By Beth Dodd:
Although there is little competition in the upcoming Woodland Park election, the candidates held a forum anyway to give residents the opportunity to learn more about them. Although only a few people attended in person, an unknown number watched on television.
Woodland’s mail-in ballot election on April 8 will include three city council seats and the mayor’s race. Two of the city council seats will be retained by incumbents Ken Matthews and John Schafer. The third seat, being vacated by Eric Smith, will be taken up by newbie Noel Sawyer. All three are running unopposed, and need just one vote a piece to be elected. Technically, they could elect themselves.
In fact, if it were not for a single ballot issue about the possible use of lodging taxes for marketing and economic development, there would be no need to hold an election at all. The proposed change is favored by all of the Woodland Park candidates.
The Woodland Park mayor’s race offers much greater excitement, with current mayor David Turley running against Councilman Gary Brovetto. Brovetto is running as a write-in candidate to give the people of Woodland a choice for mayor. His name will not be printed on the ballots, but will have to be penned in.
Woodland’s almost uncontested election follows non-elections in both Victor and Cripple Creek this fall. Both communities were able to legally skip the election process because they had only one candidate, most of them incumbents, for each of their open offices.
Although they are of course interested in keeping their positions, the candidates themselves expressed disappointment in the lack of competition in Woodland Park. In spite of this, Woodland’s candidates put their best feet forward and met in a political forum at city hall on March 19 to give residents the chance to hear their points of view.
The only new face in the group is Noel Sawyer. Sawyer has lived in Woodland since 2001 and works as a data base administrator for Oracle. He decided to run for councilman in order to help shape the future of Woodland Park by planning for smart growth and looking for long-term solutions rather than quick fixes.
Sawyer describes himself as logical, a trouble-shooter, and not afraid to ask questions. He tries to see all different points of view when making a decision. He was not afraid to admit that he was unfamiliar with some local issues like the proposed aquatic center, the lodging tax, and the Pro Cycling Challenge, but he is willing to learn and is getting up to speed as quickly as possible.
Sawyer said that a well-managed budget is the key to maintaining public safety and local infrastructure. He also expressed concern about the big push for new retail space in Woodland Park when there are already at least six vacant commercial spaces around town now, and speculated that overbuilding might lead to problems down the road. He would like to see the town grow wisely.
Sawyer would like to see more year round businesses in Woodland so that there will be consistent sales tax revenues all year rather than a big spike of revenue in the summer. He did not support the concept of a bypass that might reduce the numbers of consumers coming through downtown, but would like to see a good alternate emergency route developed. Sawyer is looking forward to the opportunity to serve the people of Woodland and hopes to get more people involved in supporting the town.
The two city council incumbents, Ken Matthews and John Shafer, expressed their desire to continue helping Woodland Park move in a positive direction.
Mathews spent ten years on the planning commission before serving on city council for the past four years. Matthews supports the idea of an aquatic center for Woodland, but added that public pools usually operate at a loss and there needs to be a way to make it pay for itself. He sees the role of city council as a data gathering group to make decisions in the public interest rather than based on personal opinion. In terms of balancing the budget, he says the city can’t run itself like the federal government does. The budget must be balanced.
Matthews also expressed his support for the development of Woodland station and the rejuvenation of downtown, and said that some business turn-over is normal. At the same time he is opposed to building a bypass. He thought the improvements already done to Highway 24 in downtown like the medians and off-street parking have already made the road safer, and a bypass would create problems like imminent domain issues.
John Schafer, who is seeking a second four year term on the council, is active with Habitat for Humanity. He emphasized the need for affordable housing development in Woodland Park so the people who work here can live here. He sees a connection between the availability of affordable housing, the availability of labor for local businesses, and the economic vitality of the town.
Schafer thinks the city council members are responsible for being good stewards of the citizens’ tax dollars. He dislikes ineffective meetings, and brings energy and enthusiasm to the position. He supports the proposed change in the use of the town’s lodging tax, but not the idea of building a bypass. Schafer said that while 80% of Woodland residents want a pool, they are not necessarily willing to pay an increased sales tax to cover the projected $200,000 operating cost shortfall.
Woodland’s Mayor and former councilman, David Turley, is seeking another term too. Although he had to leave the forum early, he said that the city’s basic infrastructure is in good shape and he is looking forward to the redevelopment of Memorial Park. He says the city should balance taxation and revenue in order to achieve it goals. The city has a basic responsibility to do things right to maintain public safety, like taking care of the streets and providing police protection. He likes to take a strategic long-term view of where the city is headed.
Gary Brovetto is running as a write in candidate for mayor against Turley. As the city council liaison to the DDA, he is interested in economic development in the community. He has been a driving force behind the proposed Woodland Arts District and Main Street U.S.A. candidacy. He likes to be proactive, think outside the box, and work with big ideas. He is also enthusiastic about the development of Woodland Station and the chance to bring in new businesses while supporting the existing ones by capitalizing on the things that make Woodland Park unique. He favors a bypass through Woodland similar to the one in Breckenridge, or perhaps a reduced speed limit in the downtown.