Editor’s Note: This is the first in an ongoing series of articles in the weeks and months to come regarding the issues of the Garfield County Commissioner’s Race, District 1, as well as others. elected county offices to be decided in the Nov. 8 election.
During his home visits and meet and greet events, Garfield County Commissioner candidate Ryan Gordon says he hears a common thread when it comes to the top issue facing the county.
“It’s affordable housing,” said Gordon, who announced earlier this year that he would challenge incumbent three-term commissioner Tom Jankovsky for the District 1 seat in the November election.
“That’s really been the critical issue that we’ve heard across so many different borders, socio-economics and so on,” Gordon said in a recent interview.
“I’ve spoken to several businesses that are considering, or at least considering leaving Roaring Fork Valley and Garfield County due to lack of affordability,” he said. “There are people who might want to work for them, but when they see how much it costs to live near their place of work, it makes the situation really untenable.”
The Glenwood Springs Democrat said it was even a problem at his engineering company, SGM, which struggled to hire people even on an engineer’s salary.
It’s the same story on the salary scale, he says.
“It just puts a lot of pressure on everyone…especially those who are renting and those who are just trying to come here to start a new life or a new career,” Gordon said.
Jankovsky, a Republican also from Glenwood Springs, agrees that housing is a major issue, but ties the cost of housing to a myriad of national policy issues and the current nationwide runaway inflation that he says has motivated his decision to seek re-election.
“What’s happening in Washington, DC concerns me as much today as when I ran (for commissioner) in 2010,” Jankovsky said.
From state land policies and the loss of natural gas leases on federal lands, to inflation and what he called a “chaotic situation” on the southern border with immigration, Jankovsky said he was difficult to solve local issues like housing when the tide seems to be running. against Garfield County on state and national fronts.
“I think we can make a difference here locally, and that’s why I’m running again,” said Jankovsky, who has spearheaded many efforts to try to influence state and government decisions. federal on everything from the pandemic response to oil and gas regulations, wildlife protection policies and the use of public lands.
When it comes to housing, Jankovsky is reluctant to have local government directly involved in development or subsidies.
“But I think the government can play a facilitating role to help bring together public-private partnerships and work with nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity,” Jankovsky said. “I think once the demand is there, we’ll see the private sector come in and start to meet that demand.”
Gordon praised county commissioners for taking a “first step” by agreeing to contribute $200,000 to Habitat for Humanity’s Rifle Wapiti Commons project in the Roaring Fork Valley in Rifle, in exchange for two units reserved for interested county government employees.
But there is still much to do, he said, including pledging to partner with the new Greater Roaring Fork Valley Housing Coalition.
In March, county commissioners refused to provide seed money to launch the coalition. Jankovsky was in favor of having at least one seat at the table, although he too was wary of government involvement.
“My frustration is that affordable housing has been an issue for as long as I can remember,” Gordon said. “I was born and raised in Glenwood, and I remember in the 90s I was starting to pay attention to issues, and that was an issue then.
“It doesn’t look like our commissioners have done much in the past two decades to begin to address this problem,” he said, adding that the county’s participation in the regional housing coalition was much needed.
“The reality is that many of the issues we face, and affordable housing is just one of them, are extremely complicated with many moving parts…” Gordon said. “No one entity is going to solve this problem, is there? … we are all connected and we have to work together and try to find solutions.
Gordon also thinks the county has a role to play in helping tenant-owners of mobile homes in the county’s various leaseholds navigate new state laws that could help them purchase their lots.
“Whether it’s loans or grants or whatever, I think homeownership is a critical part of this whole conversation,” he said.
Jankovsky agreed that efforts should be made to preserve mobile home parks. He noted that the county’s Latino community committee, which he helped lead, plans to resume meetings in September. One of the first topics of discussion is the problems at Apple Tree Park outside New Castle, where water issues and rules and regulations imposed by the property’s recent new owners have residents worried about the future of the park.
Jankovsky said he would support efforts to get the land under modular homes into the hands of homeowners wherever possible, including new tiny house-style developments.
“But it’s hard to make the land use decisions to allow that to happen these days because ‘not in my backyard’ seems to be everywhere right now,” he said.
In the 12 years he served as commissioner, he noted that only one large-scale residential development had been approved, at the former Sanders Ranch property near the intersection of Cattle Creek in the exterior of Carbondale. And it was never built because of infrastructure costs.
Another project on property across from the Westbank Subdivision, below where Riverview School now stands, would have included 40 employee housing units, Jankovsky noted. It was rejected by the commissioners, with Jankovsky as a single “yes”, mainly due to concerns from neighbors.
The contest for the county commissioner seat for District 1 is one of three county offices that are contested in the Nov. 8 election, whose ballots are due to be mailed out in early October.
Republican candidate Jackie Harmon, Garfield County Clerk and Registrar, a longtime office worker under current Clerk and Registrar Jean Alberico, a Democrat, faces a challenge from Democratic Party nominee Becky Moller in the New York election. november.
Outgoing Garfield County Treasurer Carie Couey, a Republican, also faces a challenge from Democrat Aron Diaz, a former Silt town administrator.
Senior Reporter/Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or [email protected]