How would you deal with problems associated with uncontrolled
growth in our state? Do you support or oppose a proposed ballot
initiative giving citizens the power to manage growth in their
Colorado's population has grown four-fold since World War II,
and we have very little if anything in the way of laws to manage
our growth. Ten acres of Front Range open space are lost every
hour and thousands of acres of farmland are lost every year.
Meanwhile, traffic congestion is getting worse, schools are
becoming more crowded and many of Colorado's natural treasures
are threatened by out of control development. Uncontrolled growth
is the number one issue for most Coloradans, according to polls.*
The governor and legislature have essentially punted on the
issue, and there is now a ballot measure called the Responsible
Growth Initiative that would force communities to propose growth
areas in a responsible fashion, and require voter approval before
development could occur outside of already developed areas.
The Responsible Growth Initiative was defeated this past election
cycle. The Governor and the Legislature are currently discussing
various growth control options this legislative cycle.
Colorado is blessed with a great deal of beautiful, accessible, public land, much of which is owned by the federal government. Do you support designating more of this land as wilderness?
Almost all of Colorado's wilderness is owned by the U.S. Forest Service, and is located in the middle of the state. There is currently a proposal, sponsored by U.S. Representative Diana Degette, to extend wilderness protections to other federal land in the western region of the state and elsewhere. Much of this land is red rock desert or pinyon-juniper forest, sparsely populated but heavily used by extractive industries, especially oil and gas drilling and logging. The proposal covers 50 distinctive, rare ecosystems, places like Thompson Creek near Carbondale, and Vermillion Basin in the extreme northwest of the state. Over 1.4 million roadless acres are included. If set aside, motorized use would be forbidden, and extractive industries would be better managed although not necessarily excluded.
Do you support paying property owners to comply with environmental laws?
"Takings" legislation has been introduced in each of the past three sessions of the Colorado legislature, as well as the last several U.S. Congresses. Like most states, Colorado allows its local governments to control land use, usually with zoning laws that try to push similar types of development into the same areas (creating business zones, industrial zones, and residential zones). Takings legislation would allow landowners to sue their local governments whenever zoning laws - or any other kinds of laws, including clean air and water regulations - affect how valuable their land might be. For instance, if a zoning ordinance forbids a landowner from building a shopping mall, he might be able to sue the local government for the profit he might have received from building the mall. Laws commonly threatened by "takings" measures include, community zoning regulations, land use planning measures, health and safety measures, and conservation and wildlife management efforts.
Denver has long had some of the most polluted air in the country. How would you deal with this problem? What solutions would you support?
Denver's air pollution problem is partly geographic - the "bowl" effect created by the Rockies traps air on the Front Range, and in winter can create "inversions," which make things even worse. Coloradans have very few mass transit options, and don't frequently use the ones they have. Although industry and other sources (such as fireplaces) also contribute to air pollution, studies show none come anywhere close to the impact of driving. By encouraging the development of new fuel-efficient technologies, utilizing current technologies and promoting public transportation, we can all begin to breathe easier.
Trying to drive into or out of Denver, especially west into the mountains, is becoming one of the most time consuming commutes in the nation. Do you support or oppose using public funds to create mass transit options, such as commuter rail between Denver and Boulder, and rail service on the I-70 corridor?
Denver is fast approaching Los Angeles and New York as one of the most congested large cities in America. One study of driving times suggests that commuting times have doubled in the past ten years. With the population expected to double by 2020, it can only get worse. There is currently a plan to complete a rail system for the southern side of the city, including the Denver Tech Center, but other main corridors, such as the Boulder Turnpike and I-70, remain on the "traffic treadmill." Ideas for a commuter rail system adjacent to the Boulder Turnpike, and a quick mountain rail along I-70, have been debated for years, but to this date have not gotten the necessary political support to become reality.
Colorado's climate is essentially high desert. What is your solution to water shortage problems in our state, especially considering the expected doubling of our population in the next 20 years? Do you support more water transport projects, which bring West Slope water to the Front Range?
This environmental issue has perhaps the longest history of
any in our state. Since the 1960's and before, the question
of how to provide water to exploding Front Range population
centers, when most of our water is across the Continental Divide,
has consumed political leaders. The huge Animas-La Plata diversion,
near Durango, has been tabled many times but still has its advocates,
such as U.S. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell. Meanwhile, native
trout populations have plummeted to the point where several
are now candidates for endangered species listing. Although
some Front Range cities have managed to secure water rights
to meet their needs for the immediate future, many have not.
Colorado promotes less water conservation among its residents
than most southwestern states, and the same is true for many
of its local governments. How elected officials at all levels
of government address this issue, will determine whether America's
waterways remain healthy for future generations.
Colorado's ski industry is an important part of our economy.
However, ski areas alter the environment so much that many rare
species, such as the lynx and black bear, have been driven out
of prime habitat. Do you support or oppose proposals to expand
ski areas in Colorado?
Despite flat skier numbers, many Colorado ski resorts continue
to propose to their landlords - the U.S. Forest Service - that
they be allowed to expand ski-able terrain. Vail Resort's newest
expansion, Blue Sky Basin, opened to widely reported controversy
in the winter of 1999. Unfortunately, these high country national
forests also contain important habitat, and many large mammals
cannot live near heavily used areas in our forests. Some economists
suggest that the primary reason for ski area expansion these
days is not to increase acreage available to skiers, but to
build more lucrative real estate for skiers and second homeowners.
Current expansion proposals: Breckenridge, Keystone, and Copper
Mountain, among others.
* Poll data refers to the results from the Talmey-Drake Research & Strategy, Inc. September 1999 poll entitled, "Colorado Growth Survey" prepared for the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund.
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