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Publisher’s column: Focusing on our why as we change

Recently, I penned a column about not panicking as the coronavirus pandemic unfolds. So, of course on the day the piece came out, I panicked.

Like many businesses making difficult decisions with declining revenues, I knew our time was coming. 

I spent the day in a haze. I went to bed that night with a single goal: For the day to end.

The next morning, I woke up inspired. Instead of focusing on the bottom line — the how and what of what we do, I focused on “our why” — why we do what we do and why it matters.

The reason for this focus: When this ends, we will be battered and bruised. The “how” we do things will be changed, but the “why” will not.

And what is the Post Independent’s why?

“We believe an informed and connected community is important. We inform and connect our community with innovative approaches to storytelling and marketing, with journalism ethics and marketing integrity as our core.”

Inform, innovate and connect.

These are our North Stars as we get through this, and our guide to be in a better position to deliver on “our why” when this is done.

It’s a strange time in that we have never been more read — our digital traffic has more than doubled and we still have high pick-up rates at our racks. But it’s also a time we need to make changes to deliver on our why now and into the future.

Below are changes going into effect this week and why.

Our people:

My mission is to preserve as many of our great team members as possible for as long as I can, which is why I will make the changes to our business model that allow us to fulfill our commitment to connecting our audiences with the information they want and need through this time of crisis. That said, the PI team will have pay cuts and reduced hours. 

How we do business will no doubt look different – as it will for every small business in our community and state. Which leads to …

Two fewer publication days:

We will be moving to publishing five days a week, Monday through Friday effective this week. The plan is to move Sunday inserts into Friday’s paper.

The why: Our Saturday and Sunday publications have long been our lowest performing publications in terms of connecting with our readers or business partners.

When you factor in there are no sports or events going on — major pieces in weekend coverage — it made sense to drop these days.

We also know our locals have a rhythm with the Monday through Friday papers, and didn’t want to disrupt that. In addition, our website will continue to be a 24-7 news resource as it is now.

When this ends, and tourism ramps back up and sports get going, we will look at how to provide that coverage through the lens of innovation, which may include a Saturday edition.

A new approach to opinion:

We will be revamping our opinion page, terminating all national and local columnists contracts, as well as removing the opinion comics from the page.

The why: As we looked at our North Stars, we asked do these pages inform, connect or innovate? Some might argue they inform, but in this day and age with such deep divides in partisan politics and growing but restrictive thought bubbles, we didn’t see how it connects us, especially the national columnists and political cartoons.

We often are accused of being liberal or conservative based on the opinion page, and for most us, the section is not part of our main mission.

Can an opinion page connect? We think so, if it’s used as a form of constructive dialogue. In the short-term, we will run letters to the editor that promote constructive dialogue and perhaps some columns. Or we may not run it on certain days and use that space for news. 

In the long-term, we will be looking at how we can innovate and make those pages more informative and connecting.

Our final pages:

We will be removing the comics and horoscopes. However, we will be keeping the weather and puzzles.

The why:  By eliminating this, we keep a person employed at the PI. The weather page remains as a public service. We eliminated the weather page a couple months ago as a test, expecting few people would notice. We were wrong. Our phones blew up. Many seniors rely on that page, and even heard stories about how they use it as a conversation piece. Ditto for the puzzles.

I understand that if there was ever a time we needed a laugh, it’s now. We’re using the opportunity to look at options and a chance for innovation.

Other publications:

Last week, after much debate, we printed the Locals’ Choice section as a way to celebrate local businesses. We plan to move forward with the Cycling Guide, as that is one of the few things people can do in this climate. We are reviewing next steps for our summer magazine, Escape to Garfield County, and our weekly publication the Rifle Citizen Telegram.

Final notes:

We don’t make any of these decisions lightly. But as we focus on our why, you will see more innovative ways for us to inform, innovate and connect.

For example, we’ve connected with the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association and Bank of Colorado to create a print and online presence to support our county’s restaurants.

We’re in the process of working with chambers from Aspen to Rifle to create an online e-commerce site for our local retailers.

And we will continue to look at approaches to news that meet our North Star. If you have questions or ideas as we move forward, please let me know.

And please support as many local businesses as possible. We’re in this together. And together, we got this.

Jerry Raehal is the publisher of the Post Independent. You can reach him at jraehal@postindependent.com.

Tuesday letters: stay-at-home opposition, clean energy, senior shopping

GOP state Sen. Bob Rankin risking lives

The COVID-19 crisis has impacted all as it has made its way through our state, our nation and our world. Organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization have recommended good hygiene and practices such as social distancing. The number of known coronavirus cases in the U.S. has grown to an unprecedented 115,000-plus and shows no signs of stopping there. This being the case, stricter measures were necessary. The best-known initiative in Colorado was Gov. Jared Polis’ mandatory stay-at-home order.

That order restricts everyone to stay home unless they need for necessary trips or they fall into the overworked and underpaid “essential worker” category.

However, in a climate where partisan politics always seems to make its way to the surface, there are dissenters to Polis’ stay-at-home order. Fourteen of the 16 Republicans in the state Senate, including Bob Rankin of District 8, signed a letter expressing their distaste for Polis’ mandate. The letter expressing disapproval of Polis’ statewide order cited “heavy-handed government power” and “disconnect between the impact at the city and rural levels.”

As a former two-term Eagle County commissioner, I feel a connection to the outbreak among the constituents I once served, with 182 cases more than either Vietnam, Cuba or Venezuela.

The 14 GOP senators who object to the stay-at-home order are putting our residents, doctors, nurses and the entire health care system in gave danger. During this unprecedented outbreak, it’s important that we consider everyone’s well-being when making decisions about how to keep us all healthy and safe — partisanship aside.

Arn Menconi

Carbondale

Candidate for State Senate District 8

Clean energy next

It is comforting to see that we have the infrastructure in place to move our planet’s inhabitants to act in unison, toward a common goal. 

Given good information and wise leadership we can even act to reduce our CO2 plague, as we have in the past few weeks, but with a thriving, vibrant economy installing and maintaining a clean energy infrastructure. Just a matter of time now.

John Hoffmann

Carbondale

How to improve senior shopping hour

I went to City Market Friday morning for Senior Hour. I was very concerned and stressed and thus make the following suggestions.

While CM has limited the number of shoppers in the store to 75, consider lowering that to 50 please. People are everywhere with 75 there.

If you are a couple or a family, please only one person do the shopping. It protects you and others to have fewer people out.

If you could be my great-grandchild or my grandchild, please do not come at this special time unless you are a caregiver. If you are a caregiver, you will be with someone and not be alone. 

The aisles are always about 6 feet wide. Please let shoppers and the store make them one way. This way we do not have to be closer than 6 feet. You cannot pass someone in an aisle and still have a 6 foot clearance. You just cannot.

Do not stand in the middle of an aisle and casually read your shopping list. You block others from going down that aisle and you are not shopping, you are reading. Please move to another spot.

Do not stand close behind someone in the checkout lane. The carts are not six feet long.

Just because grocery shopping is something we all have and do and will continue to do, please do not think that now it is done the way it was done in the past. It is not. Please be aware and conscious of others and careful. Too many shoppers in the store were simply on autopilot. I get it, but it is time to be awake.

Continue to lobby City Market to support its employees with masks and gloves for their safety and ours. I wish we had grocery store choices, but we do not. There is no excuse for the City Market/Kroger corporation not to protect both employees and customers with protective gear.

We can do this — please do this. In protecting yourself you protect me and all others.

Cheryl Cain

Glenwood Springs

Monday letters: Census, wait to shop locally, how did we get here?

The Census and COVID-19

Please fill out the census form online if you have not already done so (https://my2020census.gov). Assemble your information first. You need the names and birthdates of each person in your home. You have 15 minutes to fill out the form, so do it quickly without distractions. If you don’t make the time limit on your first try, do it again.

The US Census office keeps the information confidentially. The final count determines representation in Congress and some forms of federal spending in your community.

Doing the Census online now will help to save lives in your community as it means the US Census workers will not have to go door to door and expose themselves, and maybe someone else, to the virus.

Colorado is currently 13th in the U.S. for number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, but we are 21st in population. That means we have more cases per population than the other states ahead of us in total number of COVID-19 cases. We are not winning the race to wellness.

Let’s do better. Help keep your family and friends healthy and safe from unnecessary exposure.

1. Wash your hands frequently. 2. Do not touch your face. 3. Stay home except for absolutely necessary outings. 4. Stay 6 feet apart from anyone you encounter. 5. Wipe the hard surfaces in your house and car with disinfectant and 6. Fill out the census form on line, one person per household. Each step helps to save lives and keep your whole community healthy.

Illene Pevec

Carbondale

Wait to shop locally

It is great that the PI has a daily listing of restaurants with delivery or pick-up, but what about all the other local “nonessential” businesses that aren’t able to stay open as they sacrifice to help us flatten the curve?

I’d like to suggest that we all “Wait to Shop Locally” for those things that we really could wait to get. Don’t just jump online to buy clothing, furniture, jewelry, sports gear, or other things that can wait for a while. You’ll be able to get them locally soon enough. Those big online stores will be OK, but our local small businesses will need our help when they do reopen.

So ask yourself: Do I really need this thing right now, or can I wait a bit to support local businesses?

And perhaps the PI could add a banner or box with “Wait to Shop Locally” with the restaurant listing to remind us to support our other local businesses, even if that is in the future.

Bruce Wampler

Glenwood Springs

Who are we and how did we get here?

We should all reflect on who we are and how we got here. Consider that we have given away or relinquished our resources… often known as “outsourcing.” In other words, we are not self sufficient … even though the world is “interdependent.”

The Chinese and others around the globe, as manufacturers of electronics, medicine, steel, controllers of rare earths and other vital resources, are also consumers of American fast food, cars and other American products … often made in China. This underscores the fact that money on its own is nothing. The Chinese can laugh all the way to their Communist banks.

It should be a wake-up call to see who we are, and to see where we are, in the wake of the Corona pandemic. Kind of ironic in the year 2020.

The Chinese have not taken anything we have not given away for money, or by negligence. Remember: China might be a slave state, but they should not be our slaves, nor we theirs.

Fred Stewart

Grand Junction

Saturday letters: More info about virus cases, positive result of outbreak, and confused about ballot question

No reason not to inform us about location of coronavirus cases

To quote the county, “County health officials ask people to assume that the new coronavirus is spreading through the community, but the county will not release the town where persons have tested positive to protect the private health information of COVID-19 patients.”

How is refusing to disclose the towns that these cases are in protecting their identity? All the while we in Garfield County are simply left to “assume” it’s in our town? There is absolutely no reason not to inform us where these cases are located. Give us answers, Garfield County! Our community, our towns and our residents are worth more than your intimidating fear factor propaganda you present us with!

Karen Wagner,
Rifle

One positive result of working from home during COVID-19 outbreak

I have been a work-from-home person for most of my professional life. I am lucky enough to do so, since I write software for a living. And, there are many, many full-time professionals with jobs that are similar to mine. These professionals spend a majority of their time in front of their computer(s) being productive. At home… or at the office.

On occasion, I have to go on-site. Usually in Denver. I am amazed at the traffic and the associated carbon footprint that occurs there, and in all large cities across our nation. It literally breaks my heart every time I am on the road experiencing it live, or read about traffic issues while in my home office.

Now, orders are to stay home. And what a difference on the environment! The daily carbon footprint has been reduced by a huge percentage. I see and read news stories saying how much better air quality has become throughout our nation and beyond.

My hope is that even after the COVID-19 fallout, corporations and business will realize the following: Having work-from-home professionals still produces results and reduces the carbon footprint. Isn’t that something everyone wants? I know I do. I am aware that not everyone can work from home, but for those who can, consider trying to advocate to your superiors for a new work style that supports carbon reduction. And for the supervisors, think along the same lines and consider a new work style for employees that fit a work-from-home mold. This could be a win-win-win for you, your business, and the environment!

Dave Heyliger,
Glenwood Springs

Confused about ballot question

I am confused about the ballot issue that arrived in the mail this week. Myself and community members I have spoken with are concerned about the lack of transparency on this issue, yet we are being asked to make an informed decision about the sale of the Maintenance and Operations Center (MOC).

I know the MOC is crumbling, departments moved out, and now the city wants to sell the building and site. Taxpayer dollars paid for the bonds to build the MOC and are now paying for the relocation of city departments. Will the proceeds from the sale be used to build a new MOC with more oversight on construction? If so, where?

The MOC was built on an alluvial plane which takes special construction and engineering, which was not taken into consideration upon the first build. I have not heard about similar construction concerns for the neighboring RFTA building. This makes me question the MOC’s construction oversight on the original project and if there was any responsibility by the construction firm that was paid with taxpayer dollars and bond money.

Mayor Jonathan Godes said that RFTA offered to purchase the land and building for $1.5 million. I am not sure if this is a fair price or not, but more transparency would be appreciated considering the cost of a new building, the ballot mailing and the other taxpayer dollars that have been spent on the MOC over the past years. Please use the Post Independent in addition to the virtual meetings to keep the community informed.

Jim Phillips
Glenwood Springs

Toussaint column: Finding the Golden Egg

On March 19, I walked away from my neighbor’s house teary-eyed with a grade AA-jumbo lump in my throat.

I’ve never gotten that choked up over eggs before.

The neighbor who gave me those gorgeous, golden-brown organic eggs said just to “pay it forward.” Still, I left $1.85 in loose change — all I could scare up without leaving my house — in return for her precious gift.

My egg hunt came a month early because of the coronavirus.

I’ve been self-quarantined since March 8. Aspen, always a petri dish with its hordes of international visitors, had confirmed COVID-19 cases on March 7. I assumed it would arrive downvalley soon, and Garfield County reported its first case March 14.

I’m over 60, and I have two health conditions that make me likely fodder for the grim reaper. But staying home has proved trickier than I envisioned, mostly due to my primary relationship and the need to eat.

As Facebook sometimes proclaims, relationships can be “complicated.” My husband is 89. He can drive, and because he wants to remain useful, he goes to the post office, library and grocery store daily. He’s had two minor strokes, and his doctor encourages him to engage his “executive” brain functions, so I usually endorse those errands.

But not now.

After weighing the risk of contracting COVID-19, we both vowed to shop just once a week. Our good intentions lasted less than 24 hours. During his first foray to City Market, my husband found the store nearly denuded: no bananas, bread, berries or eggs. Because the supply truck was due “in a couple hours,” he checked back again, later the same day.

Somehow, we had quickly morphed from shopping once a week to multiple times daily.

Distressed, I wrote an online “what-should-I-do” post. My lament netted 98 comments in less than a day. I had struck a nerve.

Soon, elders and those with underlying health issues began pestering Carbondale’s City Market to offer a senior shopping hour, akin to those offered by Whole Foods. Various folks got various, inconsistent answers. Repeated inquiries netted sympathetic clucking, confusion and no action.

Meanwhile, I still had no eggs.

Along with Ashley Weitzel, another volunteer from a new Facebook group called “Carbondale CO Mutual Aid,” I began exploring City Market’s online ordering and pickup services. Those options aren’t offered in Carbondale; the closest would be El Jebel.

Ashley tried an outside app called Instacart to order and pick up groceries from the El Jebel City Market and found that it’s not so “insta.” It requires 3-4 days’ lead time.

Online, I griped, “Outside a narrow downtown loop, Carbondale has no in-town bus. We can’t order online but must drive 12 miles round-trip to El Jebel. IF a local senior happens to be tech savvy, IF they can figure out online ordering, IF they can afford a $4.95 ordering fee and IF they can drive to El Jebel, this online ordering and delivery might work.” Given my advantages (being articulate, online, able to walk, having a car and a bit of cash) I could probably manage it. But many seniors can’t.

After a maddening 12-hour day of dead ends, mixed messages and frustration, I decided to contact City Market/Kroger management in Denver. Although my phone messages and emails went unanswered, my online carping did yield eggs. (Not once, but twice: I was given a dozen brown and a dozen white from different neighbors.)

Wholly unbidden, eight friends and strangers also offered to go shopping on my behalf.

Then, in a roundabout way, my quest led to something that will assuredly never happen again: my “scooping” the editor of this newspaper.

A former colleague of mine, a retired writer and publicist, sent me the tough-to-find contact information for Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s nationwide CEO. “Go right to the top,” she advised. I did, and within an hour and a half, I got both phone call and a news release announcing senior shopping hours at City Markets — not only here, but throughout Colorado.

To my astonishment, I learned that my editor at the Post Independent hadn’t gotten the news release, so I happily forwarded it.

It’s hard to say whether I felt more jubilant about sourcing the paper’s lead story, about the appreciative notes I got from seniors all up and down the valley, or about those beautiful eggs.

Among the things I most treasure in this valley is its sense of community. We persevere. We rally. We lend a hand, whether that means digging a stranger’s car out of a snow bank, sheltering a friend during a wildfire, or gifting eggs to a neighbor.

Seems like the Easter Bunny found me early, despite my quarantine.

Nicolette Toussaint lives in Carbondale. Her column appears monthly in the Post Independent and at postindependent.com.

Friday letters: Stop evictions, airliners, listen to experts, shut down travel, and cure worse than disease

Letter to judge: Take further steps to protect those facing eviction

Dear Editor,
The COVID-19 pandemic is causing widespread disruption in our community and threatens our economic, physical, and mental health. Many organizations are stepping up to support our community. However, there is much fear and uncertainty and the last thing families need to be concerned about is the possibility of eviction or foreclosure.

We at Mountain Voices Project (MVP) applaud officials like Attorney General Phil Weiser, who over the weekend, called for a statewide pause on eviction proceedings, stating, “In this emergency, evicting any Coloradan from their home would exacerbate the public health and economic crisis we are fighting together,” and put the decision in the hands of the State’s District Judges.

We would like to thank Judge James Berkley Boyd, Chief Justice of the 9th Judicial District, for his recent order suspending all hearings but those “concerning public safety.” However, we wish to urge Judge Boyd to join the courts of Denver, Mesa, Weld, and Boulder Counties to explicitly declare a moratorium on all eviction proceedings during this emergency.

This clarification will serve to calm our community.

This effort to maintain our community fabric requires forbearance and sustained goodwill from all involved. As such, MVP urges all landlords to commit to not evict tenants and all lenders to suspend foreclosure proceedings during this pandemic.

MVP is a broad-based organization comprising 28 regional institutions including faith-based, educational, and social-impact organizations. When MVP speaks, it speaks with a voice that represents over 15,000 people. We are building relationships among diverse communities, from Parachute to Aspen, for the common good.

With compassion for those who need it most right now.

Mountain Voices Project,
Institutional Leaders
Rob Stein,
Roaring Fork School District Superintendent
Father Bert,
St. Stephen Catholic Church
Rabbi Emily Segal,
Aspen Jewish Congregation
Bertha Lopez,
Madres en Acción
Richard Gonzales,
Colorado Mountain College
Ross Brooks,
Mountain Family Health Centers
Lara Beaulieu,
English In Action
Lori Mueller,
Youth Zone
Pastor Jeff Carlson,
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Jamie Nims,
Two Rivers Community School
Michael Hayes,
Discover Compass
Pastor Charla Belinski,
Snowmass Chapel
Episcopal Partnership of Garfield County
Lindsay Lofaro,
Buddy Program
Kyle Crawley,
Stepping Stones
Elaine Grossman,
Valley Settlement
Cindy Kahn,
MANAUS
Pastor Daniel Self,
The Orchard
Audrey Hazelton,
Glenwood Springs Elementary School
Paul Freeman,
Glenwood Springs High School
Cecilia Rios,
La Esperanza de Emily
Reverend Laurie Bushbaum,
Two Rivers Unitarian Universalists
Gail Schwartz,
Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork Valley
Niki Delson,
Carbondale Age-Friendly Community Initiative

Nowhere to hide on airliners

As the media reports Coronavirus transmission, devastation, deaths, closures, lack of supplies, impact, and the use of common sense; the confusion continues surrounding exposure guidelines. Was the virus driven here by car, bus or moped? Ships? Yes. They’ve been quarantined. However, the most likely culprit transports mass quantities of people by air. Imagine pretending to social distance on an airliner while breathing everyone else’s recycled breath in an enclosed tube. What familiar phrase just popped into your head?

Deborah Evans,
Carbondale

Listen to medical experts and scientists

The top priority of the current administration in Washington is money — the economy. Do they care that brave women and men who are caring for COVID-19 patients need many more masks, gowns, etc.? No. Do they care that our fellow citizens who are fighting to stay alive need respirators? No.

We need to listen to medical experts and scientists who are telling the truth and genuinely trying to help us get through this terrible time.

Wash your hands! Stay well!

Nancy Hess,
Glenwood Springs

Shut down travel between states, counties

All measures taken so far in Colorado including the new “stay at home” order are necessary, but I believe to make this really work, and I think it can, states and counties need to self contain. So yes, this would involve shutting down air and automobile traffic between states and counties to preserve the situation of each place and not to export or import the virus.

This is what didn’t happen in Europe. They didn’t close the borders until it was too late. One can see the states in the U.S. as similar to the countries in Europe because of size, population, etc.

Self containment in addition to self distancing. Maybe an idea to propose to Gov. Jared Polis.

Veronica Whitney,
Carbondale

The ‘cure is worse than the disease’ coronavirus debate

Yes, there is a point at which the cure could be worse than the disease in that a collapsing economy could cause the health care industry as well as other industries to collapse. This collapse would lead to many more deaths, and not just those from the coronavirus as there would no longer be care for cancer, heart attacks, vehicular accidents, lack of medicines, malnourishment, etc. But are we anywhere close to that point yet?

It’s all too easy for elected federal and state officials to say that they would be willing to die to save their (grand)children’s future when these same officials are the ones most likely to receive one of the scarce hospital beds, even scarcer ventilators, and intensive care due to their (justifiable) importance in keeping our government functioning. They are therefore more likely to survive a bout with the coronavirus. It’s easier to make these “dying” claims when you aren’t actually staring mortality in the face.

And yes, I too am concerned about what kind of world I’m leaving my descendants.

So what level of near-term deaths and stress on the health care system are we willing to accept to preserve our economic future? And how much would this increase in deaths itself stress the economy, defeating the very purpose of relaxing the restrictions?

I would argue to let the facts and data guide us in making this decision, not unsubstantiated claims that the suicide rate will go up if we let the economy slowdown continue — claims made by the same officials who said we didn’t need to worry about the coronavirus. Until we did.

Politics (by both parties) got us into our present state, but only science and data will get us out!

Jerome Dayton,
Carbondale

Merriott column: What kind of world are we leaving for Keith Richards

I read last Thursday that Mitch McConnell and his Senate cohorts had proposed an emergency $1 trillion stimulus package to deal with the impending melt down on Wall Street without any Democratic Party input. I remarked to Carly, “Now I wonder how that’s going to work for Mitch”

Well, now its Tuesday night and, surprise, it isn’t done. Oh yeah, it is now doubled to $2 trillion and still growing. Coincidentally, it is probably about as much as the Trump tax bill put into the hands of corporate taxpayers over the last couple years.

Well, I for one know how the Dems must feel to not be consulted because no one seems to consult us independents in Colorado to see what we think about issues either. This is despite the fact we now make up almost 40% of Colorado voters and are the fastest growing bloc of voters. This especially among young people.

Some would say it took balls for Mitch to do something like he did. I would instead chalk it up to arrogance and stupidity. Hopefully, yours are a dying breed, Mitch. That’s because without strong, honest and inclusive leadership, and really soon, the world as we know it will probably no longer exist.

Never mind climate change, the world’s largest economy is at a real risk of another Great Depression. The debt at the last bailout in 2008 was at $10.8 trillion, and with the latest tax cut it has now ballooned to $23.5 trillion (yes, that’s more than double). This bailout will add at least another $2 trillion.

We are in uncharted waters here folks, and I for one don’t think you can just keep printing money without deleterious effects. At some point, somebody is going to have to pay this tab.

Let’s look at a couple examples here. With the last “$700 billion bailout” in 2008 and the recent $1.5 trillion tax cuts, I think corporate America has pulled a real fast one on we the taxpayers.

One way is by doing stock buy backs. It is important for all of us to understand the basic effects of this. Here is an example of how that works — stay with me.

A company has $10 billion of stock outstanding and gets a $1 billion tax cut, but instead of investing it in assets to grow its business into the future or giving its employees well-deserved pay raises and benefits, it buys back its own stock. What does this do? It drives up the per-share value of the stock (as there are fewer shares outstanding), and it likely triggers top executive bonuses which are typically tied to the price per share (going up).

These executives get tens (if not hundreds) of millions in bonuses (cash and stock), and voila, the tax cuts have not made it to people who really need them.

A real example of this: The big four airlines just spent $42.5 billion in buying back their own stock between 2014-19. How much are they asking out of this $2 trillion stimulus? — $50 billion. Coincidence?

This is why the Democrats want restrictions on the $500 billion set aside for corporate America in the $2 trillion stimulus. The hogs are at the trough and snorting for favors. Corporate America should not be rewarded for mismanagement and self-enrichment.

There are multiple stories like the one above, and then there is the one out of Billings, Montana, where the lobbying arm of the U.S. coal industry is asking for hundreds of millions of dollars in royalty relief, tax cuts that are earmarked at covering beneficiary payments for black lung disease, and of course a break in having to decrease the amount of mine reclamation fees due to the financial crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

What the heck? These benefits could be worth $800 million a year to an industry that should have been phased out and its employees retrained at least 10 years ago. Natural gas and renewable energy are cheaper and much cleaner.

Other random notes:

• Average CEO compensation rose 940% between 1978 and 2018 compared with a 12% rise in the average American worker pay.

• The 2008 bailout of AIG (deemed too big to fail) resulted in $185 million in bonuses to AIG executives.

God help us if something like this happens again. What the hell kind of world are we leaving for Keith Richards anyhow?!

By the way, kudos to the Garfield County commissioners for authorizing a $100,000 emergency food assistance grant to LIFT-UP to help ensure no one goes hungry during this pandemic and economic disaster.

Frosty Merriott is a CPA in Carbondale and served on Town Council for 10 years. He is a registered Independent, considers himself a fiscal conservative and an original tree hugger from Louisiana. He prefers to shoot his grizzlies up close and personal with his Nikon camera and not participate in blood sport.

Thursday letters: Trail courtesy, and big government

Announce before passing

With the increased use of walking/biking trails around us, I would ask those of you who are not walking to please alert us to your presence when passing us. I was almost run over by a young girl on a bicycle who came up on me while I was contemplating crossing the trail. Fortunately I didn’t and was suddenly passed by her. Those of us of a certain age frequently have reduced hearing and could use the heads up that you are about to pass us. A simple, “on your left” really helps.

While the outcome of this interaction was benign, it could have been serious with a resulting call to our stressed emergency services.
Parents, please inform your children of this simple courtesy.

Jerome Dayton,
Carbondale

Government controls our lives

I have lived in this area for over 83 years and have seen many changes. My father grew up farming with horses. Not too long before that my ancestors came to this area, filed a claim, built a log cabin and settled down in “the land of the free and home of the brave.”

I grew up in the agricultural profession. If you needed a barn, you just built one. If you needed an orchard, you planted one. Nowadays you can’t do anything without applying to the authorities and submitting a plan. Then there are hearings, reviews, inspections, licensing, public notices, fees and revisions. After about two years you can begin construction with periodic inspection resulting in revisions. Then when you are finally done, there is property tax which is a lease paid to the government.

If you really believe you are the owner, just stop paying the property tax. The authorities will seize it and sell it to someone else. If you ever want to change anything, you are back to the application, hearings, permits, inspection and fees.

I built a mobile home park and now the government has decided to impose its idea of rules and impose a fee per house.

Consider this virus thing. The government can shut your business down, limit your travel, limit your gatherings and all sorts of personal controls. They may give you some compensation, but ultimately, you will have to repay it. It’s called increased taxes.

By the way, they can also change the value of your money. I remember when gasoline was $0.23 a gallon and diesel was $0.11 a gallon delivered to the ranch.

We started the 4th of July Freedom Celebration and fireworks back in 1976. I’m thinking now it should be a memorial service.

Ross L Talbott
New Castle

Around the Corner: Parenting during a pandemic

Social distancing is hard for adults, but I can’t imagine what it would be like as a teenager.

When I was that age if I wasn’t working or going to school I would probably be hanging out with my friends. 

If we ever had a break from school we would find something to do, whether it was going for a drive, working on our cars, going to the movies, hunting, fishing, or even hanging at one another’s houses just to pass the time.

Neither my generation, nor my parent’s generation, ever experienced the effects like we are now with the outbreak of COVID-19 taking hold of the world.

With state and county regulations we are supposed to minimize our trips to the store, and with movie theaters closed, and restaurants on take-out and delivery only, most of us lack any interaction with the outside world.

I get it, teenagers are different nowadays, they like to spend countless hours cooped up in their room, playing on their smart gadgets or watching Netflix.

I’m sure I’m not the only parent trying to get their teenager to emerge from the stagnant confines of their bedroom for a little fresh air and some family time.

This is the second week of no school, which would typically be spring break. Children should be playing in the streets, filling the parks, playgrounds and skate parks around the county.

Instead they are all on soft lockdown, helping minimize the spread of coronavirus.

To help do my part I canceled a trip back to Idaho I had planned months ago. My brothers and I were going to help my mom clean up around the farmhouse to get the place ready for summer. After days of deliberation we decided as a family to be safe and postpone the spring-cleaning for another time.

With my normal Saturday workday, writing and editing photos, when Sunday came around I needed some sunshine and crisp Colorado spring air to clear my mind.

It took some prodding and a little coaxing, but come Sunday afternoon the family was out walking and enjoying the mild temperatures.

Practicing the proper 6-foot distancing we strolled around the neighborhood taking in the greening grass and flowers pushing through the soil in front yards.

It was a time we could unplug and forget a little of what is going on in the world. We did cross paths with a few neighbors, and everyone seemed happy just to get a little social interaction even if it was from a distance.

After returning home we helped out a local business by ordering a little take-out and sat down for a family meal before the teenager headed back to her room to hide from her parents who are clearly too embarrassing to hang out with.

kmills@postindependent.com

Stein column: Taking care of students, staff and one another through crisis

Amidst this public health crisis, there are many opportunities to celebrate and give thanks. I want to acknowledge the many individual and collective efforts in our community to support one another during this unprecedented situation. Community members have reached out to see how they can support meal delivery for our students or help in any way they can. Countless staff members have worked overtime to come up with creative solutions to the new challenges presenting every day.

The most obvious challenge facing schools across the country is how to transform schooling from an in-person to an online model. This jump is much easier for higher education, where professors and students are set up for and familiar with digital teaching and learning. For PreK-12 schools, the shift is more of a leap.

Many schools around the country jumped quickly to online lessons for their students as soon as schools closed their doors due to the coronavirus outbreak. But we have learned from school districts that quickly attempted extensive remote learning activities that the lack of preparation can lead to lackluster implementation.

As we transition to remote learning, we will prioritize personal connection over academic rigor for the first couple of weeks of the closure. We are focusing on the big picture: our students are in school for 13 years, and right now, amidst change and crisis, the greatest need is to build a solid foundation for staying connected for the remainder of the school year.

Therefore, our primary concern right now is that students stay connected to their teachers and to one another. For the first two weeks after spring break, we will provide recommended learning activities to keep students engaged and connected. Teachers and crew leaders from each school will reach out to every student for an individual check-in starting on April 1. Family liaisons, counselors, and administrators will also conduct wellness checks for all families to assess their needs and make every effort to address their concerns; we have already begun contacting our most vulnerable families to make sure that their immediate needs are met.

Beginning on March 30, the Roaring Fork Schools will provide nutritious, free meals to all children for the duration of the school closure. Grab-and-go sack meals containing breakfast and lunch will be distributed in multiple locations throughout the Roaring Fork community.

According to Gov. Polis, it is unlikely that in-person schooling will resume before the end of the school year. Therefore, we are planning now to be able to deliver high-quality remote learning from April 20 through the remainder of the crisis. Teachers will be working over the two weeks after spring break to develop online lesson plans and, for younger students, printed materials that can be sent home via food delivery routes. We are highly concerned about providing adequate support for emerging bilingual students, students with special needs, and students at risk; we will need to work creatively to continue to engage these students in the event of prolonged closures.

Unlike younger students, high school seniors are facing the pressing deadline of graduation. We will be reviewing all seniors’ records to determine specific supports to enable them to graduate on time. This may entail flexibility in giving students opportunities to demonstrate mastery of course content without completing all of the assignments. We are guided by the principle that we will not penalize students for circumstances which are out of their control.

One barrier faced by children across the country is the digital divide. Fortunately, all Roaring Fork students in grades 3-12 have been issued Chromebooks. We have been working for years to partner with internet providers to offer affordable or free wireless access in low income communities. There are still some homes without access, and we are working with our municipal and corporate partners in an effort to narrow the divide to zero. We are grateful to see internet providers stepping up during this crisis to provide free internet to those who need it.

The economic slowdown caused by the crisis has workers everywhere concerned about their wages. All salaried staff of the Roaring Fork School District will be paid their normal salaries and all hourly staff will be paid for their normally scheduled hours throughout the entire closure period, whether or not there is a requirement to report to work as normal. Those who are part-time or do not have a set schedule will receive pay based on their average hours worked over the past six months. We haven’t solved every challenge yet, but we are working creatively and collaboratively to support our students, staff, and families through this crisis.

Many families in our community are struggling right now, and there are needs that go beyond what we can provide as a school district. We are grateful for the partnership of community members and organizations that are working to provide health, housing, and nutrition assistance for our families.

Everyone has a part in this — whether it’s staying home or serving on the front lines in an essential role — and we are getting through this together. I pray that we will look back on this crisis as a time when our entire community worked together to weather these uncertain times.

Rob Stein is superintendent of Roaring Fork Schools.