Candidates Debate - 2004
by Dawn Ballou
October 22, 2004
Kudos to the Pinedale Roundup for hosting the latest candidate debate in Pinedale Thursday evening, and to Bob Rule and KPIN radio for broadcasting it live, because it was quite informative. The turnout was sparse, with no more than 10 people in the audience to listen to the debates, but those who were there were extremely interested in the topics. Let's hope more folks were listening on the radio who couldn't make it in person, but really cared about the issues.
The topics were the candidate races for Senate District #16, Sublette County Commissioners, Constitutional Amendments B & C, and continuing the Lodging Tax in Sublette County. Jerry Bosch and Pat Aullman were present for the senate race. John Linn had a prior engagement and wasn't there, so Bob McCarty fielded questions all alone on the Commissioner topics. Sublette County School District #1 Superintendent Charles Grove was on hand to give good information about Constitutional Amendment A for recapture of school funding. No one even bothered to show up to give any information about the lodging tax issue, either in support of it or against it, which seemed a bit odd.
Senate District 16
Pat Aullman is a republican candidate from Thayne in the Star Valley. She has lived in Wyoming for 34 years and currently owns a ranch and operates a business in Thayne, looking to "put some common sense back into the legislature." Jerry Bosch is an attorney from Wilson, Wyoming, who "understands what it means to work and what it is like to earn a dollar, save a dollar, and put a dollar away for a rainy day." Noah Brenner, editor of the Pinedale Roundup, asked questions related to issues on health care, Amendment A & D, oil & gas development in the Upper Green River Valley, property taxes, non-gas dependent employment and economic diversity, wolf management and brucellosis. Bob Rule of KPIN radio asked each candidate other questions regarding homosexuality issues, abortion and homeschooling.
Aullman on Health Care: "We are more like 'frontier health' here in Wyoming than rural health. If we don't have our doctors here, it doesn't do any good to make our health care any better."
Bosch on Amendment D: "If you are trying to stop frivolous lawsuits, hold attorneys responsible."
Bosch on Oil & Gas drilling in the Green River Valley: "Year round drilling can be a win-win and can build a stable economy, but needs to be looked at further."
Aullman on Property Taxes: "Wyoming is #1 in property taxes. We have the highest rate going-36%. Our income is only raising 1.6%."
Bosch on Property Taxes: "The bottom line is that property taxes stink. We don't like to pay them, but we also get benefits and services from them."
Bosch on Economic Diversity away from Oil & Gas: "Are we ever going to attract big manufacturing plants here in Wyoming? Absolutely not. We don't have the infrastructure here."
Aullman on Economic Diversity away from Oil & Gas: "We need to start now to produce something that will bring in money so we don't rely on minerals so much."
Aullman on Amendment A: "Schools are notorious for taking as much money as they can. The need needs to be there."
Bosch on Amendment A: "I don't know why anyone in this area would vote for Amendment A. But it only affects a couple of areas and it looks like it probably will pass. We need to look at ways to work with it."
Aullman on Wolves: "The federal government basically shoved those wolves down our throat. I'm tired of having the federal government dictate to us what to do. They are predators. If they come eat my cows, I want to be able to shoot them."
Bosch on Wolves: "Every single day that goes by with this issue, we lose. Our ranchers lose, our outfitters lose, our hunters lose. My solution is to get this back in our hands under Wyoming control."
Aullman on Brucellosis and Closing Elk Feedgrounds: "I don't think closing feedgrounds is a solution to our problem. I'd rather put some money into a better vaccine for cattle. It's hard to vaccinate the elk."
Bosch on Brucellosis and Closing Elk Feedgrounds: "I would not support closing feedgrounds. I support better vaccines."
Sublette County Commissioners
Republican candidate John Linn was unable to attend the debate, so we only heard Democratic candidate Bob McCarty's views on answering questions. Below are selected comments:
County Jail: "Why do we need such a large jail? Only 10-15 citizens from our own county to fill it-big mistake. I don't think it is a good idea to import them and have them mingle with our people."
Hockey Rink: "Why does the county own it? The county has no business buying private property for recreation."
PDRs: "We have plenty of open space in this county. We have wilderness and the forest. The county buying private property doesn't mix in my life. The issue is more about road closures and denying access to public land. We need to keep access to public land."
Downsizing County Government: "The government is not supposed to be private enterprise to make money and stash money. We should cap it now. We won't be able to afford this government in 10 years. Ten years ago we ran on a 1/3rd of the money we have now."
Constitutional Amendment A
Dr. Charles Grove, Superintendent of Schools in Pinedale, was on hand to answer questions. Below are selected comments.
"If this passes, Pinedale will lose $14 million and Big Piney will lost $9 million this year. Sublette County would be the big, big loser if this bill should pass."
"The bill is written in such a way that the money won't go back into education. Let's keep it for the kids."
Two representatives from the Grand Teton Group in Jackson were on hand to debate for Amendments C & D, and Kent Spence, an attorney from Jackson, was present against it.
The debate focused on the impact that rising costs of malpractice insurance for doctors is creating a situation where physicians are either leaving the state or cutting services because they can't afford to practice here. The amendments would put caps on litigation and court awards which, in theory, would result in lower malpractice insurance costs for the medical community. As part of the debate, Spence argued that the answer was for doctors to get out from under the stranglehold of the big insurance companies by creating their own insurance group and making attorneys accountable for frivolous lawsuits. The Grand Teton Group argued that 8 out of 10 medical malpractice lawsuits are frivolous, which costs money to litigate, and neighboring states already have similar caps in place.
The lack of attendance by anyone from the Tourism Board to speak on behalf of the lodging tax at Thursday's Candidate Debate was a real disappointment. After the barrage of recent advertising for the tax and determined lobbying efforts, it was a bit odd that none of the supporters bothered to show up to pitch it one more time or answer questions about it in this public forum with free radio air time. Either the supporters are so confident it will pass without question, or they are hoping people don't remember how ticked off they were a year ago about the tax and the Board. Since the supporters dodged the public debate, we didn't get to hear the pro and con discussions about whether or not this tax is a good thing for our local lodging establishments and our visitors. The purpose of the tax is to put "heads in beds", and it would have been interesting to hear the real numbers showing whether the lodging tax, or the Oil & Gas industry, has done more over the past four years to fill our county lodging establishments. The real debate we wanted to hear was whether or not we need to continue this tax when for the past year many visitors coming to town couldn't find a place to stay overnight because the lodging establishments in town were full with "no vacancy" signs posted the entire summer.