Woodland Park Council Candidates Grilled by High School Civic Students

~ by Trevor Phipps ~

Earlier this month, the Woodland Park High School held a rare political event, when they hosted and conducted a forum for all of the candidates running for WP’s city council and mayor seats in April.

This year for the first time, a high school civics class organized the forum and several students were awarded the chance to formulate a question to ask each of the local candidates.

The first question asked had to do with what the candidates would first change if elected into office. For the most part, the answers ranged all across the board, running the gamut from formulating better relationships with local entities, such as the school district, to improving the town’s infrastructure.

Current city council member and mayoral candidate Noel Sawyer said that if he could, he would add classes to the high school curriculum that better-prepared students to go to college. City Council Candidate Michael Dalton said that he wanted to “change the story” of Woodland Park and figure out how to attract more people to the schools in the area and draw more investors into doing business in the city.

Another question asked dealt with how they would address viewpoints of minorities and the opinions of those that often went unheard. The high schooler pointed out that most of the candidate bios on the city’s website said about the same thing and that the political climates these days tends to force people to lean towards one side or the other.

Most of the candidates spoke about how everyone’s viewpoints were important, and that they have tried hard to get out into the community and hear what the citizens say. Sawyer said that through his experience in the city council, most of the voices that go unheard are because those people aren’t into politics and don’t want to be heard.

Another question dealt with the importance of having experience in government. Most of the candidates agreed that some experience is crucial, but that having a council with diverse backgrounds and experiences is vital to success.

One question asked by a student had to do with the recent 1.09% sales tax raise voted in by the community. The student wondered what the candidates would do to keep that important piece of funding for the school district.

Most of the candidates agreed that they supported the initiative that has helped provide the schools with higher wages for the teachers and much-needed building renovations. However, a few of those running for public office believed that the town’s overall sales tax rate was too high and that it would not be sustainable in the future. City council member and mayoral candidate Kellie Case mentioned that the sales tax increase should have had a sunset provision so that the tax hike didn’t stay into effect inevitably.

Another topic raised dealt with the Downtown Development Authority (DDA.) Candidates Case and Dalton both mentioned that they would like to get rid of the organization so that the city could free up more monies to fund other city projects and help pay off the municipality’s debt.

The high school candidate event was the first to come for the city election that will be held on April 7. Last week, the Greater Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce hosted another candidate forum on Wednesday