Amy Lathen, running for her second term as county commissioner, is up against the Green Party – no one else is challenging her.
Lathen is forthright about many issues facing the county these days.
She has made it clear she supports the tax increase for the sheriff’s department. (Also see Lindsey Harrison’s article “Sales tax increase for sheriff”)
“Public safety is probably the most important issue on the ballot for the citizens of El Paso County this November,” Lathen said. “Being prepared for all types of emergencies and improving the response time, are the priorities for Sheriff (Terry) Maketa; and he needs $15 million to be able to provide the essential public safety services to all citizens in the county.”
She said in 2008, a similar ballot measure failed because it was “too big” – a 1 percent tax increase. “This increase is smaller, more limited and is targeted directly to the specific statutory obligations of the sheriff’s office,” Lathen said.
A 2010 ballot issue caused an onslaught of criticism targeted at Lathen. The ballot measure involved term limits. (also see Jason Gray’s article, County term limits back on ballot)
The wording on the ballot was called “misleading” and “deceitful.” Although voters and two commissioners wanted the issue brought to a vote last year, Lathen said, “Only about half of the voters typically turn out for ballot questions in an off-year; which would have been about 90,000 voters instead of 180,000. That is a precedent that I didn’t want to set.” Many questioned the transparency of the office, but Lathen said there were four public meetings concerning the measure.
Speaking of transparency, Lathen said the county received the “Transparency Award” from the Sunshine Review, a transparency watchdog group. “Technology has allowed us to put our checkbook online, the budget online and all expenditures are online now,” she said. “Local government works well when everything is open.”
Oil and gas exploration is a growing concern in El Paso County. Citizens are concerned about the effects of drilling and fracking on their water sources and wells. “I fully support the domestic production of energy here in El Paso County,” Lathen said. “With a rigorous regulatory scheme in place to protect our water and infrastructure, and with science to guide us, we look forward to the positive potential of production here in the county. Additionally, we have added water-testing regulations … which is even more rigorous than the state requirements. Even the state attorney general was opposed to our very strict ongoing water testing regulations here in El Paso County.
“Jobs and the economy are the No.1 issue that I am hearing from citizens, and oil and gas production has the potential of adding a substantial number of jobs here in the county. But we don’t know yet. Exploration is ongoing out east. The commissioner’s office must protect private property rights, and large company rights, as well as regulate for responsible land use.”
Lathen said to further enhance the economical picture in the area, the commissioners want to “reduce the land development code … to reduce burdens on business.” If businesses are unburdened, there are more jobs and increased business growth, she said.
At a state budget conference in September, representatives of the Obama administration provided “a very honest presentation” of the president’s health care plan, Lathen said. She is adamantly opposed.
Lathen’s only challenger is Karyna Lemus of the Green Party. Lemus is the co-founder and president of the American Association of University Women, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs chapter. She is also a member of the Americans for Informed Democracy. According to her website, Lemus said she fully supports the Green Party’s values and “the grassroots process that is central to our commitment for a sustainable, nonviolent and empowered world free from the control of corporations and power brokers.”
Editor’s note: More on Karyna Lemus in the November issue.