Know the candidates: House District 18

       With the start of the 2006 election campaign, the Westside Pioneer asked the same questions of candidates for state office in House Districts 18 and 21 and Senate District 11 – each of which represents part of the Westside. The HD 21 and SD 11 responses appeared in the May 11 and May 25 issues, respectively. The responses conclude this issue with HD 18, in which the candidates are incumbent Michael Merrifield (Democrat) and Kyle Fisk (Republican).

Merrifield Fisk
What is your career (other than politics)? If you are not currently elected to a state office, where do you work? If you are elected to a state office, where did you work?
      
       I am a retired public school teacher.  I taught choral music for 30 years, the last 16 at Coronado High School.
      
       Political background – elected office and/or years working for the party?
      
       I have served 2 terms in the Colorado State House of Representatives and am running for a third term. Before that I was a Manitou Springs City Councilman (1996-2000). I am currently the chairman of the House Education Committee, and serve on the Local Government Committee.
      
       Members of immediate family (wife/husband, children)?
      
       I have two adult children. I have 2 grandchildren. I am divorced.
      
       Your position on Westside Highway 24?
      
       I oppose CDOT’s grandiose plans.  They are too destructive to the neighborhood and unique character of the Westside.  I support upgrading the intersections of I-25 and Highway 24, and 8th, 21st and 31st.  I support OWN’s position of no grade change.  There needs to be some solution to traffic at the entrance to Red Rocks.  I support a “parkway” concept, with landscaping, bridges for busy intersections, all within the historic parameters of Westside character.
      
       Can anything be done at the state level to help small, independently owned businesses (as on the Westside) be more successful? If so, what?
      
       The state Legislature helped small businesses this year by increasing higher-education funding and raising the College Opportunity Fund.  We passed legislation I co-sponsored creating a $19 million permanent fund to promote Colorado tourism.  We need to help our small businesses afford health insurance for their employees by making it easier for small groups to join together to bargain for discounted rates.  We should cut the cost of prescription drugs by joining with other states to form a purchasing pool.
      
       Can more be done at the state level to help improve the effectiveness of public schools that have high percentages of disadvantaged children (as on the Westside)? If so, what?
      
       As chair of the House Education committee, I co-sponsored legislation to provide 6,000 more preschool slots for at-risk kids and to help schools with the cost of special education.  We provided $20 million for capital construction and maintenance for crumbling schools.  We must continue to adequately fund and support our public schools and dedicated public school teachers. I also sponsored legislation that will help schools recruit, evaluate, and retain top-notch principals.
      
       Any issues you think are important that might have a direct impact on the Westside? If so, what?
      
       I believe the Highway 24 issue could have the greatest positive or negative effect on the quality of life and unique character that make the Westside such a special place.  I intend to be intimately involved in seeing it is done right.  I will continue to work for quality public education... smaller classroom size, a highly qualified and dedicated teacher in every classroom, and less emphasis on preparing for tests and more on learning.
      
What is your career (other than politics)? If you are not currently elected to a state office, where do you work? If you are elected to a state office, where did you work?
      
       I have a varied background I am currently an associate pastor at Boulder Street Church. Before that I worked for the president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), Reverend Ted Haggard as executive administrator. I have also worked as an EMT and and as a ranger at Garden of the Gods Park.
      
       Political background – elected office and/or years working for the party?
      
       For the Republican Party, I have worked on different campaigns and as a precinct committeeperson and delegate. I also worked for a special voter turn-out project of the Republican National Committee.
      
       Members of immediate family (wife/husband, children)?
      
       My wife Terra, is expecting our first baby, a little boy, any day!
      
       Your position on Westside Highway 24?
      
       The Westside is not currently being effectively represented on this issue – that must change.  When looking at traffic projects, prioritization is critical, especially with other immediate transportation needs like Hwy 16. The Westside Pioneer had it right when it called for a plan [March 9 issue] that “handles traffic on Highway 24 for the foreseeable future in a safe and efficient manner that would not only preserve the Westside’s character but enhance it.”
      
       Can anything be done at the state level to help small, independently owned businesses (as on the Westside) be more successful? If so, what?
      
       I will review and reduce the business personal property tax to fairly balance the tax burden. I will eliminate unnecessary regulations, especially those hampering the creation of new businesses, and allow the free market to work without government micromanagement. I will work to make health insurance plans affordable for small business owners by requiring current government mandates to be evaluated and eliminating those which create unnecessary control concerning businesses and their healthcare choices.
      
       Can more be done at the state level to help improve the effectiveness of public schools that have high percentages of disadvantaged children (as on the Westside)? If so, what?
      
       Create more choices for our kids by eliminating “exclusive charter authority,” improving competition and performance. Empower principals to manage their budget, staff, and foster excellent performance. Most importantly, equip parents and education stakeholders with choices—Gordon St. Angelo, Friedman Foundation President said it best: “We believe that all parents should be empowered to choose the best school for their children, and that the very poor will benefit the most from such freedom of choice.”
      
       Any issues you think are important that might have a direct impact on the Westside? If so, what?
      
       A critical issue facing the Westside is current representation that is narrow-minded and ineffective. I refuse to accept the idea that we should be content with someone who is more interested in waving some extremist ideological banner in Denver than in making a positive impact for the people in our community. I will serve our community one issue at a time, one person at a time – making a difference for you.