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Sal Pace visits Walsenburg

by Bill Knowles
WALSENBURG- Third Congressional District hopeful Sal Pace (D-Pueblo) visited the Spanish Peaks Regional Health Center on Thursday, July 21. He met with hospital staff and toured the Colorado State Veteran’s Nursing Home where he visited with residents and talked with the health center’s CEO, Todd Oberheu.
Later, Pace went to Rosa’s Cantina where he met with a local environmental activist and with local press for a question and answer session that dealt with water, energy and regulatory issues.
Pace’s career in the state house began in 2008 with re-election in 2010 representing Pueblo’s State House District 46 where he is now the minority leader. He was the district coordinator for John Salazar in 2004 and then managed Salazar’s winning campaign against Scott Tipton in 2006. The state’s 3rd district covers all of the Western Slope and reaches east into Huerfano and Las Animas counties and up to Pueblo.
His tour of the health care facility in Huerfano County gave administrators a chance to show off one of the state’s premier rural hospital facilities as well as one of the top veteran’s nursing homes. Pace met and spoke with several of the nursing home’s residents, introducing himself and listening to what they had to say. He also had a chance to view the new expansion projects at the veteran’s nursing home, one of the few such projects at veteran’s facilities in the state.
Issues he discussed with hospital administrators included healthcare costs and the way billings to medicare and private insurance companies affect operating budgets on a month-to-month basis. So far in 2011 the nursing home is showing a monthly profit but the hospital generally shows a deficit. This is due mainly to differences in the way medicare and private insurance companies handle billings as well as to general economic conditions in Huerfano County.
Pace’s tour ended with a question and answer session in Walsenburg. Pace views the energy industry as an industry in need of greater transparency, especially where fracking is concerned. “The problem … in Colorado, is that the oversight board is mostly filled with industry insiders. We need to add more citizen voices.” He referenced a bill that was defeated in the past session that would have filled the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission with industry insiders as an example. The bill failed to pass the state senate.
Pace also acknowledged that water is a vital issue for Colorado and for most of the west. Forty trillion gallons of water were used in energy extraction operations in 2010. An interim report released in May 2011 by the Bureau of Reclamation showed a link between climate change and energy exploration to decreased flows along the Colorado River. Thirty million customers draw from the river and will be affected by decreased flows. Pace hopes to win Tipton’s 3rd congressional seat in November 2012. So far he has raised around $102,000 between April 1 and June 30 according to a report in the Pueblo Chieftain last week. The greater part of the donations — $83,247 — came from individual donors with the rest coming from labor unions such as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the United Steel Workers.
His tour of the 27 counties that make up the 3rd congressional district has been positive, Pace said. “We’ve received good reactions with lots of grassroots support.”