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HD58 Forum in Nucla with Larry Don Suckla and Mark Roeber

By Valerie Maez May 28, 2024

 

On Tuesday, May 21, there was a forum in which both Republican Colorado House District candidates participated. The event also hosted Republican candidates who were running for Montrose County Commissioner districts. The forum began at 6p.m. with the HD58 candidates discussion occurring first so as to allow those traveling up from Montezuma County and down from Delta County could be on their way home before dark. A gracious and much appreciated thoughtfulness.                                                                    

  Photo: Larry Don Suckla


Doris Van Ness from Bedock was the moderator.


For those unfamiliar with what is known as the West End, it is a term applied to the west end of Montrose County and is the location of several small communities.  Residents of Bedrock, Paradox, Naturita, Nucla, Redvale, and Norwood, are referred to as the West Enders. Technically, Norwood is in San Miguel County, but culturally its closer to the West End than Telluride. It is to their  local combined efforts that many are learning of their independent and civic minded spirits due to the proposed Dolores Monument that would dramatically affect the area. I first saw much of this area when I came to Colorado in the late 1970’s. The drive from Dove Creek to Naturita hasn’t changed much at all.

   Photo: Mark Roeber

The first question of the evening went to Mark Roeber, a former county commissioner from Delta County who resides in the North Fork Valley near Paonia. The question essentially asked, if elected, what would be his strategy for stopping the proposed Dolores Monument. He felt there wasn’t much a state representative could do, but try to work with the Public Lands Council to network with Senator Brasso, who chairs the U.S Senate subcommittee on Energy as well as Senator Hickenlooper who also sits on the Senate Energy subcommittee. He stated his personal opinion that he was opposed to the Monument. Larry Don Suckla stated that just because something hadn’t been done before should preclude speaking up, loud and clear, on this issue. He added he believed that the role of government was designed to listen to the consent of the local people that are surrounded and affected by any issue of such magnitude.  Suckla went on to say that the uranium deposits within the proposed designation would negatively affect our national security interests.

The second question was about how to reverse the course of democratic legislation, as they hold the majority. Roeber felt it could be accomplished by building relationships with Democrats. Suckla felt that he was tired of surrendering ground on our rural values, and assist in passing bad legislation. He would stand firm on principles over politics.


The next question concerned possible taxation of impact of recreational interests as other uses like oil and gas, and grazing. Larry Don stated that oil and gas is taxed at 87 cents on every dollar pumped out a well on public land and that was too high of a tax for any business to pay. Mark Roeber concurred.


Another question that was raised was the issue of schools and transgender curriculum. Mark Roeber felt the issue should be left at home and shouldn’t be a teaching criteria. Larry Don indicated there were only two genders.


A question on property tax evaluations and conservation easements taxation rates. Larry Don felt that all property taxes are too high, otherwise there wouldn’t be a two billion dollar surplus. As to the issue of conservation easements that have their assessments fixed at whatever the rate is when they were signed not facing the same increases as others in the community, he agreed it could be a problem. Roeber agreed that conservation easements tax rate is kept at the rate when signed and that is a benefit to agriculture, however he disagreed as to how long that rate would remain in effect for the landowner. He also seemed to miss the point that conservation easements are a problem to equitable tax rates within the community.


The next question was on schools, businesses, government requiring mandating vaccinations for employment. Both candidates oppose that.


The following question was on Don Coram’s bill on a sex education for a nine year old. Larry Don felt that too many of our representatives are concerned with having their name on legislation that was passed and not enough about the consequence of such legislation. He feels that there are too many bills being passed and they need to be cleaned up before passing more legislation. Mark Roeber agreed that the Coram bill went too far and it was a bad bill.

The next question asked the candidates whether or not they would support Donald Trump’s election in November and his America First campaign, which provoked a shout out from an audience member who angrily decried that was a “loaded question”. Roeber said he would support Trump if he was elected, as he wasn’t happy with the current administration’s policies. Larry Don said yes he would.


The next question addressed the issue of 30 by 30 policies. Roeber said he opposes the environmental policies of preserving everything. Larry Don stated that 30 by 30 was nothing but a land grab by people who have no clue how to manage land.


The last two questions were earmarked separately for each candidate  which the moderator did not like but since they were submitted she would ask them.

Mark Roeber’s question was asked why as a member of the Public Lands Council, the Council has not publicly opposed the land grabs by environmentalists and have done nothing concrete. Roeber took offense at the question and said that just because the public was not part of the Council’s activities didn’t translate into nothing being done. That working with government agencies requires meetings and networking to achieve results and that it takes time and they are doing what they can.


Larry Don’s question was about a rumor on the internet that claimed he stated, as a Commissioner, that the Utes would rise up as an entity because they felt like they lived in a prison and too many were homeless. Larry Don said he had no idea where that came from, but perhaps someone was referring to the legend of the Sleeping Ute Mountain someday rising up. He went on to clarify that many members of the tribe actually don’t live on the Reservation, but live off the Reservation.

 

The forum lasted almost forty minutes, and rather than closing statements, the candidates opened up the forum to take questions from the audience.


An elderly man wanted to know about gun rights and wanted to know that if elected, would they represent the people rather themselves and not vote on a bill until they read the bill. Both candidates affirmed they wouldn’t vote on any legislation they hadn’t read.


A question on unfunded education mandates brought differing responses from the two men. Mark Roeber felt that due to decreased revenue from the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA), a different funding source was needed. Larry Don Suckla felt that local schools should determine what constituted their needs rather than top down management from Denver and Washington D.C. He elaborated that parents needed more say in what they want to see from their schools.

 

As someone who often has inside information on candidates, I hope by including all the questions that were asked, our readers will become inspired to attend events and learn the differences between the candidates as it has never been more important. The differences between Larry Don Suckla and Mark Roeber are significant. Both have experience in government administration, but they are markedly different in their approach to governance.

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