Teller Commissioners Arrive on Scene With Political Guns Loaded

Rick Langenberg

The Teller County commissioners are hitting the legislative trail with their political guns loaded and with one central message: Don’t Mess with Our Rural Interests.


Last week, in a much shortened meeting, the board, in an extreme departure from previous commission panels,  made it clear they are fully armed politically, and are aiming at legislative threats that impose more gun restrictions; ban agreements with federal agencies pertaining to detaining illegal immigrants at the jail; and outlaw or seriously restrict fossil fuel consumption and natural gas. At the same time, the commission expressed support for  legislation that could improve roads bordering the Eleven Mile Reservoir and offer tax relief.


All in all, the commissioners have maintained a very-pro-active stand on the state legislative front.


In fact, last week’s meeting was vastly reduced in time due to the board’s desire to head to the state capitol to testify on key pieces of legislation that the commissioners actually support.


The board has taken a much more aggressive approach in addressing state legislation than past elected panels, with more emphasis on the issues of local control and in protecting rural interests throughout Colorado. But the commissioners face tough obstacles with the new political lineup in the state legislature, giving Democrats historic dominance in both chambers and in the operations of the governor’s office.


The week got off to a bad start when the commissioners lost a battle to reverse an approval of what some are calling the “Anti-Teller County” bill, which would do away with the sheriff department’s agreement with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE).


Recently, a trial was held in Cripple Creek, as part of a showdown between the sheriff’s office and the American Civil Liberties Union over this issue. But if the proposed new law, HB23-1165 (Restrict Government Involvement in Immigration Detention), passes, this lawsuit becomes a moot point and the agency’s arrangement with ICE for detaining illegal immigrants at the jail will soon end (see related story). A key state House panel approved this bill, but only by a single tally.


The commissioners succeeded in swaying several key Democrats on a state bipartisan committee.  But their effort still fell short, and the prospects don’t look good for a favorable legislative outcome.


As has been the case in recent months, the county’s legislative agenda took center stage during the board’s meeting last week. Commission Chairman Erik Stone has expressed big concerns over legislation to outlaw shooting guns on private property. This is one of a slew of gun control laws getting proposed at the state level.


Stone has labeled the latest anti-gun law, HB23-1165, as an outright assault on the Second Amendment and an effort bound to lead to a court fight.


Plus, the county commissioners took aim at greenhouse gas emissions reductions efforts, which they say constitute much overreach by lawmakers, resulting in probable huge hikes in housing costs for rural residents.


Not All Legislative Laws Are Bad

At the same time, the commissioners offered their support for legislative plans to offer more tax relief with huge spikes in valuations and in requiring that more funds get diverted from vehicle registrations fees towards enhancing county roads leading to state parks and wildlife areas. This latter effort (SB23059) could definitely improve the road network leading to the Eleven Mile Reservoir, which currently is in need of  much improvement. Plus, they support efforts to take a stronger stand against tougher sentences for those arrested for vehicle thefts.


Stone said citizens can get more involved in the legislative arena by accessing a new website, entitled This site outlines the bills the county leaders support and oppose and what recommended actions should occur.


The commissioners have strongly advocated more involvement in state issues.


In a previous meeting, Stone said the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many to retreat to the sidelines.


But with a growing  influence by the Democratic Party, which has taken a cold stance toward these issues, and has opted for more regulations,  Stone, who once served as chairman of the Teller County Republican Party, has indicated that the time to smooth out the rough edges of major opposing legislation is now. Otherwise, Stone and his colleagues have argued that Teller could find itself in an even worse political and fiscal situation.


In the past, Teller leaders took an interest in state legislation, but kept these actions at a arm-length review.


The county has made strides in certain areas, such as outlining the importance of local control when it comes to decisions pertaining to housing projects. One of the new battle cries of the majorities gained by the Democrats  is to develop more statewide policies that mandate affordable housing projects and that take many zoning decisions away from county and local officials.


In other action at last week’s commissioners meeting, Treasure and Public Trustee Mark Czelusta has indicated that foreclosure actions are on the rise, based on recent filings. But he cautioned that this rise in foreclosures, with a projected number ranging between 45 to 65 for the year,  has not reached a level of concern.


More than anything, he stated that this is a sign that things are returning to normal. The overall housing market has taken a slight downturn due to rising interest rates and the expiration of government protection measures. “This is not an indication of a crash in the economy,” said the treasurer.


In the last few years, Teller didn’t have hardly any foreclosures, period. But during the Great Recession period of 2007 and 2008, Teller was known as the foreclosure king of Colorado, on a per capita basis, with foreclosure that exceeded the 300-level.


Also, at last week’s meeting, Violet Watt, accounting supervisor for the Teller County Finance Office, received a 15-year recognition award. Watt also had served in the assessor’s office and once made a bid for the Teller assessor position.