Six candidates for Cortez City Council discussed a range of issues Tuesday in a forum moderated by the League of Women Voters.
Mayor Karen Sheek, 69, and mayor pro-tem Ty Keel, 45, face competition from four challengers: attorney Jill Carlson, 34; journalist Sonja Horoshko, 71; retired electrician Tim Miller, 67; and full-time mother Monica Plewe, 42.
Four of the candidates will join the council after the April 5 municipal election, along with council members Bob Archibeque, Shawna McLaughlin and Orly Lucero. Council members Jim Price and Tom Butler are not seeking new terms on the council.
The three candidates who receive the highest numbers of votes will serve four-year terms on the council, and the fourth candidate elected will serve a two-year term.
About 20 people attended the forum, and they were invited to submit questions for the candidates to answer. Candidates discussed topics such as the future of Cortez, economic development in the city and affordable housing.
All the candidates said Cortez is on the brink of greatness, but could benefit from some improvements. None supported a council-mandated minimum wage that is higher than the state’s requirement, saying it would pass on costs to employers and could result in layoffs and firings. The candidates also said the council should make an effort to sell or lease the current city hall once city offices move to the former Journal building on N. Roger Smith Avenue. Candidates also said the most important strengths of Cortez are its neighborly people, hardworking city staff and beautiful location.
Following are key points candidates made on other hot-button issues the city is facing:
How can the council promote economic development?
Carlson: “We need to do more outreach for businesses. I’m in support of development on Main Street.”
Horoshko: “I have to compliment the council for putting in fiber optics. We should play that up and our beautiful area in marketing the city.”
Keel: “We need to advertise our fiber optics network and continue with tourism to draw mountain bikers and other tourists.”
Miller: “I’m excited to see our businesses succeed and I want to attract more businesses.”
Plewe: “We need to improve infrastructure downtown to attract businesses. We can use what we already have here to promote the city.”
Sheek: “I feel we are on the precipice of great things economically. More people are opening small businesses out of their homes.”
What should the city look like in five years?
Carlson: “We should make our law enforcement more sophisticated. Mental health treatment should be developed.”
Horoshko: “I hope we are prepared for the drug epidemic that is spreading across Colorado. We need to address a detox center.”
Keel: “I want Cortez to be progressive and forward-thinking. We need to reach goals that pay off dividends in the long term.”
Miller: “People should see Cortez, not just drive through it. Business owners need to work together with the council.”
Plewe: “I want Cortez to be a thriving place for our youth. I want to see better relationships between many entities.”
Sheek: “I want it to continue to move forward to beautify itself. I’m excited about Osprey Packs and our new courthouse – all that adds to the city’s vibrancy.”
How can council address the need for affordable housing in Cortez?
Carlson: “We need to do more research to address the shortage of affordable housing and figure out how we get from point A to point B.”
Horoshko: “We should look in to environmentally friendly homes made of recycled materials.”
Keel: “We don’t set the market, but we should work closely with Housing and Urban Development. We can offer classes and broaden the spectrum for potential buyers.”
Miller: “We should partner with organizations that already know how to address this issue. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel.”
Plewe: “La Plata Home Fund is a great opportunity for buyers and renters in our area.”
Sheek: “The city needs to research what it needs. We need affordable housing not only for low-income families, but also for seniors.”
What can be done to raise income levels in the area?
Carlson: “There are lots of resources, but people aren’t aware of them. We need to raise that awareness.”
Horoshko: “We should reach out to tribal governments to help tribal members in our area who are caught in low-income situations.”
Keel: “The city donates to service organizations, such as the Piñon Project, that help people and create viable job opportunities.”
Miller: “Cortez can build on more than one type of industry. The council should support new types of businesses.”
Plewe: “We have so many great things here already. We need to build on them. We have seen some opportunities missed.”
Sheek: “The city has supported family services. We need to work with other entities. Education is critical.”
What improvements could be made to Cortez?
Carlson: “We should aim to raise the city’s capital.”
Horoshko: “The city might market its image better.”
Keel: “Our infrastructure is aging and could be improved.”
Miller: “We should encourage people to be proud of our town.”
Plewe: “We can improve on accountability issues and helping our neighbors.”
Sheek: “We can improve the city’s infrastructure and continue to move forward with more beautification.”
Why should citizens vote for you?
Carlson: “I have the desire to learn and I have a vision for the community. I would be a good asset to get our younger generation more involved.”
Horoshko: “The skills I bring from journalism allow me to be in the center of issues and to question everything.”
Keel: “I’m vested in the community and I want to leave a legacy for the city’s future.”
Miller: “I am retired and I can devote more time to the council.”
Plewe: “I bring perspective on many topics due to my involvement in many things in the community. I ask good questions.”
Sheek: “I’ve learned a lot and loved every minute I’ve had on the council. I would like to continue helping Cortez move forward by working with its citizens.”