Congressional candidate Gregg Rippy stopped in Steamboat Springs on Friday morning as part of a whirlwind tour of the western half of the expansive 3rd Congressional District.
Rippy, a Republican state representative and Glenwood Springs business owner, emphasized his connections to Northwest Colorado and vowed to make Routt County a focus of his campaign.
"I certainly feel my roots are in Northwest Colorado. I've spent many hours here in Steamboat at Howelsen Hill and at the mountain," said Rippy, whose three children ski raced while growing up.
Some of the issues he vows to champion in Washington, D.C., if elected to replace Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Grand Junction, directly impact Northwest Colorado.
Federal land makes up a large part of Northwest Colorado, and Rippy said he would work hard to ensure those lands are managed properly and with concern for the best interest of the general public.
For example, he said he would continue McInnis' effort to make the federal government uphold its end of the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program, which compensates counties for property taxes lost on large sections of tax-exempt public land. Currently, much of the money that should go to counties does not make it through the appropriations process.
"The government acknowledges that it has been underpaying PILT but hasn't appropriated it. That money is significant here with our large percentage of federal lands," Rippy said during his Friday stopover at the Steamboat Springs Airport. "I intend to go back there and knock on their doors until they own up to the obligation they've acknowledged."
Rippy also wants to see the federal government take quicker action on environmental issues, noting delays in completing environmental assessments prevented quick reactions to cleaning up the 1997 Routt Divide Blowdown, worm-bore in southwestern Colorado juniper and piÃ±on forests and beetle kill in the Vail area -- delays that allowed insect infestation to get out of control.
Along similar lines, the Glenwood Springs resident -- who saw first-hand the devastation of the 1994 Storm King and 2002 Coal Seam fires -- emphasized his commitment to seeing the recently passed Healthy Forests Act "implemented by people who understand the forest" and will manage it better than it has been in the past 30 years.
Rippy also follows McInnis' lead on rural health care and his HEALTHY Vets Act. That act would allow, for example, Routt and Moffat county veterans to receive health care from local hospitals rather than having to drive to the nearest Veteran's Administration hospital in Grand Junction.
"I'm absolutely supportive of that bill, and if Scott is not able to see it to fruition, I'm dedicated to doing so," he said.
He also vowed to dedicate one member of his campaign committee to helping senior citizens understand the new Medicaid prescription cards.
"That's a program that will help all of rural, senior health care," he said.
As part of the public/private Information Management Commission, he helped bring high-speed Internet access to Colorado's 64 county seats. Those high-speed connections will have repercussions in business, education and issues such as telemedicine and rural health care, he said. Now, for example, a doctor at a rural hospital can e-mail a scan to a specialist elsewhere for interpretation, and downloading that scan will take 3 minutes instead of 45 minutes, making it easier for rural health care providers to access a wide range of specialized expertise and better serve their patients.
Rippy is one of nearly a dozen candidates vying for the seat being vacated by McInnis. Other Republican contenders for the position include Greg Walcher, the former executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, and Pueblo County Sheriff Dan Corsentino. Democratic candidates include Rep. John Salazar, D-Manassa, and Grand Junction Mayor Jim Spehar.
Rippy said his status as a business owner -- he has worked in his family's Grand River Construction paving business since age 14 -- sets him apart from the rest of the field.