Setting the Record Straight – My Opponent’s Nasty Tactics

October 6, 2016

The 2016 General Election is down to the wire. With just over a month to go, there seems to be no bottom to the nasty tactics and untruths coming from my opponent’s campaign.

Since this spring, my opponent’s campaign has filed several open record act requests with the county seeking everything from my county travel expenses to my communications with untold numbers of people from Congressman Jared Polis to Dan Olson, executive director of the San Juan Citizens Alliance.

What were they looking for? I have no idea. But it cost the county a tremendous amount of staff time and taxpayer dollars to respond to these requests.

93% – A Solid A:

My opponent is running ads stating that I have a terrible attendance record – “Absent! Absent! Absent!” I have a 93% attendance record during my first term. Julie Westendorff has a 94% attendance record over four years and Brad Blake has a 97% record over the past year.

I missed one hearing in February 2015 due to serving as co-chair of the Governor’s Oil & Gas Task Force. In May 2014, I traveled to Washington, DC, to testify in support of the BLM developing a rule limiting the waste of natural gas in oil and gas wells on public lands. In April of this year, Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn invited me to testify in Congress in support of the BLM’s Wasted Gas Rule.

La Plata County did not expend any funds as a result of my service on the Governor’s Oil & Gas Task Force nor did I charge the county for the two trips I took to Washington, DC to testify in support of the BLM’s Wasted Gas Rule.

Definitely the County’s Business:

My opponent has said that the wasted gas rule is not the county’s business. NASA studies show that our county and San Juan and Rio Arriba counties in New Mexico have the highest methane emissions in the United States. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas – a leading cause of global warming and climate change. The NASA study pinpoints exactly the oil and gas wells, compressor stations and pipelines in our region that are the highest “super emitters” of methane. Reducing these emissions is totally within our reach. Tightening valves, replacing valves and modernizing aging equipment will have a tremendous effect in minimizing emissions. It is incumbent upon La Plata County to do its part in working with industry and neighboring counties, states and federal agencies to address this critical issue.

Win. Win. Win.

Policies like the BLM’s Wasted Gas Rule are a win-win-win: methane that doesn’t escape wells and pipelines is money in the bank for companies, results in more taxpayer revenues and improves our air quality.

Oil and gas policies that benefit our residents, the environment and increase company’s bottom lines by setting standards that eliminate liabilities and waste are La Plata County’s business.

La Plata County’s Budget is Really Important:

My opponent claims that I am pushing for a status quo budget in 2017. I’m not sure if my opponent is deliberately trying to mislead voters or if he doesn’t understand the complexities of the county budget.

As a former director of non-profits and now as a commissioner, I’ve been required to adopt and maintain balanced budgets and be accountable not only to funders, but also to a board of directors and now to the taxpayers. The buck stops with all of us. The county’s budget is really important.

Non-profit public service agencies provide critical public services – if the county had to provide these services on its own, it would cost millions of dollars. The county currently spends $250,000 annually spread amongst 35 of these agencies. In 2013 the La Plata County Commissioners cut public service agency funding 13% – from $285,000 to $250,000. I’m advocating for status quo funding of the public agencies part of our 2017 budget.

We have been anticipating serious shortfalls in revenues next year so we’ve made strategic investments in technology to avoid having to add staff despite our growing population and increasing demands for county services. I’ve led the county in establishing an employee health clinic to reduce our health care costs. Other counties with these clinics have seen significant savings.

In Closing:

I’m running for re-election because I’m proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish in the past four years with a balanced approach to decision-making and problem solving.

  • In just four years we have restored long-range planning and have nearly completed our comprehensive plan; we are writing a new land use code to ensure certainty and predictability in the planning process for those who want to build and develop here; we are standing up for keeping public lands in public hands, for clean air and water, affordable housing, a living wage; and we’re being responsive to citizen concerns.
  • In just four years, we have also restored La Plata County’s rank as a leading county standing for oil and gas policies that benefit landowners, the environment, and increase companies bottom lines by setting standards that eliminate liabilities and waste.
  • We played a key role working with neighboring counties, states, Tribes and the EPA to address the Gold King Mine Spill, clean up leaking mines, protect the Animas River and achieving Superfund designation of the Bonita Peak Mining District.

I believe government is important. Government is about bringing people together and addressing issues together. I believe that elections should not be blood sport – they should be based on honesty and integrity. I’m running a serious campaign because I love this county and because we have so much more to do to keep La Plata County a desirable place to live, work and play.

Let’s continue to the progress! I ask for your vote this November!



Gwen Lachelt