BY: Amber Ningen, Editor
Federal, state and local candidates voiced their opinions and answered audience members' questions during a candidate forum on Tuesday, Oct. 14. The forum was held at the 4-H building and was co-sponsored by the Platte County Chamber of Commerce and the AAUW.
Although not in attendance, letters from U.S. Senators John Barrasso and Mike Enzi were read aloud.
Chris Rothfuss, Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator, and Nick Carter, Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator (unexpired term: 4 years) attended the forum and discussed the recent $700 billion bailout bill.
Carter began by saying that the U.S. Senate had no choice but to pass the bailout.
"It's unfortunate that we got there but the reality of it is, is that there is no choice. We could not allow our markets to go completely cold and credit to go completely cold. It would have cast us into a depression, " he said.
Rothfuss said he didn't like the bailout package because of how it progressed.
"What really disturbed me was the Senate draft changed only a couple of small tweaks from the House draft that failed to pass significantly. But what they did to make it pass was tack on about 400 pages of entirely unrelated materials," he said.
Rothfuss added, however, that he agreed with what Carter previously stated and that the bailout was needed.
"What I would have liked to have the opportunity to do was stand up before that vote and try to make a mockery of that bill because I think we deserve better," Rothfuss said.
Although not in attendance, a letter from the Democratic nominee for United States Representative Gary Trauner was read to audience members. Republican nominee Cynthia Lummis and Libertarian nominee W. David Herbert were in attendance and also spoke on the bailout.
Herbert said he would have voted against the bailout because it was unconstitutional. He also said it was a violation of separation of powers.
Lummis said she would have voted against the House bill as well.
"The Senate bill is better but I would have voted against the Senate bill also because three is a charm. They should have stayed in session and tried for a third bill - tried a third time to come up with legislation that would address the problems and discuss it with the American people,"Lummis said.
Senate District 02 Republican nominee Jim Anderson was not in attendance during forum but wife Pamala read a letter from her husband.
Democratic nominee Jason "Jay" Wright spoke about what he called the problem with our current healthcare system, which could be solved by moving to a statewide single parent healthcare system, under which everyone would be covered.
During the State Representative House District #3 nominee portion of the forum, Joe Fabian, moderator for the event, asked Democratic nominee Terry R. Jones and Republican nominee Frank Peasley about excess money the state receives.
Fabian said to his knowledge, the state only uses these funds for the Hathaway Scholarship, which covers only a small number of residents in the state. Fabian asked if there was anything these candidates would do, if elected, to get these funds back to the citizens.
"In my estimation, the surplus is coming back to the people of Wyoming. We have low taxes compared to other places here," Jones said, adding that he would like to have more tax relief, especially for older people. "As far as the surplus goes, we are receiving the surplus through our services."
Jones added he believed we should have better infrastructure and highways should be improved.
Peasley said we need to guard against the inclination to spend money.
"I think that when we spend money, we should spend it for the future and I am 100 percent for any type of infrastructure. This town could use some infrastructure. A lot of towns could and I'm talking everything from better landfills to nursing homes," Peasley said.
Fabian also asked the two candidates about what they would do in the legislature to correct the issue of this area being the second worst in the nation concerning the wage gap.
Peasley answered no, saying somebody is always going to be second worst.
"If we've got a problem, yes we ought to do something but I am lost as to how you're going to go out and pigeon hole any of these types of things," he said.
Jones said as far as the wage gender gap, he really didn't know what the solution was.
"I know that if a woman works the same job at the power plant as a man does, she gets the same pay. But that's not saying that the woman that's working downtown at a restaurant gets the same pay," Jones said.
During the County Commissioner portion of the forum, candidates Terry A. Stevenson (Republican), and Joe Reichardt (Democrat), discussed the nursing home issue.
"I'd like to see the nursing home remain open. I'd like to see the nursing home facility be upgraded and combined with whatever other facilities it takes...whatever it takes to put together a unit that might serve 60, 70 people in Platte County," Reichardt said. "I'd like to see the operators that we have there, stay there. Banner Health has historically done a very good job operating the hospital. And, as far as I'm concerned, the nursing home too."
Stevenson stated that the Hospital District Board has the authority over the operator of the hospital.
"I have a great deal of confidence in the Hospital District Board. They're going to be making a decision concerning the hospital and the nursing home and...with the ones that I've talked to, the consensus seems to be that there is absolutely no way that Wheatland, Wyoming is going to be without a hospital and a nursing home both. It's very important and a high priority," Stevenson said.
Stevenson said if elected he would stand behind the Hospital District Board to help accomplish what they need to accomplish.
During the Hospital District Board candidate portion, candidates Rick Bowen, John C. Bunker, Crystal Gamblin, Lori Modesitt and Chuck Witte were asked about ideas they may have about saving the nursing home.
Bowen said without having been on the board and having the specifics, he'd have to defer to somebody else who has been on the board and knows more about the situation.
Witte said that right now there and more questions than answers and that's why a consultant was hired.
"First of all, we have to find out is the hospital a viable entity. In other words, can it make money? Can it come close to breaking even?" he said. "If that's the case, are there operators out there willing to take on the nursing home or the nursing home and the hospital? This is a big search. You don't want to get wrapped up with the wrong company. This is a multimillion-dollar facility, Witte said.
Modesitt said not having been on the board and privy to all the details, she didn't have any specific thoughts. She believed, however that the board should "think outside the box" and talk to other entities that are out there.
Gamblin said we need to rely on our community.
"This board can't figure it all out...somebody might have a great idea that we don't even know. If they brought those to the board, I think that would help," she said.
Bunker said that the model we have right now does not work.
"The way we're operating it now, it doesn't work and it's not profitable. And I think all these ideas are great ideas and we can, I think, fix this overtime and have a facility in this community if the community is willing to pay for it," Bunker said.
Bunker said the biggest issue right now is that the Board has a compressed time frame.
"We've got six months to try to make a decision here that's going to affect a lot of people. It affects 160-some employees at Banner. It affects 25 residents and all their families and I promise you, when we make a decision it's not going to make everybody happy but we're going to do the best we can with the information that we get to make a decision that's the best for the community," Bunker said.
Also speaking at the forum were County Attorney Eric Jones (Republican), who is up for election, Wheatland Town Council candidate Bob Shoemaker, School Board Trustee District #1 candidates Lee Dunham and Dallas Mount, Resource Conservation District (Urban position) Darrel Vaughn and Senior Citizen Service District Trustees candidates Marlin Marshall and Ursula Huckfeldt.