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7/24/2004

District 17 hopefuls’ views similar
Berry, Shaffer support FasTracks, easing TABOR

By Pierrette J. Shields
The Daily Times-Call

BOULDER — While Longmont attorney Brandon Shaffer said Friday that Colorado needs a long-term road map to handle its ongoing needs, Lafayette Mayor Chris Berry talked about being on that road.

Political experience turned out to be among the few differences between the men.

Berry and Shaffer, both Democratic candidates for the state’s Senate District 17, met with the PLAN Boulder County civic group to make their pitches for the party’s nomination on Aug. 10. The winner will face Libertarian Bo Shaffer in the November general election to replace term-limited Sen. Terry Phillips.

“I am running to make Colorado the best place in America to raise a child,” said Shaffer, a practicing attorney in Longmont.

Shaffer grew up in Denver, attended Stanford University on a Navy ROTC scholarship and returned to Colorado after a four-year stint in the Navy. He is married and has two small children.

He told the audience he believes the state should have a vision for what it should be like in 100 years and work backward from there to attain that goal.

Berry, Lafayette’s mayor since 2003, has worked in environmental consulting and has a degree from the University of Maine in chemistry and geology.

Before becoming mayor, he was a Lafayette City Council member since 2001. He said his experience in local government, along with campaign work with U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, has given him a base of experience from which to work as a state senator and offers a record of service.

Asked his opinion on the RTD FasTracks proposal, Berry said he has been involved with getting it passed through his work representing Lafayette on the Denver Regional Council of Governments. “I am one of the few people who has already voted on FasTracks,” he said.

Shaffer said he also was a supporter of the proposal, which would provide commuter rail connecting the metro area to Boulder and Longmont. “I think it is very important that we foster types of transportation alternatives,” he said.

“Wider roads is not a solution to transportation and population issues in the state,” Shaffer added later.

The candidates — who met for more than an hour with about 25 people at the Boulder Public Library — also discussed the state’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Each said the well-intentioned initiative is causing the state’s fiscal crisis and that it must be addressed. Berry said it is tough for the Legislature to choose among the state’s priorities — such as higher education, social services, health care and other primary government services — as funding gets tighter and tighter under the law.

“Government isn’t big enough to fund our values, and it is not right for us to be put in a position to choose,” he said.

Shaffer said the Legislature, not a citizens’ initiative, should be tasked with solving the financial problems.

“Let’s roll up our sleeves; let’s lock all the legislators in a room, saying, ‘By golly, don’t come out of there until you have it fixed,’” he said.

The meeting with the Democratic candidates was the first in a series of candidate forums scheduled by PLAN Boulder County that is expected to last through the political season.

Pierrette J. Shields can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 273, or by e-mail at pshields@times-call.com.