Editor’s column: News about PI community projects | PostIndependent.com

Editor’s column: News about PI community projects

Randy Essex
Randy Essex

The core mission of local journalism, in my view, is to constantly deepen our connection with the communities we serve, to identify the most important issues, to explore them — and then to help find solutions to challenges.

I think the Post Independent can fairly claim progress in this work, and I can promise more in the months ahead.

For example, we’ve done a lot of reporting in the last year on the growing housing crunch in Garfield and neighboring counties — work that continues Tuesday and Wednesday with stories from reporter John Stroud. On Tuesday, he will look at how the crunch came about and has worsened, and on Wednesday, at ideas emerging for solutions.

While housing has been tight and expensive in resort areas for many years, the situation has been worsened by a couple of factors.

Little new housing was built during the recession and so far in the aftermath. Coupled with normal obsolescence of housing stock and a rapid rebound of the high-end economy, home values and rents have shot up as demand for workers has increased, making the pinch especially painful.

This is particularly true for people starting their careers, many of whom are burdened with tens of thousands of dollars in student debt — which just wasn’t the case for past generations starting out.

It’s a problem for individuals, for employers and for our communities as we struggle to help the next generation of workers — who become the next generation of leaders — get a foothold. It’s costing taxpayers money as the Roaring Fork School District prepares to spend $15 million approved in November to secure staff housing.

It’s one thing to report on problems such as this and to editorialize about what should be done. We hope to take the next step and help identify and champion solutions.

HOUSING FORUMS

That’s why the Post Independent, Carbondale Creative District and Carbondale’s Third Street Center will hold a housing forum from 6:30-9 p.m. Feb. 3 at the Third Street Center.

The meeting is open to the public, and topics will include housing affordability versus attainability; alternative housing projects; what’s working elsewhere and what’s possible here; and potential next steps.

This conversation will be focused on the Glenwood to El Jebel area, and we plan a similar event in Rifle in March to talk about housing in the western side of the county.

ADVENTURES IN AGING

The February housing discussion is the first of two community events we have scheduled. On Saturday, March 5, the PI, Valley View Hospital, Visiting Angels, Garfield County Senior Programs and others will host Adventures in Aging at the Third Street Center.

We’ve stepped up our health coverage over the past year, adding columns from Dr. Greg Feinsinger, from a second area fitness trainer, from Judson Haims of Visiting Angels on aging issues and from Angelyn Frankenberg on Successful Aging.

Our March event, aimed at people 45 and up, will feature speakers (several of whom are contributing PI columnists) on nutrition, finance, brain health, difficult family conversations and more.

This also is open to the public, but space will be limited. To reserve a spot, reach out to Frankenberg, afrankenberg@postindependent.com or 970-384-9102.

PI AWARD

In addition to housing and health, we also have stepped up coverage of issues affecting our Latino neighbors, many of whom are first-generation U.S. residents and who, overall, make up a quarter to a third of Garfield County’s population.

We’ve written about special driver’s licenses for immigrants lacking documentation to be in the country, about mental health resources for people adjusting to a new country, have added passionate community volunteer Eloisa Duarte as a monthly columnist and have editorially said that we stand in support of immigrants and a broadened path to citizenship.

We’ve published these stories and opinion pieces in English and translated them to Spanish for our website in hopes of better serving our full audience and engaging our Latino neighbors in civic affairs, which can only make healthier communities.

We are honored to have been recognized for our efforts regarding immigrants and health by the Colorado Community Health Network with the Media Community Health Champion Award for 2016. CCHN represents 20 Community Health Centers that operate 186 community, migrant, homeless and school-based clinic sites throughout Colorado.

The organization said the PI is being honored for “its valuable reporting on health care issues in Colorado, especially as they affect low-income and medically underserved individuals and families. The PI has covered emerging issues for the medically underserved, been a champion of the indigent/immigrant communities and embraced the Roaring Fork Valley as a whole.”

COMMUNITY GRANTS

Finally, we want to encourage Garfield County nonprofits to consider applying for grants from the Bessie Minor Swift Foundation, which is affiliated with our parent company, Swift Communications.

The foundation makes annual awards of $500 to $3,000 for programs that promote literacy and programs in the arts, languages and sciences.

The foundation favors organizations that don’t have large fundraising budgets and are local in nature. We at the PI would be thrilled to have a recipient in our county. For information, visit http://www.bessieminorswift.org and/or email grants@bessieminorswift.org.

Randy Essex is editor of the Post Independent.


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