McCasky, Bane trade barbs at candidate forum

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By AJ Vicens

Jeffco Commissioner Kevin McCasky took most of the heat Sept. 15 in the first forum for the five county commission candidates.

Republican McCasky, the only incumbent, faces two challengers in District 2 in the Nov. 4 election: Democrat Jason Bane and Scott Zulauf of the Green Party. Jeffco Treasurer Faye Griffin, a Republican, and state Sen. Sue Windels, a Democrat, are battling for the District 1 commission seat, vying to replace Jim Congrove, who decided not to seek a second term.

Bane and McCasky squared off almost from the beginning of the forum, hosted by Plan Jeffco at the Jefferson County Open Space Building. Each candidate was allotted two minutes for opening statements, and Bane used his to outline his platform of focusing on responsible growth, attracting renewable-energy businesses, and cleaning out corruption and scandal from county government.

"I'm running for Jefferson County commissioner because of what has happened to Jefferson County," Bane said. "In the last couple of years, you could hardly pick up a newspaper without reading about another scandal or indictment or investigation or lawsuit."

McCasky told the audience about his family, and about his "vision" when he took office four years ago to "create a positive future and enhance the quality of life we enjoy." He took exception to Bane's comments about corruption.

"I know Jason has made some comments that many of them I fundamentally disagree with," McCasky said. "Because I have spent my time focused on county business."

He said he's worked to expand the local economy, attract investments, create a business resource center and make land-use decisions that benefit property owners and the larger community.

Zulauf told the crowd that he's "probably pretty green in more ways than one."

This is Zulauf’s first political race. He moved to Jeffco from New Jersey in 1994, after traveling the world with "Up With People," a musical group focused on international social activism. An instructor at Littleton Prep Charter School, he didn't lay out any specific policy goals besides getting the Green Party message to the commissioners’ office.

Griffin and Windels never mentioned each other during their opening statements. Griffin said she is a Jeffco native and has worked in county government for 35 years, for a time as clerk and recorder and as the current treasurer. Windels said she's lived in the county for 30 years, raised her family here and wants to extend her political career. She served one term as a state representative (1998-2000) and two terms as a state senator (she is term-limited this year).

"I'm running for this office because I know I have the skills, the experience, the enthusiasm, the knowledge and the contacts to help lead Jefferson County forward," Windels said.

When the forum was opened up to audience questions, it led to more sparks between McCasky and Bane.

A woman from Conifer asked McCasky what he's done to improve mobility in the county, including making the county more bicycle-friendly. McCasky noted his efforts to make the Regional Transportation District deliver on the FasTracks west corridor project as originally promised, his work with the Rocky Mountain Rail Authority, his support of the Northwest Parkway, and his efforts to make the West Bowles Avenue/South Wadsworth Boulevard intersection more pedestrian-friendly.

Bane said that McCasky opposed FasTracks, a charge McCasky denied. He said he was neutral on FasTracks because he wanted it to be more expansive.

A question about community plans shined the light on a couple of controversial land-use decisions by McCasky, who voted to approve the controversial expansion of the Rock of Southwest Baptist Church despite opposition from neighbors and the Lyons Ridge development near C-470 and U.S. 285.

"People need to feel like community plans are going to be respected when they draw them up," Bane said.

Another question about preparing the county to deal with a slumping national economy brought some interesting responses.

Windels said that attracting new businesses will help the tax base.

"Renewable energy is where it's going to be," she said. McCasky agreed and said he would be leading an effort to make the county government campus powered by renewable energies, perhaps by installing an array of solar panels on open land. He wants to offer tax incentives for corporations to invest in Jeffco, and open up more land to mixed uses. Bane said he would "aggressively" recruit more renewable-energy providers.

Griffin echoed the other candidates' push for more renewable energies and said the county can weather the nation’s current economic troubles.

"This does look dismal, but with renewable energies we have a chance," Griffin said. "I think we're going to be great. It's got to get better. It's just got to get better."

The answer came at the beginning of a week when America's credit and mortgage crisis dominated the headlines, and by Sept. 20 President Bush was proposing a $700 billion bailout for Wall Street banks and investment firms.

District 3 Commissioner Kathy Hartman — the only commissioner not up for re-election — was on hand and said afterward she wanted to see how the candidates handled themselves.

"I'm here because whoever is elected, I have to work with," said Hartman, the only Democrat on the current commission. "This is the toughest debate."

Hartman said that in her nearly two years on the job, she might only now be ready to handle all the questions that came up during the forum.

"You don't have any idea on what the questions will be," Hartman said. "And frequently the question asker has only part of the story."

She said she's supporting Bane and Windels, specifically putting "a lot of effort into the Sue Windels campaign." She added that she gave "pre-debate help" to Bane and Windels.

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.

Next debate...

The next candidate forums will be at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 30 at the Arvada City Council chambers and at 7 p.m. Oct. 2 at the Lake House in Evergreen. A set of questions and answers from the commission candidates for both districts can be found at www.columbinecourier.com.