PI editorial: Always search for consensus
As Colorado continues to grow, the Western Slope faces a unique challenge in continuing to be heard by our elected officials.
While our communities are also growing, the fact is we’re being outpaced by the population boom along the Front Range.
A great example is the 2020 vote to officially reintroduce wolves to Colorado. Just 12 of 64 Colorado counties voted for reintroduction, but the initiative’s strength in our population core meant the measure passed. While we’re not implying land is as important or more important than people, we don’t think it’s unreasonable to be frustrated that a measure was passed largely by voters who are far removed from the front-line impacts of the initiative.
A more pressing concern, however, is our statewide — and nationwide — approach to energy development. Garfield County commissioners currently anticipate a 25-30% revenue reduction over the coming year, in large part from the increased state and federal regulatory environments.
Our Garfield County commissioners have made their frustrations about this pretty clear — and we can understand where they’re coming from. Unfortunately, it is far from a unique problem in 2021 — all of our local governments face declining tax revenues, with money from energy workers that would have been spent drying up.
But the reality is we have to figure out how to govern together, not govern against each other. We’re doubtful Colorado’s electoral map will change anytime soon in a way that lifts up the political weight of the Western Slope. That means we — residents, elected officials, all of us — need to figure out a path forward that doesn’t hinge on political power alone.
Until our commissioners find a way to get along in the sandbox with our governor and legislature, it’s unlikely we’ll see substantive change or concessions.
Yet the same goes for Gov. Jared Polis, our legislature and our congressional representation as well. It might be politically expedient and beneficial to prioritize the needs and concerns of our population core, but that does long-term harm to broader statewide consensus.
And we need consensus perhaps now more than ever. After all, statewide consensus is key to making best use of our regional resources to the benefit of everyone. While Denver might be the heart of the state, the Western Slope’s water resources and tourism industry are nothing to sneeze at.
We don’t have to reach very far back into history to find a good example of consensus-driven politics. Sen. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., did just that when he was at his best as our governor.
Take for example, Hickenlooper’s work with Democrats and Republicans in the Colorado Legislature to ensure the longevity of the state’s employee retirement system. Finding consensus means solutions like this aren’t viewed as something to be changed depending on the partisan whims of whoever’s in power.
Locally, we know this is not an easy ask. But we’re confident that our county commissioners and other leaders can figure out the best path forward for our community by focusing on areas where we can collaborate.
The Post Independent editorial board members are Publisher Bryce Jacobson, Editor Peter Baumann and Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud.
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