Your reaction to ‘The Price of Paradise’ series
Editor’s note: The Post Independent last week published a five-part series and a 21-minute documentary, both called “The Price of Paradise” about the difficulty faced particularly by middle-income workers to make ends meet in the valley. Here is a sampling of reaction.
Series captured spirit of valley
I would like to commend the Glenwood Springs Post Independent for its five-part “Price of Paradise” series and accompanying documentary. From the chamber of commerce standpoint, I have been compiling an environmental scan for Glenwood Springs and found this information particularly valuable.
But it is more than that — it is quality journalism of a caliber you would expect to find from a much larger newspaper. The documentary is extremely informative and Jim Hawkins’ haunting music makes it poignant as well. You would expect any newspaper to publish facts, figures and interviews, but what the GPI has done is to create a multimedia presentation that is a work of art.
For many years I have realized that our valley attracts special people who have to want to live here although the costs of living in paradise are high. In the past few years I have observed that we have created a community where everything is done extremely well and where our institutions and attractions are renowned nationwide. I could never put my finger on how this happened.
But now I get it. The Glenwood Post Independent team is an example of the extremely talented and caring people who choose this valley as their home. They are hard-working people who care and who are drawn to a place where you are urged to contribute to the culture of excellence in the community.
Well done, GPI. You captured the spirit of our valley and dealt with a challenging and sensitive subject in an original and engaging way. You went above and beyond. I am so proud that you are our local newspaper.
President, Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association
Teachers don’t need housing help
After reading the valley-housing series first article, a number of issues should be addressed. There may not be a lack of affordable housing for teachers nearly as much as there is a lack of public understanding of basic economics.
The couple in the article, working for Roaring Fork RE-1 would actually be earning $42,100-plus each this year (plus benefits) with their master’s degrees/two years teaching experience while teaching an approximate 175-day school year.
That puts the cost of their housing at 21.4 percent of their salary. The school district ought to be delighted at that split. Rule of thumb is that a household should try to budget no more than 35 percent of salary for housing.
Furthermore, regarding student loans, up to $5,000 each can be forgiven for folks teaching in approved schools through the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program. (All loans can be forgiven for some social work positions). If teaching math or science in an approved secondary school, up to another $12,500 in student loans can be forgiven.
There are 365 days a year; teachers work approximately 175 days. That leaves about 190 days for a teacher to perhaps form a group with other teachers so that they could communally build houses with/for each other (as was done by a group of teachers in the ‘90’s during summers and breaks).
Two beginning teachers this year would earn combined income of $71,382 plus benefits. A $1,500/month rental unit would comprise 25 percent of their salary, and they still have nearly 190 days to start a side business that could help them to save up for a down payment on a piece of property, or a starter condo.
Taxpayers do not need to provide teacher-housing at the levels of salaries currently being paid.
She doesn’t feel alone now
Firstly I want to say thank you for the recent set of articles about the hardships in the community financially. They have made me feel very much not alone. My fiancé was taken from me three years ago, leaving me a single mother with four children and no job. I was, at the time, working toward my master’s in health sciences.
I thought surely with a master’s degree and 14 years of military service with a background in medicine I would be able to find a job. But now, I find myself driving from Parachute where my children and I cram into a tiny apartment that we can barely afford to my job as a patient care tech in Carbondale. An hour and a half to drive to work every day. I leave for work before my children wake up and by the time I’m done with my two jobs and get home they are already in bed.
Luckily, my daughter is old enough to look out for the other three and to help cook dinner. I have no family to fall back on, and once bills are paid and gas for the long drive is covered, it leaves less than $200 a month for groceries for a family of five and any extras that may come up. But I make too much for assistance.
Birthdays and Christmas are the hardest time. Surrounded by the wealthy while my children go without so much as a slice of birthday cake is so hard to see. I always felt alone. Now I know we aren’t the only ones in the area not quite making it. I have thought several times of giving up and leaving for a place where I may make enough to make ends meet. But not being able to save so much as $5 from a paycheck makes moving impossible. So once again, thank you for making me feel not so alone. I feel for those in a situation like mine. The real question is: Will things ever get better for the educated, working-class single moms like me?
Series identified simple fact of life
You and others have identified a normal problem, from Manhattan Island to Manhattan Beach, this USA is filled with “paradises,” with the Roaring Fork Valley in the middle. The maids, the servers, the police and nurses can’t afford to live in hundreds of paradises scattered across this country. It is a fact of life, it has always been a fact of life.
Even in former communist countries who have as their mantra equality of the people, the elite live in enclaves that are unattainable to the masses. To suppose that there is a solution to the problem is akin to supposing that the denizens of “paradise” are in a satisfied state of mind. Adam and Eve occupied the last real “paradise” known to man and they weren’t satisfied with the rules and were evicted.
Statistics showing satisfaction in the Roaring Fork Paradise might belie its desirability. If one notices failed marriages, drug abuse, suicide, infidelity and whining as reported in the valley papers, maybe the servers are better served raising their families down the valley.
Please do more like this
Your series, “The Price of Paradise,” is the best investigative reporting that I have seen in the Post Independent over the last two-plus years that I have resided in the valley. The writing is very sharp, as is the sensitivity to the residents who are willing to candidly share their experiences and personal stories. I hope that the Post Independent will continue to explore these kinds of critical issues that impact so many lives in the valley.
A few Facebook comments
• Seems unfair to finally talk about the high cost of living but you use teachers who are not from here as an example. What about long-term locals like me who have lived in the Roaring Fork Valley for 40 years and finally moved to Montrose because it was either live in Battlement or Rifle and spend hundreds of hours on the road and hundreds of dollars in gas or move to Glenwood and spend all of my check on rent — and that is after giving up my pets and the whole time dealing with property managers that want thousands to move in. The valley is a joke, the only people who can afford to live there are people from another place with a lot of money. — Bebe Byrd
• Part of the problem of affordability is the cost of labor — you can’t get carpenters, electricians, plumbers and drywallers to build houses at $200,000 — they also need to get paid enough to live here too. If you want “the communities to build apartments at $100K and houses at $200K” who will you tax to make that happen — the teachers who moved here 10 years ago and scrimped and saved to get a toehold, the plumbers and electricians, the secretaries? The money has to come from somewhere, and in many cases, the homes that do get built for $200K are not the homes that folks want. It has always been difficult in this valley, because it is a desirable place to live. — David Merritt
• I grew up in the Roaring Fork Valley. I graduated from Basalt High School. After reading your first three articles and watching the video one wonders how anyone can live and work in the valley without a very high-paying job. Resort areas all over the U.S. face the same problem-affordable housing. If it weren’t for all of the “worker bees,” resorts could not function. Communities in resort areas need to come up with viable housing plans in order to keep and retain young professionals and service workers. Hopefully the communities of the Roaring Fork Valley will continue to work toward solutions to help solve the housing problems so they can retain a quality workforce. — Patty Jerman
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Cattle grazing is not to blame for this summer’s poor air quality