TABOR initiative was passed during a time when multiple issues could be addressed in a single ballot initiative. Since then voters have agreed to narrow how ballot initiatives are constructed so it’s now impossible to bring about all necessary constitutional changes in one ballot initiative. Other proposals to make it even more difficult to amend the state constitution are on the horizon, as many tire of being faced with trying to govern by ballot initiative. Dedicated, focused leadership on the issue of trying to fix our constitutional dilemma will be needed – voters cannot do this on their own.
Beyond the broad constitutional problems affecting funding, we face specific challenges to our public education system, particularly in rural Colorado. Funding for rural schools and teachers is eroding. We must have high quality schools so that our children and grandchildren can succeed in the global economy. Also, threats to Western Slope water and to our land are growing – both are essential to our agriculture and tourism economies.
I will help lead in determining a way to address the constitutional bind we are in, and help facilitate the discussion among voters around the state in how we must move forward to solve this problem.
9. Yes, in general I support basin of origin legislation. The struggle no doubt will be in working out the details of what would be required for environmental or economic damage mitigation – how are the damages determined and calculated? How are the damages remedied? There is a tremendous complexity of water law and interconnected responsibilities over the management of water that could make a successful proposal very difficult to devise. However all interested parties should continue to discuss how to achieve basin of origin protection.
10. There are both positive and negative aspects in how shortfalls have been handled in recent years. On the positive side there has been fairly extensive review of agency and program budgets with an eye toward achieving greater efficiencies. With budget constraints legislators have had to do much more work achieving consensus on budget priorities, no easy matter when there are so many competing interests. The negative side to the process in the past 10 to 12 years has been the “borrowing” from dedicated trust funds, plus accounting gimmicks that accomplish nothing other than a temporary fix to a long term revenue shortfall problem. Much of the detailed legislative budget work is done by the six-member Joint Budget Committee plus JBC staffers. It might be worth considering expanding the membership of the JBC to a larger number of legislators, to develop a more diverse set of perspectives in the budget process.
11. Colorado has many taxing entities, and has more special districts (which levy taxes) than most states. Voters have access to government to provide input on what services they want, and to help ensure that tax-funded services are provided efficiently and effectively. However, most voters don’t have the time or inclination to monitor public programs (school board, county, state government, and so on), so government work is not always done in the most effective way with an eye to keeping the tax burden low. Generally – when looking at the total tax burden from all taxing entities – Colorado is a low tax state when compared to most other states, and government can’t raise taxes without a majority vote of the people. With substantial unmet needs such as roads and bridges, I see little opportunity for reducing the taxpayers’ burden beyond what can be gained through careful vigilance over each taxing entity.
12. State regulation of the oil and gas industry is evolving. Within the past several years a major rewrite of regulations was completed by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, but rules regarding setbacks are still being written. I don’t believe we know yet if our state regulations are adequate, inadequate or overreaching. It’s quite possible the state is understaffed in inspectors with the thousands of drilling operations that now exist. Some local governments have taken steps to add environmental monitoring requirements because they don’t believe the state rules are sufficient to monitor for possible contamination of water, air and soils. Local government has authority through land use regulations to be involved in regulating oil and gas drilling and other associated processes. I support the involvement of local government and local citizens in the regulatory process.
13. As already noted, sorting out the authority of state government vs. local government in monitoring and regulating oil and gas production is an evolving process. Colorado has a strong history of local control – land use planning and zoning regulations have always been the responsibility of local government. I disagree with the state’s recent lawsuit against the City of Longmont regarding their regulatory approach for oil and gas. I support a continued role for local government and residents in helping to shape how energy development occurs, and the local role should be broader than the process currently outlined in COGCC rules. The fracking process itself will probably continue to come primarily under the jurisdiction of the state, however the state monitoring and regulatory framework may not be adequate to ensure that groundwater is not contaminated. Water is a limited and essential Western Slope resource – its protection must be a high priority.
14. Current state funding for K-12 education is inadequate. There’s a continued erosion of funding which not only impacts on the quality of public education, but also prevents us from having fully-equipped 21st century classrooms, particularly in rural Colorado. The solution to inadequate funding will most likely need to come within the larger framework of solving the conflicting revenue and expenditure constraints in our state constitution, which over time have shrunk our buying power in providing a variety of needed services. It’s inappropriate and unworkable to try to fix funding for education or roads and bridges or forest health or any other pressing need by simply proposing an isolated fix for one need. Colorado voters do not want to deal with multiple funding questions on the ballot over a period of years. A more comprehensive and effective fix is needed – ultimately the voters will decide what that fix is.
15. I believe the current laws are adequate but I am open to input from all stakeholders.
16. Funding for higher education is inadequate. One of our key state universities – the University of Colorado – receives such a small portion of its total funding from the state that it is at risk of becoming a completely private institution. Higher education funding is generally discretionary so, as competition increases for limited state budget dollars, funding for higher education loses ground. In addition, we must continue to ensure that quality higher education opportunities are available for students in rural Colorado. Senate District 8 includes two community colleges – Colorado Mountain College and Colorado Northwestern Community College. Funding for the important educational services they provide should be preserved and strengthened.
17. I don’t have the answer, but I do know that everyone needs to come to the table to talk about our common interests and needs. Gun enthusiasts and those who believe there should be stricter controls need to find a way to have a dialogue with each other. We all want to be safe in our homes, we want our children safe in schools and at play, and we all want to be safe at work and in all aspects of our daily lives. With everyone involved in the discussion, I hope sometime soon we can begin to build on those common needs and desires, and figure out what possible solutions there might be. None of us knows the solution, but we do know there is a common want and need for safety in our lives.
18. Good work has been done by CDOT, the I-70 coalition, local government and others in evaluating options for the I-70 corridor. The problems along I-70 are fairly unique in that the worst congestion comes only at certain peak travel times. There have been positive results from a substantial public education effort, to spread out travel times on peak days. I support continued education efforts, and other approaches which can reduce congestion (such as encouraging carpooling, and working with the trucking industry to reduce truck travel during peak times). The long term solution, in my opinion, must include a rail option in the corridor. The greatest barrier is not technology but funding. With the state’s current funding constraints we not only cannot clearly determine where the necessary funding will come from, but we are not even keeping up with basic road and bridge maintenance and replacement needs around the state.
19. My opponent says he works across party lines, but in reality he does not reach out to people of all political persuasions and does not address a variety of interests. He followed the bidding of Front Range partisan leadership at the end of the legislative session, and helped block votes on at least 30 bills, some of which – like the water projects bill – were critical to Western Slope interests. As a result the Governor called an expensive special session to get key legislation passed. This happened because a minority wanted to prevent a vote on a bill they knew would pass. My approach is quite different – I will work in a bipartisan common sense way utilizing my mediation skills to solve problems for the District. The best Western Slope legislators are those who work across party lines to build coalitions to get our work done in Colorado’s urban/suburban legislature.
1. Randy Baumgardner
2. 4050 Jackson County Rd. #4 P.O. Box 123 Cowdrey, CO 80434
3. Paoli Junior/Senior H.S. Paoli, Indiana and some college
4. Rancher and current State Representative HD 57
5. Wife, Lori and son Matthew
6. 18 years
7. I meet the Constitutional requirements for holding this office. I am a resident of the State of Colorado, have lived in the district I am running to represent for more than 12 months and am over the age of 25.
In addition, I have represented the 57th House District in the Colorado State General Assembly for the past four years. I am a small business owner and have previously worked for the Colorado Department of Transportation, both of which gave me unique insights into how to work with people and what the state government does well and where it should be limited.
8. Creating a business friendly environment and improving the Colorado economy should be our top priority in Denver.
Every other program or budgetary line item is dependent on revenue that isn’t currently being generated because of the slow recovery. Colorado used to have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, but now we have a rate higher than the national average. I can assure you, that before I cast any vote in Denver, I will be thinking “will this help create Colorado jobs and grow our economy?” That will be my deciding factor in supporting legislation during my first term in the Senate.
9. Yes. I believe that if you take something from someone you should compensate them for that. I would support this kind of legislation in theory, but I would have to see the details of how this compensation would be achieved and whether I thought it was equitable and adequate before I would be able to support specific legislation.
10. NO. The budget shortfalls are due to two factors, constitutional constraints and requirements for spending and lack of revenue due to a lack of economic growth. I believe that as the constitutional controls on the state budget were implemented by the people of Colorado, they must be the ones to alter those provisions if they see the need to. Economic growth can be stimulated by encouraging businesses to invest in a Colorado where burdensome regulations are eliminated and the business climate is under control predictable.
Additionally, I supported the 2010-11 budget and was proud that we were able to come to an agreement on how to do the hard work of cutting $750 million to balance the budget while keeping necessary programs funded. I voted against this year’s budget because proposed to raise spending by 7.5% and I do not think that the money should be spent “just because we have it.” I have worked to keep spending under control.
11. Until we grow the economy we will not be able to meet our obligations for state services and mandatory spending and additionally cut taxes. I want our economy to be booming again. Once it is, the revenue restrictions in TABOR will kick in like they did in the ’90s and taxpayers should see refund checks again from the state.
12. In talking to oil and gas operators over the past four years, I think they felt that the rules that were promulgated in the Ritter Administration were overreaching and reactionary at the time. But over time, they have learned to live within the scope of the rules, and the process has become safer and more responsive for residents living in areas where gas is developed. I think that the current rules are adequate and are working.
13. No, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) regulates these practices and provides a uniform and stable process for oil and gas producers to operate in. The process would be needlessly complex and uncertain if each local government entity could promulgate their own rules.
14. K-12 education is the only item of the state budget that grows regardless of any budget issues we are having. Due to Amendment 23, K-12 grows by 1% every year. I don’t think we can offer to spend more on K-12. I do however think that in the wake of recent court cases we may have to look at ways to amend the school finance formula so we can distribute our funding more equitably. We should also work to spread funding to programs that work. We don’t need to always look for the newest educational fad, we could invest more on those best practices that are really working in our schools.
15. I understand the need for tenure at the college level for professors, I do not support tenure for K-12 educators. I also think that for the most part, teachers’ unions have done more to hurt the level of education because they are organized to promote teachers’ interests not the interests of the students. I believe in pay for performance with teachers, just like in the private sector. I think it promotes positive competition and improves the quality of workforce.
16. No, I would like to spend more on higher education, but once again cuts to higher ed are a result of the unintended consequence of Amendment 23 forcing K-12 funding to take a larger piece of the budget year after year. Higher ed is one part of the state budget and until we begin to have our economy grow to generate the needed revenue, we will continue to see shortfalls.
17. No. Tragedies like the Aurora theater shooting naturally cause us to wonder how they could have been prevented or how tragedies like these could be prevented in the future. Stricter gun control however is not the answer. By all accounts, the accused gunman in this case, was very unstable mentally. Gun controls may have limited his ability to obtain certain weapons, but they would not have deterred him from committing a crime in the first place.
18. As a state legislator I probably spend more time on I-70 than the average citizen and this is why I am very interested in finding a solution to I-70 congestion. Last year I supported bipartisan legislation that provided funding for lane expansions at critical points along the corridor. I am not in favor of tolling or other special gimmicks that would limit access to I-70 to certain times of day. I think this creates a disproportionate burden on Western Slopers who would have business in Denver. Skiers would pay more maybe a couple of weekends per season, but we would pay more every day.
19. As I have said previously, jobs and the economy are my singular focus.
I am a fiscal conservative who has kept spending under control and even made the hard choice to vote against members of my own party to try to stop an over inflated budget. I am a champion of the Colorado taxpayer who looks to ensure your money is spent frugally and goes farther.
I am a small business owner who understands what our business community needs to help them move this economy forward. That is why I have been endorsed by every major business organization in the state. They know what the people in House District 57 have known for four years, that I work hard for my district, for the people who make this the greatest state in the union and know what we need to do to encourage the business development and growth that will bring jobs back and return Colorado to an era of budget surpluses.
Being an effective legislator in the Colorado Senate requires legislative experience, experience I have gained in my four years Representing HD 57. This job takes time to learn and in our difficult times, we cannot afford to elect someone who will be learning on the job.
1. Claire Levy
3. B.A. in History from Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., and a J.D. from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio
4. I am an attorney, although I have not practiced law since 2008.
5. Daughters: Mara, age 23 and Ellie, age 18
6. 30 years
7. I do not think any particular qualifications are needed. I think anyone with a sincere desire to represent the people in their district can do it and do it effectively. I think I am qualified because I work hard to study the issues and seek solutions from people with expertise. I listen to everyone, regardless of party affiliation. I do not let party line dictate my positions.
I understand the needs of families and businesses based on a lifetime of experience. As an attorney representing local governments, I know the importance of local control over land use and development. In private practice I represented individual landowners and developers, and understand the challenges of getting permits. Being an attorney trained me to see both sides of an issue and weigh pros and cons.
I have raised two children and sent them off to college, and know how hard it is to work and raise a family.
8. I am concerned that Colorado will stagnate because our investment in education and important infrastructure has not kept pace with our population growth. For example, we have at least a $1.5 billion gap between our transportation needs and our revenue. State investment in higher education has been steadily declining, making tuition rise and discouraging the best faculty from coming here. If we let our infrastructure decay the cost to repair and remediate will only rise. So one of my biggest concerns is that Colorado’s basic revenue structure is not designed to allow strategic investments in the infrastructure necessary for us to be competitive.
My other concern is the gap between opportunities in rural areas and the front range and I-70 corridors. Rural areas do not have access to the same level of health care or the same quality of education because the population is so sparse and doctors and teachers are not as willing to work in those areas. Rural areas have inconsistent access to broadband telecommunications making it difficult to have a business that needs an online presence. This issue ties back to infrastructure investment.
Addressing these concerns requires consensus among the voters about allowing strategic investments. Local governments have successfully passed bond issues because they have clearly identified the reason for the investment and the financial viability of that investment. I believe a bi-partisan group of business, civic and elected leaders should develop a plan to address our backlog of transportation needs and capital improvements and present that to the voters. I also believe the voters should be given an opportunity to evaluate a fair funding source that would be dedicated to education so we do not lose our brightest students to neighboring states.
9. Yes. When water is diverted from one basin to another it alters the ecosystem in the basin of origin. It doesn’t just alter the ecosystem of the river; it alters the interconnected ecosystems tied to the river. I think it is time to halt trans-basin diversions and for the Front Range to live with the water it has. It is more and more difficult to truly “mitigate” the damage of further depletions of native flows whereas there is great potential for water conservation, grey water reuse, leasing water and other creative measure to reduce the need for additional diversions.
10. I am not entirely comfortable with it but as someone who has scrutinized those budgets and attempted to pass amendments to those budgets I have to say we have done the best we could.
The state legislature has limited ability to change the core programs and funding in the budget. Our budget must balance. We are not allowed to increase revenue or restructure revenue. Health care, education, child welfare and corrections/public safety consume almost 95 percent of the budget. So there is little room for huge changes in priorities.
Budgets reflect compromises, and while I would have preferred that more of the programs in the Department of Agriculture be cash funded, I could not insist on that given the strong interests of agricultural areas. Likewise other legislators wanted to reduce departmental budgets that I thought were crucial and I prevailed. So overall, we have a fair budget given the circumstances.
11. Colorado is lopsided in its tax structure. State taxes are among the lowest in the country while local taxes are high. And the state relies heavily on user fees, which do not reflect ability to pay. Local taxes consist mostly of sales and property taxes. Sales tax is highly regressive and property taxes do not correlate well with ability to pay or demand for services. So I would not be looking so much to reduce the burden as to restructure it so it is fairer and less regressive.
12. The existing oil and gas regulations were the product of 18 months of hearings all around the state. There was consensus on 90 percent of the regulations. The result was a much shorter time period for approving permits, greater input regarding health and environmental impacts of drilling, and more input from the surface owners. Oil and gas companies benefited from faster permit approvals and neighboring landowners benefited from having more input. Those regulations did not address local setbacks, noise and other byproducts of drilling that are incompatible with residential uses. They also did not fully address water consumption and water quality concerns related to hydraulic fracturing. These local concerns must now be addressed. I believe they can be addressed without harming the industry. The industry remained strong following the new regulations adopted in 2009 and drilling only declined when the price of natural gas dropped.
13. I do not believe they should regulate the fracking process itself or those matters that are directly within the purview of the OGCC. Local governments should have the same land use authority with respect to drilling that they have for every other land use activity that occurs within their jurisdiction. Local governments have land use regulations in order to provide for orderly development and protect property values by preventing noxious uses adjacent to residential and commercial uses. Typically industrial uses that are noisy, emit odors, and have lots of associated truck traffic are separated from regular residential and commercial uses. It isn’t fair to require local governments to allow oil and gas drilling everywhere while not allowing local governments to mitigate the impacts of these activities.
14. Funding for K-12 is not adequate. Class sizes are increasing and school districts are eliminating subjects. Schools are eliminating paraeducators, who help teachers deal with larger classes.
Colorado’s per-pupil funding for K-12 education ranks in the bottom five states. Funding alone does not create a good education. But Colorado’s funding levels are so low that we threaten the ability of our schools to educate to the standards we expect.
Students and teachers must meet rigorous standards. Most agree that a good education is the key to economic success in life. Therefore, it is imperative that our schools rise to the challenge.
The solution to school funding lies with the voters. TABOR and Amendment 23 establish education spending requirements and spending limits. Those who understand the importance of public education and the limitations imposed by current funding formulas must convince voters to allow schools to raise and spend more funds.
15. Teacher tenure laws were changed in 2010 to dramatically decrease employment security for teachers. Colorado has just begun to create the new teacher evaluation process that will replace the old system. It is too early to say whether it will accomplish what the drafters of the new laws sought to accomplish. I will be watching closely to see whether the system has swung too far towards trying to quantify all aspects of teacher performance and not allowed enough leeway to account for the challenges teachers face who have challenging student bodies. The new system must allow for variations in student bodies, subjects that are not susceptible to quantitative tests, and other challenging environments. I agree teachers are critical to students’ success. I want our students to have the best teachers possible. I hope the new system succeeds.
16. Funding for higher education has dropped dramatically over the past 10 years. Part of that is because of revenue decreased caused by the recession. Part is because caseloads for Medicaid have increased and crowded out higher education. The constitutional requirements of Amendment 23 also decrease the funds available for higher education.
Tuition increases have made college out of reach of many middle class families. Colleges are looking at other tuition models but that isn’t enough.
Improving funding to take the pressure off tuition increases requires us to examine the tax structure from top to bottom to see whether it is efficient, fair and effective. The University of Denver has concluded Colorado’s basic tax structure is obsolete and does not reflect to current income sources and spending habits. Colorado should convene a Simpson/Bowles type commission to offer bi-partisan solutions to take to the voters. Nothing can be changed without voter approval.
17. Gun control laws cannot prevent a mentally ill killer from accomplishing his goal. But that doesn’t mean we should not make changes that could improve overall public safety without diminishing people’s ability to enjoy hunting and target practice, or their ability to protect themselves.
I favor renewing the ban on assault weapons. I favor limiting high capacity magazines. I also favor efforts to address gaps that allow people with mental illness to purchase guns.
Again, I understand nothing can prevent someone intent on getting a weapon from doing that. But for some, a minor hurdle will prevent them from using a gun impulsively and may just deter an otherwise law abiding person from using a gun against someone else. Sensible gun safety legislation does not have to diminish anyone’s Second Amendment rights.
18. I have followed the I-70 Corridor Coalition’s work for many years. I check in regularly with the local government representatives involved in the I-70 Corridor. There is agreement that widening the highway would wreck local economies and have a huge impact on the quality of life in Clear Creek County. Traffic figures show the highway would be as congested as it is now just fifteen years after widening is completed. So widening alone is not a good solution. The rail option has not been explored enough to either endorse it or oppose it. I favor some sort of multi-modal solution that incorporates transit and dedicates additional capacity to buses so they can go faster and be more attractive to riders. We should also try to shift truck traffic to nights and low traffic days. And encourage spreading the existing traffic out throughout the weekdays and hours of the day.
19. I believe I have tackled the tough issues that need to be tackled in my first three terms and have brought reason and balance to the process. I devote all my energy to this job and try my best to know the diverse parts of my district and truly represent all of my constituents. I know very little about my opponent because the positions on his website are very general. I agree with many of those general positions. But they do not reflect the realities of voting on legislation nor do they reflect what the state legislature actually affects. While I cannot and would not criticize my opponent I believe I am a better choice because I have a better understanding of the job and the potential to improve the state.