This article continues the candidate forum for County Commission, District 3 candidates Democrat Ron Hall and Republican Trent Petty.
Jesse Franklin, former educator, said he was happy to hear support for a five-member commission.
"Both of you seem honorable," Franklin said. "I wish national politicians were. Tell me what the differences are in what you each support."
Hall said he has lived in the community a long time and has had the opportunity to deal with the community "at its best and at its worst. I formed El Refugio Inc. The first place I took victims of domestic violence was to our house until I got in over my head. I have talked to other judges about domestic battery. If I convicted someone of DWI, they had to go out with me every third Saturday to pick up trash. I truly care."
"I don't carry anyone's torch," Hall said. "I do what is right. People voted for me for judge because they knew I was right and just. I have a track record. And every day when I shave in front of the mirror, I answer to that guy and to God almighty."
"As president of the school board, I get to hear about programs," Petty said. "I care about the community and I want them to have their kids back here. I volunteer on the mounted patrol. I have a sheepdog attitude to protect those who can't protect themselves. I grew up poor, so don't tell me you can't do anything because you're poor. One Saturday night on a domestic violence call, I saw four little faces on the couch. They knew not to move. Families are not having trouble because they are poor, but because they are on drugs and alcohol. It can't be fixed by dealing with the symptoms. We have to deal with the problem. I'm about the whole family, and I want a program to deal with drugs and alcohol."
Randy Gose, former mayor, said he has lived all his life in Grant County. "It is a privilege to have two well-qualified people running for commissioner."
Dave Hayes, county resident, said the town received a grant from the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, also known as Local Governments for Sustainability. Hayes said it is a subdivision of the United Nations. "The town got involved and pays membership. It is a concern, because if there are appointments from the U.N., that's not a good thing. Where do you stand on ICLEI, Agenda 21 and the U.N.?"
Hall said he was not aware of the grant or of the groups. The Gila EDA Roundtable is just made up of local folks to discuss local situations, he said.
Petty said his opinion of the United Nations is that "we ought to throw them out of the country or at least quit paying for them." He suggested people listen to Dave and Gloria on Community Access Television of Silver City (CATS)."
Agenda 21 talks about a global tax and is involved in closing down the forest, he alleged. "It is involved in everything. Alabama has outlawed Agenda 21 and it is on the Republican Party's platform to outlaw it," he said. "I would push to outlaw it in Grant County. We don't need a committee that is not accountable to anyone. I'm just asking for a level playing field, so we can compete with anyone. Quit getting the rug pulled out from under us."
Frances Gonzalez, former jail administrator, said the jail has gone through seven administrators in the past few years, some for prisoner abuse. All answered to the county manager.
"With your police background, would you be open to overseeing the jail and new directors, because it costs a lot every time the county lets one go and to bring in someone new?" Gonzales asked.
Hall said even though a person is convicted, "we have the right to make sure the prisoner is treated right. I've seen physical abuse at the jail," he said. "We appoint people, as elected officials we manage budgets, we need to make sure an appointee is qualified and trained. We also need to make sure transport is available when a prisoner is released."
Petty said he attended a recent leadership conference, and believes in the training for county commissioners. "I have been to the jail, and there is an obvious problem," he said. "I would consider having the administrator report to us."
Flippo read a question: What percentage of health care costs does the county pay for its employees?
Petty said, just recently, the commission approved a plan to pay 100 percent of county employees' health insurance costs, and county commissioners voted a raise for themselves.
Hall said he would look at the 100 percent when he gets into office, if it is for a salaried position.
Another question read by Flippo was: Nearly one-third of land in the U.S. is government land. It used to be for public use. Now it seems the government wants to bar public use.
Petty said it offends him when a GS-11 tells him he is going to change a road. "We have to understand the difference between federal law and an arbitrary thing some bureaucrat does. The County Commission has the authority to build, change or delete a road. It doesn't say anywhere that a federal bureaucrat can, except it seems for a Forest Service bureaucrat.
"That's why we had the huge fire, with air pollution and how many of you had trouble breathing?" Petty asked rhetorically. "I talked to a retired forester who said the Forest Service is not doing their management according to science anymore. They are not thinning, so the fire destroyed fish and owls. We used to have a timber company in the Mimbres."
He said the roads belong to the people. "It's not federal law I'm opposing, but just some bureaucrat."
Hall said he would never lead anyone down the road to violate the law. "I'm for open forests and forest roads. Jane and I will take our ATV and have a picnic. I use those roads, but I do not cut locks or break the law."
He said the RS2477 rule was established in 1866, and was comprised of one sentence: "the right-of-way for the construction of highways across public lands not otherwise reserved for public purposes is hereby granted," so people could come westward, use the forest, raise cattle and live in the areas.
In 1976, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act repealed RS 2477, but the repeal was subject to "valid existing rights," as expressed: " Nothing in this Act, or in any amendment made by this Act, shall be construed as terminating any valid lease, permit, patent, right-of-way, or other land use right or authorization existing on the date of approval of this Act."
Hall cited a document by former Forest Service employee, Ron Henderson, which listed the elements for an RS 2477 road, including the road having come into existence over public land, there was construction and the road must remain open to the public.
"Do you realize the cost to maintain these roads?" Hall asked. "Look at the statute, the historical part and pick your battles. I will wait to see which ones will close and then I will choose the battles to fight."
Flippo read another question. The Commission position is the most important in the state. Some feel the Commission has abdicated to the state.
Petty said he would take it back, because it is already moving toward the federal government taking over its authorities. In the beginning of the U.S., the federal government could only do that which provided mutual protection and interstate commerce.
"I stand up for people and will stand for you," Petty said. "I will not break laws, but stand up for what you believe in."
Hall said he was "all for healthy foods, but didn't want the government telling me what I can eat. In New York City, they are proposing a $200 fine for buying a soft drink larger than 16 ounces."
"Let's take care of things ourselves, such as I did by hoeing weeds and working with youths," Hall said. "Big Brother doesn't work for me. The state needs to understand it is 'by the people.'"
In closing, Petty said he thinks it is a crucial election this year. "I'm here to stand up for you. I will stand up and speak for those who cannot stand up for themselves. I want for you to be able to buttonhole me at Walmart."
Hall thanked those who came to hear what the candidates had to say. "You're here because you care. I'm running because I care. I've made tough decisions. I lunged across a table to tackle the one who had a gun on me. I sat in court making difficult decisions. A person had to be proven guilty. (Superintendent Dick) Pool talked to me about vo-tech. Morales talked to me about vo-tech, and that's why he's offering a Memorial at the Legislature for a study to see how much a vo-tech facility will cost."
"If I don't think something's right, I'll tell you," Hall said. "If I do think it's right, I'll tell you. As a commissioner, I will listen to everyone before I make my decision."