OURAY COUNTY – The Watch asked each candidate the same four questions: Is medical marijuana a law-enforcement problem for the county? How would the passage of tax-cutting measures 60, 61 and 101 affect the Sheriff’s Department? What are the major law-enforcement issues in the county today, and in the near future? And finally, how do you avoid the us-versus-them mindset that can creep into the relationship between cops and the community?
STEVE ALBRITTON On medical marijuana: “It could end up a law-enforcement issue, on the regulatory side. I respect the citizens telling us what they want. I will continue to support that. But my concern is that the state will spend money out of the regulatory portion of that initiative, to balance the budget. Then is this [regulatory responsibility] going to be pushed down to the counties and cities? I think there are so many unanswered questions now. As a law-enforcement issue, though, the people have spoken.”
On the ‘Ugly Three’ initiatives: “If all three pass, we would probably only have the sheriff, the undersheriff, and maybe just one deputy. They [the initiatives] would definitely affect the general fund. About 16 percent of the general fund goes to the Sheriff’s Department.
“There would be cutbacks in service. If they do pass, that would tell me that I have to make do. I’m going to do the best I can with what I have. But I’m against all three initiatives.”
On the major law-enforcement issues facing the county: “A lot of the problems now are internal within the Sheriff’s Department. One of the big challenges for the community as a whole is preparedness, being prepared. If we were to have a large-scale fire? A school shooting? The sheriff has to be a leader in those situations. That means training, learning from other agencies, other areas of the state. I would like to see more department involvement with the schools. Not in the school but with the school boards, being prepared for all these things.
“Number one is just providing really good service to the entire community. To the cities, too. Ridgway and Ouray deserve more attention from the sheriff. There are taxpayers in the cities; they deserve service, too.”
On ‘us-versus-them’: “I think there is something to that. It’s an occupational hazard. In the military, too. I’ve spent the last five years as a civilian, a taxpayer, so I’ve seen what the citizen perspective is. Unfortunately, law-enforcement is a job, or a career, for most people. [If there were term limits] you might lose somebody who’s really good. The answer is to hire really good, well-grounded people in the first place.
“My first priority would be to hire people who already understand the community because they live here. They don’t have an us-versus-them attitude because they’re part of the community. Second, I would hire law-enforcement professionals who don’t have the ‘I’m the police’ mindset, the ‘heavy-badge’ type. I will mentor locals to fill these positions.”
JUNIOR MATTIVI On medical marijuana: “I don’t see it as a problem here, yet. As sheriff, you’re sworn to uphold the state constitution, and medical marijuana is legal.
“We have one guy in Ouray County who has a licensed grow operation. He grows for two dispensaries that are not in this county. He’s jumped through all the hoops; he’s done everything legally. I am concerned though. In areas that have a lot of dispensaries, that has affected the crime rate – thefts, assaults, robberies – directed at the dispensaries. In the big cities, Boulder and Denver. If we start getting dispensaries here in addition to grow operations. . .”
On the ‘Ugly Three’ initiatives: “It’s kind of hard to say, because they’re going to be phased in. We could conceivably lose $50,000 to start with. [Amendment] 60 would affect the county’s general fund, which is where our budget comes from; we don’t have a mill levy, like Road and Bridge. Sixty-one would hurt us as far as getting vehicles. We lease-to-purchase now. We have two vehicles now over 100,000 miles that maybe need to be replaced. If this passes, that’s probably not going to happen.
“The first thing we’d have to cut is to not fill an open position we have now. We decided to hold off until after the election to see whether or not we can fill this position.
“We did have to submit two budgets to the commissioners, one for if they pass and one for if they don’t.”
On the major law-enforcement problems facing the county: “I think down the road as to county grows people are going to bring their problems with them. Little things become bigger things. Dogs and water seem to be where things start. Add fences in there. The neighbor’s barking dog, the irrigation ditch – it turns into a fight, somebody gets hit in the head with a shovel. Starts out civil; it becomes criminal.
“Traffic is going to be a bigger and bigger problem. The commissioners just adopted a model traffic code, which allows the county to keep more traffic-fine dollars. We don’t write tickets to generate revenue; I want to make that clear.
“With more people, we will have more of a drug problem. We’ve been lucky. We do a lot of education, which I think is key. Especially with the kids. Peer pressure is a terrible thing.”
On ‘us-versus-them’: “Because the community is so small and close-knit here, people get to know each other a little better. I always say the fire department gets to be heroes. Law-enforcement can sometimes be the bad guys. In a domestic dispute somebody’s going to get arrested.
“But, being a small department, if the deputies get to know the citizens a little better, it’s not so much us-versus-them.”