Cattlemen talk politics

Forum allows candidates to discuss issues

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— The Routt County Cattlemen's Association hosted a meeting where all the local political candidates had a chance to inform members of their backgrounds and participate in a discussion of politics at the meeting.

One of the most interesting questions entertained by the candidates Friday was asked by local Gerald Schalnus. He said of six local ranchers that have moved out of the area, two left because of regulations that are put on them because of growth.

"Those same regulations are applied to us," he said.

He wanted to know what could be done so longtime ranchers wouldn't have to go to the county to ask permission to do things on their own land.

"I'm totally in favor of preserving agriculture," Routt County Commissioner Democratic candidate Doug Monger said.

However, if there are activities going on that could affect their neighbors, they need to be looked at, he added.

Monger said he wanted to have an open door with people as a commissioner, and when it comes to planning, he'd be happy to work through issues with individuals.

Republican commissioner candidate John Shaw said he believes that personal elements, like if applicant is a good land steward, should be taken into account.

"You have to look at those kinds of things," he said.

The candidates also addressed the initiative process, which allows issues on the ballot from collecting signatures on a petition. Oftentimes those petitions are circulated only on the Front Range and benefit more densely populated areas.

"Right now we have the tail wagging the dog," said Al White, Republican candidate for legislature.

Jay Fetcher, Democratic candidate for legislature, expressed the same opinion.

"The amendment process needs to be changed," he said.

Both candidates supported a two-thirds majority vote to solve the problem.

Democrat Paul Ohri, who is throwing his hat in the ring against Jack Taylor for the senate seat for District 8, gave a simple solution to the problem.

"Vote out your representative," he said.

Ohri agreed that the process needs to be reformed and suggested a petition be circulated throughout the state, instead of just the Front Range.

Taylor did not attend the meeting.

In other political talk, Colorado Cattlemen's Association representative Lucy Meyring told the local ranchers the state affiliation is officially going against Amendments 21 and 24.

Amendment 21, also known as Tax Cut 2000, is a $25 tax cut on each 2001 utility, vehicle, income and property tax. If the amendment is approved, the proposal would have far-reaching effects in a rural area such as Routt County. In metropolitan areas, taxpayers pay for library, fire protection, recreation and other services through a sales tax, which is not impacted by the proposal.

In Routt County, local taxing bodies each impose a particular tax for the service they provide. Thus a tax cut will apply to each tax imposed.

Meyring said the amendment would be devastating to the area, causing those agencies to go bankrupt.

Amendment 24 would force counties to have growth maps approved by voters. Any development outside of the growth zones also would have to be approved by voters.

"When you start reading the fine print of this amendment, it is scary," she said.

Meyring said the Colorado Cattlemen are worried that the right to build homesites on agricultural producers' land would be in jeopardy. Anything past one homesite would take a voter approval.

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