by Rick Langenberg:
With local voters facing one of the most important elections this November, capped by a highly contested sheriff showdown and a slew of pivotal ballot propositions, several public forums are planned in the next few weeks.
The Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring its traditional candidates’ night on Oct. 8, starting at 6 p.m. The forum, which will be held in the Woodland Park City Council Chambers, will feature a question and answer period, highlighted by chamber and press representatives, with the opportunity for limited queries from the audience. It is open to any of the Teller candidates running for local office this November. All of the participating candidates also will have the opportunity to make opening and closing statements.
The central focus of the forum could center on the race for Teller sheriff between incumbent Mike Ensminger and challenger Mark Manriquez, who is running as an unaffiliated candidate. If history repeats itself, this could turn into quite an active debate between the two sheriff contenders, who challenged each other four years ago. The candidates and their supporters have vastly different opinions on the operations of the sheriff’s agency.
This is the sole contested race in the local political arena this November. But uncontested candidates for such county seats as District 2 County Commissioner, Clerk and Recorder, Treasurer and Assessor, may partake in the chamber forum.
Prior to the chamber forum, Manriquez and his supporters will feature a free community barbecue on Oct. 4 at a ranch, located between Woodland Park and Divide, owned by Jerry and Ricky Johnston at 13800 U.S. Hwy. 24 from 1 to 5 p.m. This event, sponsored by the Johnstons and the LaGree Food Stores, is open to people of all ages and of any party affiliation.
Besides the election races, local voters have a full plate of significant ballot issues to decide on. Plans will be displayed on the evening of Oct. 6 at the Ute Pass Cultural Center for the new proposed aquatic center. This proposed facility is the center piece of a ballot proposition in Woodland Park, calling for the city to finance a $14 million project, with repayment costs and associated infrastructure. Most likely, the new center will be located inside the Woodland Station area downtown, if voters give the okay. The proposition doesn’t require any tax increases, but a positive vote would allow the city government to incur debt and to dedicate a certain amount of money annually for a multi-year period to finance the aquatic center project.
A pro-aquatic center campaign is being spearheaded by a group associated with the Woodland Aquatic Project. The city council may adopt a pro-aquatic center resolution within the next few weeks, but it can’t get involved in the campaign. The Oct. 6 open house will mark the first time design plans have been unveiled for the new facility.
Besides these races and issues, the Nov. election will play a big role in determining the economic future of Cripple Creek and fellow gaming towns Central City and Black Hawk. Amendment 68, which would allow horse racetrack gambling slots and a full lineup of table games at three venues, including ones in Pueblo and Aurora, will be decided by state voters. The proposition has faced massive opposition in the local area and throughout the state. The Teller County commissioners are expected to join Cripple Creek and many groups across the state in approving a resolution against the racetrack gambling measure. They are planning to host a discussion regarding this issue at their next regular meeting, slated for this Thursday (Sept. 25), starting at 9:15 a.m. The meeting will be held in the commissioner meeting room in the Centennial Building in Cripple Creek.
Also, the forthcoming November election could determine the future of recreational retail sales of marijuana in Manitou Springs. Although two businesses have received the okay for starting recreational pot outlets, an anti-reefer ballot proposition has surfaced that will determine this issue for the city of Manitou Springs. This proposition, proposed by some local business operators, would outlaw the retail sale of recreational marijuana within the city limits. The results of this vote by the citizens of Manitou Springs could have impacts on the future marijuana direction for Woodland Park and Teller County. Public meetings and rallies on this volatile issue are expected during the next few weeks. Check the TMJ Mountain Almanac for details.
Ballots will be mailed out to all registered voters on Oct. 14.