County commissioner candidates discuss child care, housing at Summit Daily News election forum
Summit County commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence (D), the incumbent, and Allen Bacher (R), the challenger, are vying for the open District 1 county commissioner seat ahead of this year’s general election, Nov. 8.
Both candidates shared their platforms with community members and answered questions about local issues at Summit Daily News’ election forum hosted by editor Andrew Maciejewski at the Summit County Senior and Event Center on Thursday, Oct. 13.
The first challenge discussed by the two candidates was how to handle regulating short-term rentals.
The county government has put a moratorium over them as it considers regulations. The moratorium will be in place until February.
Lawrence said she is proud of the work that the county has done so far in preserving community character through rental regulations.
“Businesses are not allowed in certain areas. You certainly can’t go open a dentist office inside your living room,” Lawrence said, “and what’s happening is there’s hotels that are opening up inside our neighborhoods. We want to make sure that we have that balance. There’s some personal property rights. We hear that all the time: ‘This is my property. I should be able to do what I want with it.’ But then you also have people say, ‘This is also my property, and I should be able to live in a quiet residential area.’ And so it’s about working on that balance.”
Bacher, however, believes that some regulations “pick winners and losers” and restrict the rights of property owners.
“If you want the short-term rentals to be turned over to (long-term rentals), you’re going to have to incentivize the landlords and the owners,” Bacher said. “I consider blocking off, limiting, (and) putting caps on (short-term rentals) a violation of the Fourth and the 14th amendments. There are lawsuits around the country on this particular issue — that remains to be seen where it bubbles up and what court finally decides that it comes down in one way or another that will help to take and solve this problem.”
In addition to short-term rentals, candidates discussed the child care shortage in Summit County. More than 600 children are still on a waitlist for a child care spot across the county, and the shortage has been be attributed to various issues, such as cost-of-living, teacher pay and capacity.
Bacher said that while personal responsibility and accountability are important for parents to consider before having children, government can be an important partner in working with private child care businesses to make it easier to create more access to care.
“I come from an immigrant family, and child care issues started when we had Rosie the Riveter going off and discovering that two-income families live better,” Bacher said. “And now we have a situation of having to take care of the children. The question becomes who’s responsible for the child care? And I think government can play a role in facilitating the services. The government should not be covering the entire bill.”
Lawrence said that by next summer, over 100 families will be served by the new child care facility coming online in Silverthorne, but there’s still more work to be done.
“We hear from small business owners every single day: ‘I cannot get employees to work because they are on the waitlist for child care,'” she said. “This is important to us. We do not want to lose those working families in our community. It’s important. We need working families, we need single people, we need retired folks, we need all sorts of people in our community to make it go, and child care is a big piece of that.”
As for housing, the two candidates discussed long- and short-term solutions for Summit County’s housing issues, especially for the workforce.
Lawrence said she is committed to finding more outside funding to aid building in Summit County while also finding existing properties that could turn into housing for working people.
“Certainly there’s more building,” Lawrence said. “But we also can’t build our way out of this. We’ve got to look for our partners and find solutions that are innovative. But while we’re building it, we need to make sure that we can work with both our state and federal government to make sure that more funds are available.”
Bacher also said that being creative would bring some relief to Summit County community members looking for housing. One idea he shared would include requiring large-scale employers like the ski areas to provide housing for their own workers instead of relying on local governments.
“One of the things I would do is, any time the big boys and big girls wanted to take and build something new, one of the permitting requirements would be they have to present an employee staffing impact,” Bacher said. “They have to build housing to take care of that impact.”
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