Steamboat Springs The atrium of the North Routt Charter School was sunlit Saturday afternoon, illuminating the smooth surfaces of the beetle-killed pinewood that trims the new facility.
The new building is a point of pride in the North Routt community and was the setting Saturday for candidates of local and state political offices to meet with residents and to discuss issues ranging from the economy to natural resources.
BJ Vale, who has organized forums like this one for two decades, said the new school sets an example for the community involvement encouraged at the forum.
“I think you need to meet the candidates and see what they stand for so you can make an educated vote,” she said. “If you don’t get involved, you can’t complain.
“They got involved in this school; this was a community effort. You need to get involved on the local level.”
Starting with the race for president, spokespeople for each seat came forward to give a short speech in support of each candidate.
Candidates for House District 26, Senate District 8, county commissioner and CU regent attended the forum to share their backgrounds and experiences as well as their take on issues that concern North Routt residents.
Almost immediately, a resident raised the issue of natural resources. Oil, gas and coal came up in several discussions throughout the afternoon, with the focus on the issue of local control.
“We want to be sure we have local input,” said Emily Tracy, a Summit County Democrat and candidate for Senate District 8. “It’s not one of those easy black and white issues. I think the most important thing is to think about how we can get the strongest voice in the Legislature that we can.”
When it was the commissioner candidates’ turn to speak, Republican candidates Moose Barrows, Brita Horn and Tony Stitch all made a strong statement about the importance of infrastructure such as roads and broadband.
But the conversation soon turned back to oil and gas exploration.
“While I’d like to have some local control, I don’t want to see us spend a lot extra money doing something that the state is already doing,” District 1 candidate Tony Stitch said.
“The one thing that I think gets lost in the equation is that a lot of these issues are applied to individual property owners,” Barrows said. “They do deserve some protection and some accommodation to make sure this isn’t dictated by outside influences.”
County commissioner District 1 candidate Tim Corrigan, a Democrat, said he was in favor of local control but emphasized a need for a balance of power.
“It is the county commissioners’ responsibility to do what they can to protect our air and our water,” he said.
While the majority of the audience comprised candidates, their families and staff, about five residents were in attendance at any given time during the more than 3 1/2-hour event.
After all the candidates spoke, moderator Chuck Vale asked several questions of each county commissioner candidate.
Issues ranged from Yampa Valley Regional Airport funding to a recent controversy regarding the Columbine parking lot in North Routt.
But the unifying factor of all the candidates turned out to be the forum’s setting.
Almost every local candidate spoke about the beauty of the venue and used it as an example of the potential successes of community involvement.
“This is a wonderful facility,” Diane Mitsch Bush said in her speech at the beginning of the event. “It represents our community and represents the kind of partnerships we can work together to build.”
To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@ExploreSteamboat.com