Colorado Editorial Roundup
The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, Oct. 22, on national park status for Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Colorado National Monument:
Mesa County Commissioner Scott McInnis was a member of Congress who sponsored legislation to give Black Canyon of the Gunnison national park status 20 years ago.
“I was just doing my job,” McInnis told the Sentinel’s Dan West for a story commemorating the canyon’s 20th anniversary as a national park, “but I’m real proud of it.”
As he should be. In the 20 years the park has existed, it has seen its visitation rise 50% from 200,000 to more than 300,000 last year. With that increased visitation, the park’s superintendent anticipates improvements in infrastructure such as additional parking, a shuttle bus service and more trails for visitors to use.
More visitors are a boost to the regional hospitality industry, too. Studies show that monuments which become national parks don’t necessarily see a huge bump in the number of visitors. But they do see a change in the types of visitors, with more people coming from outside the immediate area, staying longer in the area and spending more money.
It’s fanciful, perhaps, to think how Grand Junction’s hospitality industry would be impacted if Colorado National Monument ever became a national park. The political will behind Black Canyon’s ascent to a national park has been difficult to engender here.
But any increase in visitors to the Monument would be beneficial. The latest National Park Service estimate is that 375,000 annual visitors at Colorado National Monument in the 2018 calendar year resulted in $28.9 million in economic output in local communities.
Black Canyon’s superintendent, Bruce Noble, says park status turned the canyon into a “must-see” destination. As long-time advocates for upgrading CNM to a national park, we think the same thing would happen here if Colorado National Monument became Rim Rock National Park (or some other less confusing name).
Aside from an economic boost, national park status is the only way to ensure that the Monument remains a community asset in perpetuity. Park status requires an act of the United States Congress. Creation of a national monument requires only an executive order of the president. Currently, Colorado National Monument could be altered by a stroke of the president’s pen. We’ve seen that happen in neighboring Utah.
As we’ve pointed out on numerous occasions, the governing statutes for a national monument and a national park are identical. There are no stricter air quality standards or other rules. Furthermore, language could be drafted that would specifically prohibit stricter air rules and protect the rights of Glade Park residents who use roads through the Monument.
Clearly this a heavy lift or it would have happened by now. But national park designation for Black Canyon provides ample evidence that it’s doable and beneficial. We just have kept the dream alive until the right set of circumstances aligns with overwhelming community support.
Consider this our periodic pitch to keep the idea top of mind.
The Durango Herald, Oct. 22, on pocketbook voting and prospects for President Donald Trump’s re-election:
Here is some terrific news: The U.S. economy could hum along quite nicely between now and Nov. 3, 2020, at least from the perspective of anyone who owns stocks, has a 401K, is a PERA beneficiary, owns property or works for wages.
That is the possibility Moody’s Analytics, the economic research firm, took into account when it recently released a series of predictions for the 2020 elections.
Moody’s used three models to determine “whether the incumbent presidential candidate will win the popular vote in each state and the District of Columbia, and thus the necessary electoral college votes to win the election.”
“Under the pocketbook model,” CNN’s Chris Cillizza writes, “which places heavy emphasis on gas prices, housing prices and real personal income, Trump is predicted to win with 351 electoral votes. Using the stock market model ... Trump wins far more narrowly, with 289 electoral votes. The unemployment model, which mixes real personal income with state-by-state unemployment rates, projects a Trump victory with 332 electoral votes.
“Average the three ... and you get ... Trump with 332 electoral votes, and the Democratic nominee with 206 electoral votes. That result, if it came to pass, would be a marked improvement from Trump’s showing in 2016 when he won with 305 electoral votes.”
Democrats could be hoisted by their own petard.
In 1992, running the governor of Arkansas to try to deny President George H.W. Bush a second term, James Carville, a Bill Clinton strategist, told campaign workers to remember several key messages.
Carville wanted to keep it simple. Unseating Bush was daunting, as it is to unhorse any incumbent president. The last time it had happened, it had befallen a Democrat, 12 years before: Jimmy Carter.
Carville told them to keep in mind three things: Change versus more of the same. Don’t forget health care. And, “The economy, stupid.” It was the last one that stuck.
There is no reason why it could not work again; it ought to work better for an incumbent, if his campaign can make the argument that any Democrat will reverse a tax cut and not stop there, raising taxes on the middle class and eliminating millions of jobs in the health care and energy sectors.
But what about economic inequality? What about the lack of affordable access to health care? What about Medicare for All, the Green New Deal and global warming? What about taxing wealth and breaking up the big corporations that are riding this prosperity? What about getting rid of Trump?
It is possible none of that will matter to many voters next Nov. 3 if they perceive the alternatives to Trump will make them poorer.
We sometimes say that people who express their economic interests as they perceive them are “pocketbook voters,” as though they are a rare species, when it is the idealists and crusaders who are rarer; they are just louder.
Can any of the Democratic candidates pivot to a message of maintaining prosperity, without abandoning the plans they are now announcing and without accepting some inequality? It would take fancy stepping.
In 1835, Alexis de Tocqueville observed of America, “I know of no country ... where the love of money has taken stronger hold on the affections of men and where the profounder contempt is expressed for the theory of the permanent equality of property.”
Writing of conditions in America a century later, John Steinbeck said, “Except for the field organizers of strikes, who were pretty tough monkeys and devoted, most of the so-called Communists I met were middle-class, middle-aged people playing a game of dreams. ... I guess the trouble was that we didn’t have any self-admitted proletarians. Everyone was a temporarily embarrassed capitalist.”
Eighty years on and facing 2020, one has to ask what if anything has changed.
The Pueblo Chieftain, Oct. 20, on improving oversight of county finances:
Last week, Pueblo County Commission Chairman Garrison Ortiz and his former commission colleague, Sal Pace, got into a war of words that was at least a year or two overdue. In response to Pace’s public opposition to a ballot initiative to fund a new jail, Ortiz accused Pace of “misappropriating” county funds during his time on the commission.
That led to a spirited back-and-forth exchange between the two, documented by our reporter Anthony Mestas, about who knew what when on some funding decisions. Since a recently released audit raised a number of questions about how county dollars have been spent, it was a discussion that makes for more than good political theater.
County officials need to address the record keeping and procedural deficiencies identified in that audit. Ortiz says that’s already happening, but we may not be able to gauge how effective any reforms have been until the next audit is released.
One of the most basic steps county officials can take is ensuring there are what auditors describe as adequate “segregation of duties” in all situations in which money is being collected, stored or spent. That’s basically a fancy way of saying there should be a system of checks and balances to guard against misappropriation or embezzlement of funds.
For example, the clerk who’s collecting fees from citizens shouldn’t be the same person who’s recording those transactions and depositing the money in the bank, at least not without one or more other people double checking that work.
This concept applies at the macro level as well. No one county commissioner should be able to order a county employee — be it the county manager, a department director or anyone else — to spend money for any purpose other than what the majority of commissioners have agreed to do in a public meeting. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this would include a scenario where, for example, one commissioner might want to redirect money approved for youth sports fields to instead support construction of a minor league baseball stadium.
Speaking of youth sports fields brings us to the mess the audit identified at the Runyon Sports Complex. And no matter how the complex’s longtime supporters might try to spin it, there was a mess.
How else would someone characterize a situation in which the complex’s board of directors was unaware, apparently for years, of two separate accounts in which money was collected and spent on expenses that were directly or indirectly linked to complex activities?
Not long after the audit findings were revealed, David Dudley announced plans to step down from his position as the complex’s general manager. That move probably is best for everyone involved.
County officials have been delegating management responsibilities at Runyon to a nonprofit board, but it’s clear they need to have more direct oversight over what’s happening there. The complex is a public facility and it needs to be treated as such by the public officials entrusted to its care.
Some of the allegations that came to light last week during Ortiz and Pace’s verbal skirmish might have been confusing to citizens who have been kept in the dark about the inner workings of their county government. But there’s no time like the present to increase transparency and accountability with regard to how those taxpayer funds are being spent.