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County Commissioner Candidates Interview

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Questions to the candidates: 
1. For the readers, can you explain what duties a County Commissioner has and what their main purpose is in local government?

2. If you were to be elected, what are your three (3) biggest priorities for Pueblo County next year?

3. In terms of economic development Pueblo only seems to have two approaches, PEDCO which focuses solely on attracting large businesses here and the Small Business Administration which helps small businesses when they start out. But Pueblo doesn’t focus on entrepreneurship and venture capitalism — two areas needed for sustained local growth. Why doesn’t have more and what can be done to generate an entrepreneurship culture in the county.

4. In the primary debates earlier this year, there was a lot of talk about the Southern Delivery System, as a commissioner, how would you approach the future of SDS with regards to protecting Pueblo water, the Fountain Creek and Colorado Springs?

5. One of the controversies two former county commissioners faced was the lack of time spent as commissioner as reported by KOAA. How many hours will you work as county commissioner and how will you spend your time?

6. Pueblo, for better or worse, has become a place where companies can find a workforce to work for cheap but there doesn’t seem to be a diversification of that workforce — As County Commissioner what would you do to help diversify the Pueblo job market?

ANSWERS: Centa

1. County Commissioners are the primary policy making body of county government.  They differ from city councils in that they are also responsible for the administrative duties of government.  One of their primary duties is the creation and approval of an annual budget.  Commissioners also approve the budgets for all other county elected officials’ departments.  They exercise only those powers specifically outlined in statute or in the state constitution.  This includes law enforcement, supporting the courts through the DA and the jail through the sheriff.  Also, among other programs, it includes social services, health services, roads and bridges, county parks and land use.

2. 1) Bring leadership into the commissioner offices to ensure a smooth transition of county government. Three new commissioners start this January; I bring 40 years of experience in administration and economic development and a thorough understanding of government operations.  2) Ensuring that budgeted programs and county spending is appropriate and prioritizing the elimination of wasteful spending. 3) Evaluating county departments and programs to ensure they are promoting an environment where business can thrive and new companies desire to locate.

3. It is not correct that Pueblo has only two economic development approaches nor that PEDCO only focuses on large businesses.  Solar Roast is a prime example of how an existing small company was significantly helped by PEDCO when they decided to expand their distribution operation.  Also, PEDCO’s Business and Technology Center (BTC) functions as a small business incubator and is nearly at capacity.  Located within the BTC is the Southern Colorado Small Business Development Center, which works hand in glove with PEDCO to encourage entrepreneurship.  While the entrepreneurship culture is doing fairly well in Pueblo what is missing is a local venture capital group.  This is one area I will strive to develop and I bring experience in with my role as commissioner.

4. Colorado Springs Utilities is contractually bound to comply with the conditions of Pueblo County’s 1041 permit.  Those conditions are not about protecting Pueblo’s water, but about detaining storm water generated in Colorado Springs thus protecting Fountain Creek.  However, one of my priorities is to ensure all Pueblo’s water ways are unpolluted by enforcing 1041 permits and land use standards.  I will continue to be involved in the Fountain Creek Commission for the protection of the entire Fountain Creek basin.

5. I have a very strong work ethic developed at an early age while working on the family dairy farm.  In all my years of public service, I cannot recall calling in sick even one time.  For the past decade I have routinely worked 50+ hour weeks.  The last time I played golf was over a year ago.  My time as an elected official will be divided between administrative responsibilities and interaction with constituents.  Also, I own no business that would compete for my time, and I will remain focused on Pueblo County.

6. The Pueblo workforce has struggled to have a high number of individuals qualified for the higher technology sector jobs.  Advanced opportunities for these individuals are limited due to their inability to compete in the broader workplace.  Clearly, it is important to continue and enhance workplace training.  I strongly believe working families should have the opportunity to pursue advanced education.   As a County Commissioner I will push for enhanced programs through the Pueblo Workforce Center and the Pueblo Community College.  Additionally, we must continue to promote the value of the Pueblo workforce to prospective employers.

 

Answers: Hart

1. A County Commissioner basically acts as an elected director on a board of directors (the Board of County Commissioners) that is charged by statute with governing and managing the affairs of the County government. The County Commission exercises all 3 branches of government: Executive: it is changed with the administration and management of the all of the central aspects of the County Government; Legislative: it has the power to adopt policies, rules and regulations; and Judicial: it judges facts and applies the policies, rules and regulations it has adopted, as well as statutory requirements, when it performs such functions as conducting land use hearings or liquor licensing hearings. The primary charge of a County Commission is to provide for the financial needs of the County Government first by setting and adopting the budget for the County, all of its offices and departments; then by levying the taxes and fees required for the revenue side of the budget; and finally by authorizing the expenditures under that budget. The Commission pays for all of the personnel of the County’s offices and departments and provides for the management of the departmental personnel. And it is charged with such critical services and activities of our community such as economic development, development of lands outside of the City boundaries, maintenance of the road and bridge systems in the unincorporated areas of the County, and management of the social and human services needs of our community, to name just a few. The County Commission represents all of the citizens in our community whether they live within or outside of the cities, towns, and metropolitan districts.

 

2. Open Government: I believe that the citizens deserve a completely open, transparent, and ethical government. This allows the citizens to always know what their government is doing for them and, if they chose, to fully participate in the major decision that their government makes. If elected I will do all I can to make the county government transparent and open to citizen participation by posting all meetings scheduled, allow easy access to the agendas and any documents being considered. I will also do all I can do to encourage citizen participation in the development of critical issues.

 

Economic Development: Our community continues to suffer under the weight of 11% unemployment. One of the most critical challenges for any elected official in our community these days is to do all we can to bring as many high quality jobs to our County as we possibly can. I have had experience working on numerous economic development projects in my 32 years working for the County and I will use all of my knowledge and abilities to ramp up that process. In addition, I believe that our economic development systems need to be evolved and enhanced by not only fighting to land new businesses who primary jobs as we current do, but also to talk to and find out what our current businesses, whether large, medium or small, need from their government to survive, expand and thrive and provide for those needs to the greatest extent possible. We need a community-wide economic development plan that complements what we currently provide within the City through PEDCO and also provide those economic services throughout the rest of the County, including in Pueblo West, Colorado City, Rye, St. Charles Mesa, Boone and Avondale. I also believe that our agricultural economy is critical to our economic success as a community and therefore we need to work closely with our farmers and ranchers to determine their needs and provide for them to the best of our ability. And finally, I believe Pueblo is blessed to be centrally located within Southeastern Colorado and has begun to develop as the economic hub for the region. If elected I would work with our sister counties and communities in our region to enhance and expand our role as that hub.

 

Protect Our Resources and Promote Our Quality of Life: Our water, our clean air, our undisturbed lands, these are the greatest resources we have inherited. I believe that no community wishing to thrive can do so without also preserving and protecting these natural resources. This not only enhances the quality of life of our citizens, it is also a bedrock critical element of our economic development efforts. I have a strong record in this area and I will apply all of my experience, energy and skills to continue. I will also work to redirect more County resources to our parks, our trails, our arts, and help enhance our shopping, restaurant and entertainment opportunities. This not only improves our lives, it also is what attracts others to our community.

 

3. As I answered to the previous question, I feel that our current economic development model needs to be expanded and enhanced. Our current model has worked well for our community but in order to remain competitive in this fast moving world market that we are in today, we must evolve our economic development efforts to meet those needs of today and the future. For our local economy to be healthy it must grow and be sustainable. I would like to tap into the knowledge base of our business owners, our workforce, and our citizens to determine what we need to do to preserve and protect our current business interests as well as what we need to do generate an entrepreneurship culture, as you have indicated, to expand and grow our local economy. I believe that we need to ask the folks who work in this area daily, the business owners, the work force, and the citizens; develop a community-wide plan; and then use the combined resources of the community, both public and private, and to implement that plan.

 

4. I believe that the SDS 1041 permit needs to be called back to the table and Colorado Springs needs to prove to this community that it can meet all of the precedent conditions of that permit. That would include proof that Colorado Springs has the will and has provided adequate financing for the control of their storm water runoff requirements. I would also review the record of Colorado Springs Utilities in their dealings with our landowners who are affected by the SDS project to make sure CSU meets all of the requirements of the 1041 permit in fair dealing with our citizens. If they cannot meet these conditions then the permit needs to be revoked and then only reestablished once those conditions are proven to be met. This will protect, clean up, and improve the water and waterways of the Fountain Creek watershed and promote the ideals I have helped to work toward on the Citizens Advisory Group of the Fountain Creek Watershed, Flood Control, and Greenway District. Pueblo County issued that permit to Colorado Springs for its SDS project and they need to be held accountable to all the protection requirements contained in that permit.

 

5. A County Commissioner is elected to serve the citizens 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I have always felt that the best way to successfully serve the citizens of this community is to to roll up my sleeves and do whatever work is needed and devote whatever time is required. I believe that effort takes more time than the standard 40 hour work week. My current work schedule is rarely less than 40 hours per week and I believe our citizens deserve no less. I believe that there is plenty of work to do and a full time schedule plus is what is required of an active elected county official and, if elected, that is what I will provide. I have always prided myself in giving the extra effort, going the extra mile, and that is the work ethic I would bring to this job as well.

 

6. As I discussed above, I believe our economic development model needs to be expanded, enhanced and evolved in order for us to be successful in this increasingly competitive world market. We need to develop as a community a communitywide economic development plan. Our plan should identify the types of businesses we feel are best suited for and desired for our community, from manufacturing to services. Our efforts to attract the businesses and jobs consistent with that plan should include efforts to attract the full strata of jobs, from traditional blue collar to white collar jobs, technical and professional jobs, from minimum wage to high quality high paying jobs. We have all engaged in discussions about how sad it is to see our children become educated only to watch them have to leave town to obtain quality jobs. I would like to stop that and work to attract the quality businesses and jobs that would allow our children to stay in Pueblo and raise their families here without sacrificing their careers. I would like to help set up a plan to educate the workforce to meet the needs of our current businesses. We need to develop, expand, and implement to the extent necessary the tools required for our economic development plan including tax incentive packages, enterprise zone amenities, and business and labor friendly government attitude and services. Then work we need to work cooperatively between the County, PEDCO, the City, and our metropolitan districts to land that broad spectrum of jobs. And, as a County Commissioner I don’t believe you can set back and wait for the businesses to come to us. As a County Commissioner I would get up, get out and work with PEDCO and our sister governments, businesses and civic and social organizations, and aggressively work with prospective businesses to win them over for our community. We need to develop a community wide economic development plan that identifies our strongpoints and assets and the types of business we would like to attract. But then we need to be flexible enough to recognize, work with and land businesses that might want to come here.  We also need to work with our existing business, big and small, to identify their needs to preserve, protect, and explore opportunities to grow and expand.

 

Answers: McFadyen

1.  Duties of a County Commissioner

The Pueblo County Commissioners are an extension of  Colorado State Government. Most of the  duties and responsibilities of Pueblo County Commissioners are set in Colorado State Statues and the Colorado State Constitution.  The Pueblo County Commissioner Duties include but are not limited to:

Setting, balancing and administering the annual  Pueblo County budget.

State Human Services through Pueblo County Social Services.

An extension of the State Legal System through the Court System and the District Attorney’s Office.

Law enforcement services including the Pueblo County Jail.

Planning and Zoning in unincorporated areas of Pueblo County.

Building and maintaining Pueblo County roads and bridges.

 

2.  Priorities

Work collaboratively to create investment in the local economy. Assist entrepreneurs and businesses to adjust to the changing business climate. Increase local confidence in the marketplace and stimulate livable wage jobs.

Transparency. Commissioner meetings broadcast live on the internet. Meetings to be recorded/archived and available on the County website with a goal to have meetings broadcast on tv like Pueblo City Council.

Thoroughly examine the Pueblo County budget with an immediate need to responsibly balance the budget. Long term goal is to reduce Pueblo County’s debt and increase Pueblo County’s financial health.

Utilize the power of Pueblo County to assist individuals or businesses navigating barriers to success. Work to help resolve issues involving the government (Local/State/Federal) or other hurdles impeding problem solving. The Commission should be an open door to advocate on behalf of the People.

Veteran and Veteran Family Services.

Water and Agriculture.

 

3.  Economic Development

Pueblo County needs to work to stabilize and better our local economy.

Eliminate tax incentives when a business’ success is based solely on tax incentives.  Once the tax incentives expire, the business leaves. Instead, evaluate the business model for success beyond the length of the tax incentives. Ensure jobs are livable wage jobs.

Invest and prioritize businesses already in business today so they can be here tomorrow.

If a company receives tax incentives, the same company needs to be held accountable for the requirements of the tax incentives.

The Pueblo County Commission should work with the State to maintain Enterprise Zones in Pueblo County.  In turn we should hold companies accountable for the requirements of the tax incentives to eliminate fraud and waste.

Work with entrepreneurs to secure capital and execute a successful business model.  In addition, help entrepreneurs acquire affordable health insurance.

Better our infrastructure by reinvesting in roads, schools, arts, and higher education. Doing so will allow Pueblo County to capitalize on an increased quality of life attracting and then maintaining businesses locally.

 

4.    SDS, Pueblo Water, Fountain Creek, and Colorado Springs.

The City of Colorado Springs/Colorado Springs Utilities has over a $500 million worth of backlogged capital projects on its own system.  Pueblo County issued the 1041 permit for the SDS (Southern Delivery System) to Colorado Springs on several conditions.  One of the conditions was additional investment in stormwater improvements.  Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach announced earlier this year that Colorado Springs would move $7 million into stormwater improvements.  This amounts to approximately 1.4% of the backlogged projects.  This certainly doesn’t represent a true commitment to improving stormwater issues.  It is time we genuinely expect action by Colorado Springs Utilities to correct stormwater and water quality issues.  We must hold Colorado Springs/Colorado Springs Utilities accountable and responsible.  The only way to force Colorado Springs into action may be for the Pueblo County Commissioners  to reopen the 1041 permit process.

 

5.  Full Time Job

I will work full-time plus as a Pueblo County Commissioner.

The People of Pueblo County Can Expect:

Quality service delivery for the People of Pueblo County.

Open door policy taking input from the People and Pueblo County Employees on Pueblo County performance and suggestions for cost savings.

Utilizing  the power of Pueblo County to assist individuals or businesses navigating barriers to success. Work to help resolve issues involving the government (Local/State/Federal) or other hurdles impeding problem solving. The Commission should be an open door to advocate on behalf of the People.

Smooth transition and continuity of service regardless of elections.

Owning the responsibility for budget decisions.

The ability to thoroughly and thoughtfully explain decisions and votes made as a Pueblo County Commissioner.

Work for the WHOLE County.  Work for all of the People regardless of party registration.

 

6.  Diversify the Workforce

The key to a diversified workforce is investing and maintaining quality K-12 education systems and post high school education systems including higher education and quality job training programs.  Higher education and quality job training programs need to be affordable and accessible. Our goals should focus on a completive and highly educated/trained workforce for our children and grandchildren.  As a Pueblo County Commissioner, I will work with our schools, its elected officials and organizations invested in the success of our youth and young adults to reach our goals.

As a Commissioner, I am dedicated to educating our Colorado State elected officials on the value of continued investment in Southern Colorado higher education colleges, universities and job training programs.  After all, we pay Colorado taxes and should expect our fair share returned to Southern Colorado.  Additionally, I commit to being a voice to our US Senators and Congressmen working to ensure accessibility of Pell grants ,student loans and other funding mechanisms for those seeking higher education and job training.

Our community will attract and maintain quality jobs and a diversified workforce if we set goals to better our overall infrastructure. When we invest in schools, roads, arts, and higher education combined we increase our quality of life. This will happen with dedicated strategic planning and implementation.

 

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Middle schoolers have a plan to stop rock art tagging in Western Colorado

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Courtesy gjhikes.com

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) — Arron Buehler’s day in a western Colorado canyon might not have had the Hollywood panache of Ferris Bueller’s day off, but something about seeing Buehler’s name scrawled on the sandstone escarpment gave Chris Joyner pause.

Joyner, spokesman for the Grand Junction Office of the Bureau of Land Management, looked at Buehler’s name — and those of many others emblazoned on rock in a canyon south of Grand Junction — and said that, paradoxically, there might be a reason for hope.

It was just last year that Buehler posted his name, next to Elizabeth, who left her mark in 2017.

Few of the names appeared to be more than a year or two old, and, “That tells me there’s opportunity here,” Joyner said.

The more recent the markings, the more likely the vandals are to be found, and the more likely it is that other methods might discourage younger people from following Arron Buehler’s lead, Joyner said.

Joyner and BLM archaeologist Alissa Leavitt-Reynolds are working in Grand Junction to deal with vandalism on federal lands, whether it be by graffiti artists such as Charley Humpy (who helpfully added, “Remember me” next to his name and yes, the BLM is doing all it can to achieve total recall), drug users ditching evidence in the desert, mayhem by “marksmen” and plain old dumping.

As much as Arron Buehler and a multitude of companions — Brian, Charley, Dizz, Dominique, Kay, Megan, Elizabeth, Jon, Sam and Tosha all seem to be begging for court dates (and Tosha, did you know your name covered an ancient petroglyph?) — Joyner said prosecution ought not be the only response to a growing trend of vandalism and worse on western Colorado’s rocky outcrops and arid landscapes.

Citations for vandalism aren’t tracked by the Colorado U.S. Attorney’s Office, which prosecutes offenses on federal land, so no precise numbers are available.

An Army veteran, Joyner is using his post 9/11 GI Bill funds at Johns-Hopkins University to study ways to divert people from what he terms “dysfunctional visitor behavior.”

“Dysfunctional visitor behavior” has a more authoritative ring than “vandalism” and “littering” and Joyner said he hopes that a scholarly approach can help agencies fend off some of the destructive activity on federal lands before it takes place.

Some of his research suggests that “informed participation in nearby historic and cultural sites” can influence the way many residents perceive those sites, Joyner said.

The students in Ginger DeCavitch’s social studies classes at Mount Garfield Middle School experienced “informed participation” last summer.

DeCavitch took her students into Bangs Canyon to see the mica mine and found the defaced escarpment “as we were stepping over broken beer bottles and charcoal” from fires.

Vandals had used charcoal to scratch names and slogans on the rock, DeCavitch said.

“They call it tagging” and few participants see any issue with defacing the rock, taking selfies and posting them on social media, DeCavitch said.

She contacted the BLM soon afterward to see if her class could help clean up the mess they found.

“They all wanted to go back,” enough that some students hauled 40-pound containers of water down an occasionally difficult trail to help clean the site, DeCavitch said.

Her middle school students sat silent as members of the Southern Ute tribe described how they perceived the canyon and the ancient markings, many of which had been defaced, DeCavitch said.

Far from being discouraged, her students were enthused about tackling the enormity of the defacement, DeCavitch said.

“We have a plan that we’ll be back,” she said.

Introducing young people properly to wild lands is one way to discourage future vandals and dysfunctional visitors.

It’s one “foot-in-the-door” tactic that Joyner hopes land managers take up.

Visitors also can be endowed with a sense of ownership by agreeing with a simple proposition — the idea that one ought not litter on public lands, for instance — and then be brought along to agree with how to visit them appropriately, Joyner said.

It’s part of a human tendency to want to be consistent, he said. People who agree not to litter tend to want to build on that as opposed to act in contradictory fashion, he said.

Even providing a small gift or trinket can engender a sense of responsibility among potential vandals, Joyner said.

Other techniques include the “broken-window” approach — the idea that replacing broken glass as soon as it’s found and thus denying miscreants their moment of victory — isn’t as easy as it might be in other environments, Joyner said.

DeCavitch’s class, for instance, learned that while cleaning up a mess might eliminate an eyesore, it also could erase history.

Her eager middle-schoolers couldn’t go forward with the cleanup until members of the Southern Ute Tribe, headquartered in Duchesne, Utah, approved the plan, DeCavitch said.

While Joyner’s studies have suggested that males 16 to 25 who live within 60 miles of Grand Junction are the likely offenders, one look at the escarpment suggests that young women are more active participants than crime statistics might suggest, Joyner said.

One study suggests that younger people prefer non-coercive approaches, but Joyner said that doesn’t mean the BLM is losing interest in prosecuting vandals and others.

Far from it.

BLM officials routinely contact school officials and consult high school yearbooks to match the names they come across with people who could be prosecuted.

Some miscreants make it easier, posting selfies of themselves with their works. Some even lower the level of difficulty by including hashtags.

The criminal exposure can reach felony levels because of the difficulty and expense of dealing with cleaning up or restoring the markings that date back hundreds of years.

If the malefactors are found, Joyner said, “We don’t write warning tickets.”

___

Information from: The Daily Sentinel, http://www.gjsentinel.com

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The #WhatNow of #MeToo for the #COLeg

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AP Photo/David Zalubowski

When several lawmakers, lobbyists and staff at the state Legislature came forward this fall to allege they were victims of sexual harassment by lawmakers, two big questions followed: how often does this happen? What can be done to prevent more cases?

Reporters have asked state officials the first question repeatedly, returning to readers with little response from the state. The latter prompted a conversation from leadership, but as for what’s next—how the allegations, formal complaints, and legislature’s response—will impact politics under the gold dome and whether women will feel any safer is to be determined.

So far, top state lawmakers have decided to hire a human resources officer—who would be independent from the legislature—to be a contact person when incidents involving sexual harassment are brought forward. Now, leadership is tasked with handling and investigating such claims.

The group also decided to hire an independent consultant to review the legislature’s sexual harassment policy, and lawmakers, staff, and aides will undergo another round of sexual harassment training this year. Typically, those working at the Legislature are only required to go through training every two years.

Those changes are a good start, said Erin Hottenstein, executive director of Colorado 50/50, an organization that aims to get more women in public office. But the legislature stopped short of changing any current policies. And Colorado 50/50 called for an entire overhaul.

“I’m very pleased that there was a recognition that the policy needs to be improved,” Hottenstein said.

But there weren’t any specific recommendations regarding transparency, which Hottenstein said is significant in looking at what happens next.

Lawmakers and staff said they couldn’t disclose how many sexual harassment claims that leadership in each chamber have received because they were personnel issues.

“I think there’s a way to be transparent and safe,” Hottenstein said. “There should be a high- level summary document that shows on a certain date a sexual harassment complaint was made and who it was against and a date of a deposition and what the result was.”

Hottenstein said transparency becomes crucial in these cases because it leads to accountability and the public’s right to know what actions the people elected to office are taking.

In October, Pueblo Rep. Daneya Esgar broke her silence posting on Facebook that she was no stranger to sexual harassment and experienced it just a week earlier with a colleague she works with regularly as a lawmaker. The post was part of the #MeToo movement after a New York Times expose highlighted the stories of several women who said they’d been sexually harassed or assaulted by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

Then, a flood of other allegations were brought to the surface in Colorado politics. Rep. Faith Winter said fellow House member Steve Lebsock had harassed her at a legislative party in 2016. Winter and a lobbyist say they filed formal complaints against Lebsock.

An intern said Sen. Randy Baumgardner harassed her with sexually suggestive comments. The same went for Sen. Jack Tate of Centennial, who was accused of telling an intern that if she wanted to get ahead in her career, he could help.

Rep. Paul Rosenthal, who is openly gay, allegedly groped a man and used his seat to try and get a date with another.

But the case between Lebsock and Winter gained the most attention, even prompting Lebsock to take a polygraph test, which the administrator says he passed, to prove his innocence. Lebsock has hinted that the entire incident may be a case of dirty politics, alleging that Winter is the one lying.

When several lawmakers were asked if the case would mean a splintered Democratic party in the House, they were unsure, but optimistic about the session.

Still, there haven’t been any resignations over the allegations, though several, including leadership and editorial boards from across the state, said these legislators should step down from their seat. Some even called for House Speaker Crisanta Duran to step down from her position because she promoted Lebsock to a chairmanship despite knowing there was an incident between him and Winter.

The transparency piece has yet to be addressed by state lawmakers, and it’s unclear whether any policy or legislative changes will address that in the coming months. But for what it’s worth, the women who have broken their silence about sexual harassment in the Legislature are supportive of the changes leadership has discussed.

“I’m encouraged to see the direction leadership is taking when it comes to developing new and independent methods of dealing with complaints of sexual harassment at the Capitol,” said Esgar, who still hasn’t named the colleague she said grabbed her thigh at a legislative event earlier this year. “I’m hopeful that new ideas are still being formulated and considered, when it comes to ways to change the culture itself.”

The lawmaker added that a new session will certainly mean new ideas will come to light, “it’s our responsibility to lead the state in changing cultures to help make work environments safe and productive for all employees on every level.”

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20 cities primed on the Amazon wishlist to be its next HQ

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NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon’s second home could be in an already tech-heavy city, such as Boston, New York or Austin, Texas. Or it could be in the Midwest, say, Indianapolis or Columbus, Ohio. Or the company could go outside the U.S. altogether and set up shop in Toronto.

Those six locations, as well as 14 others, made it onto Amazon’s not-so-short shortlist Thursday of places under consideration for the online retailing giant’s second headquarters.

The 20 picks, narrowed down from 238 proposals, are concentrated mostly in the East and the Midwest and include several of the biggest metro areas in the country, such as Chicago, Washington and Los Angeles, the only West Coast city on the list.

The Seattle-based company set off fierce competition last fall when it announced that it was looking for a second home, promising 50,000 jobs and construction spending of more than $5 billion. Many cities drew up elaborate presentations that included rich financial incentives.

The list of finalists highlights a key challenge facing the U.S. economy: Jobs and economic growth are increasingly concentrated in a few large metro areas, mostly on the East and West Coasts and a few places in between, such as Texas.

Nearly all the cities on Amazon’s list already have growing economies, low unemployment and highly educated populations.

“Amazon has picked a bunch of winners,” said Richard Florida, an economic development expert and professor at the University of Toronto who helped develop that city’s bid. “It really reflects winner-take-all urbanism.”

Among those that didn’t make the cut were Detroit, a disappointment for those excited about progress since the city came out of bankruptcy, and Memphis, Tennessee, where the mayor said the city gave it its “best shot.” San Diego also failed to advance.

“Getting from 238 to 20 was very tough,” said Holly Sullivan, who oversees Amazon’s public policy. “All the proposals showed tremendous enthusiasm and creativity.”

Amazon said it will make a final selection sometime this year.

Besides Austin, another Texas city made the cut: Dallas. In the South, Miami and Atlanta are being considered.

Officials in cities that made the shortlist took the opportunity to further tout their locations, with Philadelphia’s mayor noting “all that Philadelphia has to offer” and officials in and around Pittsburgh citing the region’s “world-class talent pool” and other advantages.

Other contenders among the 20 include Denver; Montgomery County, Maryland; Nashville, Tennessee; Newark, New Jersey; Northern Virginia; and Raleigh, North Carolina.

“It’s a long list for a shortlist,” said Jed Kolko, chief economist at job site Indeed.

He said Amazon may use the list to pit the locations against each other and get better tax breaks or other incentives. Two metro areas, New York and Washington, have more than one location on the list, increasing the competition there, he said.

“It’s hard to say whether all these places are in play or Amazon wanted to encourage continued competition,” Kolko said.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether locations would be able to change their proposals or offer better incentives, but said in a statement that it will “work with each of the candidate locations to dive deeper into their proposals.”

State and local governments played up the amenities they think make their locations the best choice. Some pulled off stunts to stand out, such as New York, which lit the Empire State Building in Amazon orange.

Some gimmicks didn’t work: Tucson, Arizona, which sent a 21-foot cactus to Seattle, did not make the list. Neither did Birmingham, Alabama, which installed giant replicas of Amazon’s Dash buttons.

The company had stipulated that it wanted to be near a metropolitan area with more than 1 million people, and nearly all of those on the shortlist have a metro population of at least double that.

Amazon also wanted to be able to attract top technical talent; be within 45 minutes of an international airport; have direct access to mass transit; and be able to expand the headquarters to as much as 8 million square feet in the next decade.

But Amazon also made it very clear it wanted tax breaks, grants and any other incentives.

Boston’s offer includes $75 million for affordable housing for Amazon employees and others. Before leaving office Tuesday, Gov. Chris Christie approved a measure to allow New Jersey to offer up to $5 billion to Amazon. Newark is also proposing $2 billion in tax breaks.

But many of the state and local governments competing for the headquarters have refused to disclose the financial incentives they offered. Of the 20 finalists, 13, including New York, Chicago and Miami, declined requests from The Associated Press to release their applications. Toronto’s mayor said Thursday that the city offered no financial incentives to woo Amazon.

Several said they don’t want their competitors to know what they’re offering, a stance that open-government advocates criticized.

Amazon plans to remain in its sprawling Seattle headquarters, and the second home base will be “a full equal” to it, founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has said.

The extra space will give the rapidly growing company room to spread out. It had nearly 542,000 employees at the end of September, a 77 percent jump from the year before. Some of that growth came from Amazon’s nearly $14 billion acquisition last year of the Whole Foods grocery chain and its 89,000 employees.

____

Associated Press writers Josh Cornfield in Philadelphia, Matt O’Brien in Providence, Rhode Island, and Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report. Rugaber contributed from Washington.

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