Adams County Commission: Baca vs Covarrubias for District 5

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Adams County District 5

Longtime state lawmaker and Adams County commissioner Mary Hodge is leaving her seat this year, throwing the commission’s 5th district into contest. 

Hodge, a Democrat, has represented the 5th district since 2016. It’s the geographically largest district in the county, wrapping from Brighton around Denver International Airport to north Aurora and the expanse of prairie to the east. It’s a microcosm of the county at large: a historically rural and suburban expanse that is rapidly urbanizing, presenting challenges for land management, affordability and transportation. 

It’s no coincidence that Republican and former state lawmaker Phil Covarrubias is gunning for this seat and a reentry to politics. Covarrubias briefly represented House District 56, which mirrors much of this Adams County district. He’s challenged by Democrat and former Brighton Councilmember Lynn Baca. 

Covarrubias is a conservative proponent of industriousness and measured management in government. 

He and Baca both said growth will have to be measured carefully, from Interstate 25 to Bennett, or risk overwhelming existing infrastructure. Both called for investments into existing infrastructure and brainy approaches to transportation and traffic problems. 

Covarrubias would also craft a careful COVID-19 response building off the county’s existing efforts which are fueled by federal CARES Act dollars. 

“The county should play a leading role in helping ensure local businesses, municipalities, and citizens are informed and know the best, science-based practices for staying safe while getting back to normal,” he told the Sentinel. “Both citizens, communities and the county’s coffers benefit from this approach.” 

Covarrubias’ top priority, if he’s elected, would be removing the county’s moratorium on new oil and gas developments. He described the sector as an industry “banished” from the county at a time when the government, and its residents, could use the money to keep the local economy afloat.

“With so many unemployed, a desire to restart the economy, the clean-burning fuel of natural gas, and need for public revenues to provide community services and infrastructure, the oil and gas industry should not be banished from our county,” he said. 

Natural gas, or methane, is a fossil fuel that emits less carbon dioxide per unit than oil when burned, but is itself a highly concentrated greenhouse gas. 

Baca said if voters place her on the commission, she’d focus on crafting oil and gas regulations that are “fair.”

“I am keenly aware and understand that many of our hard working families, small businesses and peripheral businesses rely on the oil and gas industry in Adams County,” she said. 

On housing, Baca lamented that owning a home used to be a right of passage for young people, but that they’ve largely been priced out of the market. She said affordable housing is a priority for her, but she didn’t offer policy solutions. 

As of early October, Covarrubias had raised more than $11,000 for his election bid. Baca raised $8,500.

Meet Democrat Lynn Baca

Democrat Lynn Baca is a second generation Adams County resident. She was raised in Brighton, where she still lives, and she graduated from the Brighton 27J School District. She describes herself as “non traditional” college student, when she juggled a job, a family and part-time courses. She currently works as a purchasing agent for the City of Aurora, a position she’s held for more than a decade. She has also served on the Brighton city council, representing Ward III. Elsewhere, Baca has served on many boards and commissions, including Brighton’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, Brighton/Adams County Sub-Regional Farmland Preservation Committee, the Denver Regional Council of Governments and many transportation-minded boards. Baca has also worked for Adams County in the elections, finance and parks departments. She credits her parents for teaching her family “the value of giving to others.”

Lynn Baca policy questions

What are the biggest challenges Adams County faces in the next 10 years?

 

Clearly, growth is the biggest challenges facing Adams County in the next 10 years.  We are now a county of over 500,000 residents, the top county in job growth in the state (prior to COVID).  I believe in growth that is smart, sustainable and continues to diversify our employment base.  Affordable housing, especially for our young people.  Housing used to be a right-of-passage is becoming more unattainable for our young professionals and families.  Transportation, all of Colorado's interstates run through Adams County, so we move commuters and commerce alike.  While improvements are being made in Aurora, major work needs to be completed on I-270 and north I-25. 

 

What is your philosophy in how the county should approach local regulation of oil and gas development? 

 

My philosophy is to provide for the safety, health and welfare of residents and that regulations are fair to the industry.  I am keenly aware and understand that many of our hard working families, small businesses and peripheral businesses rely on the oil and gas industry in Adams County.  We must have the expectation that industry will perform well within the established regulation and that flagrant disregard for adopted regulations will be handled swiftly and the companies will be held responsible by appropriate entities.

 

What makes you uniquely qualified for this seat?

 

I am ready to serve the residents of Adams County on my first day in office. My background in government, my experience as a city council member, and regional leadership roles in transportation make me uniquely qualified.  I understand the balance, challenges and opportunities facing our residents, businesses and municipal elected officials and I will work tirelessly to build solid collaborative relationships. I fully support Adams County vision and understand we are a leader in the Denver metro area.  Through leadership positions I have held, specifically as the immediate past chair of the Adams County Sub-Regional Transportation Planning committee, I worked with elected officials from all of the cities and towns within Adams County, I served as a Director to the Denver Regional Council of Governments for 8 years, former chair of Smart Commute Metro North and also the North Area Transportation Alliance.  Through the service on these boards, I was able to advocate for the endorsement of the Colorado Spaceport (North Area Transportation Alliance), support the changes of dispersing Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) funding which increased Adams County's funding from under $1.9 M to over $35M in one funding cycle (Denver Regional Council of Governments) and disperse the $35M of FHWA to every city and town in Adams County (Adams County Sub-Regional Transportation committee). 

The lighter side of Lynn Baca

If you could have one superpower, what would it be? 

The ability to be in multiple locations at the same time. 

 

What movie will you watch again no matter how many times you’ve seen it? 

I have and would watch Apollo 13 again and again.

 

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a flight attendant and travel the world.

 

What talent do you have that most people don’t know about?

That I can bake an award-winning Blueberry Pie.

 

If you wrote a memoir, what would you call it?

Keep Striving and Never Settle

 

What’s your favorite curbside guilty pleasure?

Curbside as in dashboard-diner meal?  That would be the Spicy Chicken sandwich meal from Chick-Fil-A, medium fry and a large split tea with light ice.

 

What was the last book you read?

Our American Journey - A History of the Brighton Nisei Women's Club and the Brighton Japanese American Association

 

Have you found any unexpected upsides to wearing a facemask during the pandemic?

Yes!  I can go sans lipstick!

 

What’s your favorite family tradition?

Annually, I plan a day with my mom, sisters and my nieces to bake Christmas cookies.

 

If you had a boat, what would you name it?

I would name my boat Ohana.

 

If you could only listen to one song forever, what would it be? 

Beyond the Sea by Bobby Darin

 

Which reality television show do you think you’d be best at?

I would be best at Dancing with the Stars, because we can't take ourselves too seriously.

 

What do you think needs to be invented more than anything?

A cure for cancer.

Meet Republican Phil Covarrubias

Phil Covarrubias

Republican Phil Covarrubias graduated from Arvada High School. He, too, draws strength from his family’s example. His great-grandparents immigrated to Rocky Ford, Colorado, according to La Voz. He credits his great-grandparents for instilling a legacy of entrepreneurism and hard work in his family. His father and namesake worked in a Conoco oil refinery but quit to launch his own excavation business. Covarrubias has worked as an excavator, small business owner and for Xcel Energy as a project manager and lead foreman, he says on his LinkedIn account. Covarrubias won an election bid to represent House District 56 in 2016. He was defeated by now-representative Rod Bockenfeld.

Phil Covarrubias policy questions

What are the biggest challenges Adams County faces in the next 10 years?

 

Adams County is a diverse county, with urban to rural areas, which presents a variety of opportunities and challenges. First, we must ensure safe communities. Local law enforcement has mandates handed down at the state level for which counties are expected to pick up the tab. It is important the county provides the funds for equipment like body cameras, training, and other mandates to provide safe neighborhoods.

 

Traffic congestion and road conditions are an important challenge throughout the county, whether it is sitting in traffic on I-25, or the poor condition of county roads in southeastern Adams County. Attached to this issue of growth is the probability our local infrastructure, from community services to open spaces, being overwhelmed if smart and responsible growth practices are not implemented.  I would promote smart and responsible growth practices and acknowledge that each region of the county has different needs when it comes to growth and affordable housing.

 

Finally, the entire world is facing the challenges of COVID-19, from health to education to economic. The county should play a leading role in helping ensure local businesses, municipalities, and citizens are informed and know the best, science-based practices for staying safe while getting back to normal. Both citizens, communities and the county’s coffers benefit from this approach. 

 

The same diversity that creates challenges in Adams County is also the source of its opportunities. I think there is great opportunity in looking at all the county’s budgets to find where opportunity lies to reprioritize funds to ensure the needs of residents are being addressed. While there are always many needs and many hands open for public funds, it is the Commission’s duty to ensure that their budgets reflect the most pressing issues facing the community. In addition, the recently passed moratorium on the oil and gas industry in Adams County is an opportunity to address many of the challenges listed above. 

 

What is your philosophy in how the county should approach local regulation of oil and gas development? 

 

The moratorium does not make sense in the current and future economic climate. With so many unemployed, a desire to restart the economy, the clean-burning fuel of natural gas, and need for public revenues to provide community services and infrastructure, the oil and gas industry should not be banished from our county.

 

The moratorium on oil and gas is the highest priority for me if I am elected because so many of the other challenges and opportunities facing Adams County can be at least partially addressed through rolling it back. The oil and gas industry provides good paying jobs for those with a less formal education and allows families to have the opportunity to purchase a home who might otherwise not have the chance. The economic growth that results from the oil and gas industry has been widely illustrated and is an important part of the overall state economy. I believe it is important to provide as many opportunities for the County to prosper and shutting out an entire industry cuts off an entire area of the economy. With oil and gas jobs comes indirect job growth and this, along with the normal taxes on oil and gas drilling, will help the county’s revenues bounce back. This is particularly important to ensure the County is not contributing to unemployment by laying-off essential personnel or scaling back important community services. As the effects from COVID-19 on the economy lessen, the additional revenue would provide the Commission the chance to address the lack of uniformity of services in rural areas, increase affordable housing, and address traffic congestion and road concerns.

 

What makes you uniquely qualified for this seat?

 

My background and experience make me uniquely qualified to be an Adams County Commissioner.  I have spent most of my adult life in the infrastructure construction industry and running a small business. As a result, I have a unique understanding of the infrastructure and growth challenges the county will face in the next four years. As a member of Brighton’s Planning Commission, I was able to fuse my knowledge of infrastructure and growth with the role of government in these issues. During my time as the State Representative for House District 56, I served on the both the Finance and Health, Insurance and Environmental Committees. My work on the Finance committee gave me a clear understanding and knowledge of budgeting public funds and tax revenue sources. While I was on the Health, Insurance and Environmental committee, I worked on many of the health and environment issues the county deals with health, human services and environment, from the State level. As a result, I have a unique knowledge of the way localities across the State have managed such issues as oil and gas drilling regulations, marijuana and water issues. 

 

The lighter side of Phil Covarrubias

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

To fly

 

What movie will you watch again no matter how many times you’ve seen it?

Rocky (the original)

 

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Fighter pilot

 

What talent do you have that most people don’t know about?

Heavy equipment operating

 

If you wrote a memoir, what would you call it?

Holy Crap! 

 

What’s your favorite curbside guilty pleasure?

Chocolate Malt

 

What was the last book you read?

The Meaning of Life by The Dalai Lama

 

Have you found any unexpected upsides to wearing a facemask during the pandemic?

I am using more mouthwash.

 

What’s your favorite family tradition?

Christmas Eve dinner with the family, which consists of traditional Ukrainian food and green chili

 

If you had a boat, what would you name it?

The Victoria

 

If you could only listen to one song forever, what would it be? 

Fantasy by Aldo Nova

 

Which reality television show do you think you’d be best at?

American Ninja Warrior

 

What do you think needs to be invented more than anything?

A mute button