Election PREcap: What to expect when you’re electing
Craig and Moffat County residents have some big decisions to make.
Many of us, more than 1,600 by Thursday evening’s count by the county’s election coordinator, have already made them. But, hopefully, there are many who still have to submit their ballots.
The deadline is Tuesday at 7 p.m. For those yet to fill in all the bubbles on their ballot, here’s a recap of the Craig Press coverage of these issues and candidates.
Craig City Council
The mayor’s seat is up for re-election, but incumbent Jarrod Ogden chose to withdraw from the race, leaving his challenger, current councilman Ryan Hess, the sole candidate for the position. Hess, who was appointed to the council in 2019 to replace Brian MacKenzie when the latter was arrested in Jefferson County, is a patrol sergeant with the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office.
“There’s so many things we can do to get people to regain trust in local government,” said Hess, who has made a point during his nominal campaign that his intention is to bring order and discipline to the council chambers. “You have the political nightmare of the federal system, basically theatrics, and when local governments shadow that, you get apathy. Combating apathy in Craig is the biggest problem we have.”
It gets much more interesting at the next item on the ballot, where eight individuals are listed as running for the four open seats on city council.
Katie Blankenbaker-Johnston, the assistant principal at Moffat County High School, is listed as a candidate, but she suspended active campaigning not long after the ballot was printed.
The remaining seven candidates, all men, include two incumbents and five political newcomers.
The incumbents are David Bruce Cummings and Chris Nichols.
Nichols is finishing up his first term as a member of council, though he’s been in public service for many years. He also serves on the fire district board. Now retired, his previous career was in restaurant ownership.
“It’s an important time in our community,” Nichols said early in the campaign. “These next four years will probably be one of the most important times in our history as we try to transition away from coal. What type of economic diversity do we work toward to bring into our community?”
Cummings was appointed during this term, replacing Tony Bohrer when the latter was elected Moffat County Commissioner. A special advocate working with the hospital, Cummings is in public office for the first time in his life, and now he’s running to continue serving.
“I’m seeing great things happening in the city,” Cummings said early in the campaign. “We’ve got a good team put together, with our management and with the city council that have been able to work together to get some things accomplished. We’ve got some long-term goals accomplished, and more to accomplish.”
Jeremiah Beaudin is a charter pilot and an active air national guardsman. Relatively new to Craig, he says he’s hoping to stand for limited, representative government.
“My top priorities would include evaluation of the effectiveness of any and all current city programs,” Beaudin wrote in a recent Q&A that appeared in the paper. “Review budgets and ensure our taxpayer dollars are being utilized in the best possible manner. Evaluate business licensing and regulations, possibly lowering barriers to entry in order to entice growth in a positive direction.”
Parrish Terry, a pastor and salesman who moved to Craig from Kentucky 20 years ago, considers himself a strong conservative who hopes to stem the loss of conservatism he sees in the area.
“We must begin to budget and plan for the future,” Terry wrote in his own Q&A recently. “Hope and believe for the best but plan for the worst. Make the budget as lean as possible, while also building up revenue for the future.”
John Alcedo is a fairly recent arrival in Craig who moved here about a year ago. He’s running for office for the first time and hopes to be a fresh voice for his new home.
“The most important issue for Craig in the next two to four years is to promote population and job growth,” Alcedo wrote in a Q&A. “I think this can be achieved through a public relations campaign promoting Craig, researching what other towns are doing to promote themselves, as well as making sure we provide the infrastructure and city improvement programs to better provide for the quality of life for Craig citizens.”
Jesse Jackson grew up in Craig and works at Trapper Mine. He’s also running for public office for the first time and hopes to take his love for the community to the next level.
“I’m a devoted local with many experiences,” Jackson wrote. “I’ve committed my time coaching local youth for many years. Now I hope to show my dedication towards our local government. I feel family is very important. I will push to bring our community together.”
Sean Hovorka is a production superintendent at Trapper Mine also running for office for the first time. The three-year Craig resident believes in sustainable growth.
“The next few years will be some of the most important in determining the future of Craig,” Hovorka wrote. “It will take an individual who is open to both input and criticism from their constituents when making the decisions that will determine Craig’s path forward. It will also take someone capable of making difficult decisions knowing that there will always be some people disappointed.”
School board directors
There are five candidates running for four seats on the Moffat County School District board of directors. Because of the way the districts shake out, only two of them are running against each other.
Heather Cannon, the city attorney for Craig, is running unopposed in District A.
Cynthia Looper, an incumbent, is running to retain her at-large seat. Krystal Fedinec, a newcomer to politics, is also running for the at-large seat, but there are two open at-large seats.
The race that voters will determine is between incumbent Jnl Linsacum and newcomer Lynne Seely.
Linsacum, a longtime educator, is currently serving at-large on the board. She decided to run for the District B seat this cycle.
Linsacum has spoken up for the possibility of a four-day school week, among other things including retaining teachers and staff and correcting the “COVID slide.”
Seely listed relationships with staff and faculty, creating long-term goals for students and providing a safe, engaging classroom environment as her top three priorities.
Ballot measure 6A and 6B, the Health Services District
The Health Services District ballot questions — 6A creates the special taxing district and 6B institutes its mill levy — would create a taxing district in Moffat County that provides ambulance services to the entire county.
Currently, Memorial Regional Health runs the primary ambulance service in the county, with a second Craig ambulance active for back-up calls and a pair of ambulances in Maybell staffed by volunteers and paid for by the county. The HSD would bring all into one, removing the ambulance service from the hospital’s orbit — the hospital has said it is losing $600,000 a year on the service and might have to cut back hours or staff if the measures don’t pass — and funding the whole operation through property taxes.
The hospital has agreed to donate all equipment, including its ambulances, to the district, should the district be created by the voters. The district’s service plan includes placing an ambulance in Dinosaur, which currently receives emergency services from across the state line in Utah.
The initial mill levy would be 2.5 mills — roughly $35 per year on a $200,000 actual-value home. It’s possible the district could ask the voters for more mills in the future, but there’s no way it increases without a vote.
The HSD would be overseen by a board of five, who also appear on the ballot. Jacie Jourgenson, Alicia Noland, Nichole Becker, Clint Jantz and Ryan Hess are the only five candidates for the five seats. Three candidates — Jourgenson, Noland and Hess — live in Craig. Becker lives in Dinosaur and Jantz in Maybell.
Ballot measure 4A, the school bond
Moffat County School District is asking voters to help it raise about $45 million in bond funds. About $6 million of that is a matching grant from the state, and the other $39 million or so would come from property taxes.
The school district performed a needs assessment recently and identified more than twice the amount requested in costs to update, repair and maintain its existing facilities. Administrators say they cut the wish list down to the amount requested, but say that these capital improvements are critical to get a few more decades of life out of its buildings.
No new buildings would be built with this bond. Instead, the district says, every existing building would receive what it calls much-needed improvements including ADA compliance, security, HVAC and more.
The property tax increase being requested is 7.4 mills. It’s a bit more than $105 per year for the owner of a $200,000 actual-value home. It would be more than that for a more expensive home, and less for a less-expensive home, and commercial property pays more in property taxes.
The state measures
All Colorado voters will also have the chance to approve or reject three statewide measures, Amendment 78, Proposition 119 and Proposition 120.
These measures are covered in detail in many locations, but the Colorado Sun has excellent in-depth explainers.
For Amendment 78, go to https://coloradosun.com/2021/10/04/amendment-78-colorado-2021-ballot/.
For Proposition 119, go to https://coloradosun.com/2021/10/07/proposition-119-colorado-explained/.
For Proposition 120, go to https://coloradosun.com/2021/10/05/proposition-120-explainer-property-taxes/.
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Hayden’s new school was built with a sizable grant and the support of the community as residents approved the more than $22 million school bond measure in 2017 by just two votes.