The candidates for Cortez City Council answered questions from the public at a forum on Thursday moderated by the Montezuma County League of Women Voters.
About 30 people gathered in City Hall for the forum, which was moderated by League member Judy Schuenemeyer. Questions were submitted in writing by the audience and the League, and each candidate had a minute to answer each one. The eight candidates – Jonathan Walker, Orly Lucero, Sue Betts, Michael Lavey, Geof Byerly, Jill Carlson, Gary Noyes and Lance McDaniel – introduced themselves, then spent about two hours discussing topics that ranged from Cortez’s drug problem to economic development and broadband.
Each candidate presented different ideas about how to improve Cortez, but providing better internet services and improving business were common themes. Several candidates said they would work to bring more affordable housing to the city and improve its infrastructure.
All the candidates said they supported Ballot Question 2A, which would extend the sales tax that supports the Cortez Recreation Center at a reduced rate.
Some of the questions were about the candidates’ experience in various areas of government, such as budgeting, while others dealt with specific issues facing the current City Council. All the candidates said they were ready to commit the time required to work on the City Council, and most cited some form of experience with reviewing budgets, whether from work on other boards or from running businesses.
What would you like to see in the way of economic development in the city?Lavey: “We need to expand broadband. ... We need to make affordable housing for people that are moving into this area.”
Byerly: “(Broadband) just gets to happen. It’s too important. I am seeing also that tourism is a big area for us to focus on.”
Carlson: “I think, in order to keep this community growing, we have to sustain existing businesses and foster their growth, as well as provide opportunities for new entrepreneurship.”
Noyes: “Putting Cortez on the map, so to speak. People know kind of where we are, but they know Mesa Verde better than they know Cortez.”
McDaniel: “Broadband, of course, is a big step, but we also need to make sure that these businesses realize what a talent pool actually is here in Cortez.”
Walker: “A big opportunity that we have here, as opposed to the Front Range, is our low cost of living. ... Another thing that I think we need to do is really look at providing an educated and well-trained workforce.”
Lucero: “I’d still like to keep supporting existing businesses here, because that’s what got Cortez started.”
Betts: “I would like to see more businesses brought in, but I agree with Orly that we really want to take care of the businesses that we have here.”
What should the city’s role be in providing broadband services?McDaniel: “I think the city should treat broadband as a public utility.”
Walker: “To keep it affordable, to keep it accessible to everyone in the community, treating it as a utility is really the best thing for us.”
Lucero: “I would like to see a feasibility study to see if we should invest in it.”
Betts: “I think we really need to consider the people that are already having trouble making their utility bills. ... Do we really want to give them another bill that they can’t afford to pay?”
Lavey: “I think it’ll lower the cost for broadband and internet if the city moderates it, rather than a private company that can raise the rates as much as they want.”
Byerly: “It’s a very complicated issue, and I think it’s a regional issue. I don’t know that it’s going to serve the citizens of Cortez to think about doing it alone, and I wonder if there’s potential for the city to partner with others that are affected in the region.”
Carlson: “I am totally in favor of the city opening up as an ISP and providing fixed rates on internet pricing.”
Noyes: “I do not know all the ins and outs of the broadband. ... I do know that as long as it’s something that is feasible, if the city’s going to do it on their own, then they should run it themselves.”
Does the city have a responsibility in providing food security, and if so, what is it?Lucero: “Every year we’ve budgeted for grants, for whatever nonprofits or groups are in the community.”
Betts: “If we could somehow boost our economy with more jobs, and get more people working, our children are going to be better fed.”
Lavey: “One of the things we can do as a city is to promote the community gardens.”
Byerly: “I think education, again, plays a critical role in supporting children in awareness of what healthy eating looks like.”
Carlson: “The city does have a grant program that local nonprofits can submit requests to. ... I think we need to be drawing folks’ attention to the fact that some of these programs exist.”
Noyes: “I think sometimes communication breaks down, and people don’t know where to get food or what they can do.”
McDaniel: “Maybe we need to think out of the box and prep some of the city’s vacant land for community gardens.”
Walker: “We do have a lot of land, and maybe we can use that to increase our food supply for the schools.”
Why should people vote for you?Lavey: “I feel for Cortez, I see visions for Cortez, I think it’s a great place to live. I think I could put 110 percent, 100 percent at least, into what I’m doing for City Council.”
Byerly: “Because I’m creative. Because I’m positive. Because I’m curious.”
Carlson: “I think everyone’s a qualified candidate. I would just ask you to vote for me if you think I’m one of the better options, and if not, I won’t be offended.”
Noyes: “I’m a Cortez boy at heart. I was born and raised here, so I’ve got Cortez’s best interests.”
McDaniel: “I’m a good listener, and I love speaking to people...I would definitely make myself available at least once a month out in public.”
Walker: “For years, I’ve been talking to my neighbors and talking to everyone in town, getting a good feel for what’s going on.”
Lucero: “I’m the voice for the community, for the citizens. When I hear the voice of people talking to me, that’s what I bring to council.”
Betts: “I feel that I might be able to make a difference. I work hard, I’m honest, I also am a voice for the people.”
Ballots for the municipal election were mailed out March 12. The election will be held April 3.