Republican-Democrat differences seen at forum

       A candidate forum by the Alliance for Kids at the Head Start offices on Bott Street Oct. 10 focused on children's health and education issues.
       All the candidates for Westside state political offices were on hand: incumbent Ed Jones (R-Senate District 16) and Democrat challenger John Morse; incumbent Michael Merrifield (D-House District 18) and Republican challenger Kyle Fisk; and, for House District 21, Anna Lord (D) and Bob Gardner (R).
       With only a minute to answer questions, the candidates could not speak in great amounts of detail. However, the overall impression was that the Democrat candidates believe that the state should become more involved in ensuring that children are physically and emotionally prepared when they are old enough for schooling, while the Republican candidates prefer less-government solutions that give parents more say-so and can allow churches to get involved.
       Merrifield called for a “P-16” program in which state legislation would be used to expand or add programs to help students from troubled socioeconomic backgrounds get off to a good start (P standing for preschool) and ultimately obtain a college degree (after 16 years).
       Fisk, on the other hand, said the key is “empowering parents... Let's look for ways to undergird the families in ways that will make better education and a better Colorado.”
       Jones urged cooperation with “faith-based” efforts that have proven effective. “We don't want government to be dictating what should be done in this endeavor,” he said.
       Morse presented a different view, saying that he believes in actions based on goal-setting and an example of a good goal would be “100 percent of the children healthy enough for school at age 5. Then we determine strategies to achieve that goal.”
       Gardner, addressing the Alliance for Kids position that certain state-funded children's programs are under-funded, opined that bureaucracy is more the enemy than lack of money. Administrators “need the freedom to spend the money on ways they know programs work,” he said.
       Lord said she wanted to work on ways to make it easier for people needing help to obtain it. She favors a policy called “no wrong door,” in which people needing government help will no longer be told they are in the right place for one type of assistance but in the wrong place for another.

Westside Pioneer article