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Index takes Colorado’s measure

Donna Daniels
Staff Writer

It’s like an encyclopedia for what’s happened in Colorado in the last 10 years.

“Colorado Index: Understanding and Tracking Quality of Life,” was recently published by the Colorado Center for Healthy Communities, headquartered in Carbondale.

The center is the coordinating and policy arm of a statewide coalition of 15 healthy community initiatives. Healthy Mountain Communities is the local initiative for the Roaring Fork Valley.

Healthy Mountain Communities director Colin Laird directed the project resulting in the Colorado Index report.

In 2000, a workshop on growth management sponsored by the center listed the indicators that define quality of life: open space, natural resources, the workforce, economic development, affordable housing, sprawl, transportation, telecommunications and community health.

“The Center hopes a statewide index can be used to track and, more importantly, analyze various critical indicators of the state’s quality of life,” the report said.

The new report draws on previous research to analyze over 30 indicators of quality of life, and where Colorado ranks in each.

One study, “Gold and Green 2000,” by the Institute for Southern Studies, ranked Colorado fifth in the economy based on 20 “Gold” indicators, including such factors as annual pay, job opportunities, business start-ups, unemployment rates and workplace injury rates.

That study also analyzed “Green” environmental indicators such as toxic emissions, pesticide use, energy consumption and urban sprawl, to evaluate the connection between strong environmental standards and a healthy economy.

Colorado ranked fifth or higher for all of the economic and environmental indicators.

“The general conclusion was that states with the best environmental records also offer the best job opportunities and climate for long-term economic development,” the report said.

But the state’s performance was not all rosy.

Other studies ranked Colorado among the bottom five states in low birth weight babies, per capita water usage, the ratio of loans to deposits, and per capita state funding of art agencies.

“Although Colorado has the largest percentage of residents with college degrees of any state, Colorado ranks in the lower half of states for the percent of students that graduate high school,” according to Education Week’s “Quality Counts 2000” report.

Colorado also received C’s and D’s for public school funding, the quality and availability of educational resources, teacher quality, and school climate that fosters learning.

The study, “2001 Most Dangerous States,” by Morgan Quitno Press found that the state ranked in the middle of the scale for the percentage of the population covered by health insurance and even lower for child immunization rates.

It also scored relatively low in the numbers of community revitalization programs, open space programs and growth management, according to “Solving Sprawl: the Sierra Club Rates the States, 1999.”

The study also looked at land development patterns. It found that developed land increased 34 percent in Colorado between 1985 and 1997.

“This is somewhat faster than the population growth of 27.1 percent over the same period, indicating that new development used an increasing amount of land per person, which some observers might describe as `sprawl,'” the report said.

The report concluded with a quotation from the late philosopher Bertrand Russell, illustrating the quality of life sought in the Colorado index.

“Change is inevitable; progress is problematic … We will have change, whether we like it or not. But we will have progress only if we develop strategies that channel investment capital and entrepreneurial energies and scientific genius in directions compatible with our dearly held values,” Russell said.

The Colorado Index is available on line at http://www.coloradocenter.org.


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