Candidates discuss community plans, immigration at forum

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By AJ Vicens

The question of how closely Jefferson County should follow community plans took center stage at a forum for political candidates Oct. 2 at the Evergreen Lake House.

District 2 county commission candidate Jason Bane, a Democrat, seized on the issue to turn up the heat on his opponent, Republican incumbent Kevin McCasky.

"Community plans must be respected," Bane said. "There were a couple of cases where, by and large, they were ignored."

Bane was referring to votes by McCasky supporting an expansion of the Rock of Southwest Baptist Church and the Lyons Ridge development in South Jeffco.

"I value citizen input and respect and value community plans," McCasky said.

But while many residents participate in creating community plans, many do not, McCasky added.

"You elect commissioners to be unbiased decision makers, and that's what I am: an independent, unbiased decision maker."

Democrat Sue Windels and Republican Faye Griffin — vying to replace District 1 Commissioner Jim Congrove — basically agreed that community plans should be respected whenever possible, but when a land-use decision diverges from a community plan, the reasons for the decision must be communicated effectively.

Other candidates at the forum included District Attorney Scott Storey, a Republican seeking a second term. There also were representatives from the presidential campaigns; of U.S. Senate candidates Mark Udall and Bob Schaffer; and of 6th Congressional District candidates Hank Eng and Mike Coffman. Storey’s opponent, Lakewood Democrat Vicky Peters, was a no-show.

Illegal immigration was another topic fielded by candidates during the forum, as a question arose about the reporting of crimes committed by illegal immigrants to the federal government. Most of the commission candidates and Storey said that of course any illegal activity should be reported. McCasky announced that he was working on a new proposal — so new he hadn't even told Storey about it — that would train deputies at the jail to better identify and process illegal immigrants. He said a county in North Carolina similar in size to Jeffco had utilized the program — known as the 287 G section of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act. The program provides funds for local officers to get federal training.

Storey said the county can do everything in its power to report illegal immigrants to federal authorities, but federal authorities lack the resources to handle the vnumber of arrests.

Meanwhile, McCasky further distanced himself from the four other commission candidates when he said he is never in favor of governments taking private land through eminent domain. The other candidates all said they're not in favor of abusing the process but that it’s sometimes necessary.

This was the third forum hosting the commission candidates, and a fourth was held Oct. 7 at the Peak Recreation Center in South Jeffco. Check www.columbinecourier.com for a story on that forum.