Livestock association debate was odd

Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018 4:38 PM

Recently, I attended the Montezuma County commissioner candidate debate at the Sale Barn, hosted by the Southwest Colorado Livestock Association. The four candidates sat before a packed house and spoke to questions posed by a moderator.

I was embarrassed for SCLA for the aggressive bias shown by the moderator, who decided it was fair to grill MB McAfee with extra questions about building codes involving hypothetical situations. McAfee handled it with class, in marked contrast to the moderator. The moderator even suggested she could see people in the audience who wouldn’t like to live near the Sale Barn – i.e., big city Cortez liberals – an arrogant and presumptuous comment.

Like the current county commission, the debate wasted a lot of time fretting over ownership of trails on federal lands, while skirting major issues facing this county. Thankfully, two audience questions focused on hunger relief and child care shortages, which the candidates scrambled to get behind, albeit in a vague way.

The debate revealed very little in the way of economic development expertise among the candidates, but Jim Candelaria’s interest in hemp and MB McAfee’s interest in broadband and collective ag marketing were good starters. Steve Chappell’s insistence that farmers shouldn’t grow hemp because it’s too labor intensive was odd and suggested he thinks farmers can’t make their own business decisions. Jesse Sattley had nothing specific to say about most of the issues but spoke from the heart in an endearing way.

If the county commission were a business and I were its manager, I wouldn’t think of hiring Candelaria, Chappell or Sattley. They offered no unique insights on issues, gave no impression of economic competence or suggested they possess any administration skills. MB McAfee emerged as someone who is paying attention to a diversity of issues in the county, understands the value of collaboration over stonewalling and has insightful things to say about leadership and administration.

I think it was strange and perhaps telling that a debate held at a venue owned by a seated Republican commissioner and rancher, and hosted by a livestock association, never touched on marketing issues facing livestock producers.

If any candidate reads this, I propose studying the feasibility of creating a U.S. Department of Agriculture slaughterhouse in Montezuma County, preferably cooperatively owned. I think this would be a great project for our local economy, one that both producers and consumers could benefit from. It would keep more of the profit-margin dollars from meat production in our community.

I was most glad to see the interest expressed by the voters who showed up to the debate. Together in that room with my neighbors, I felt that if given the chance, we could debate and settle issues, find common ground and forge a path ahead to a secure future for this county. We should get together like this more often!

I only hope that we end up with a commissioner worthy of stewarding our potential.

Ole Bye