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Colorado River District column: Colorado River District working to keep West Slope water on the Western Slope

At the Colorado River District, we are working to ensure that whatever the future holds, there’s water on the West Slope to support our way of life. Whether you grow food, rely on clean water from your kitchen tap, or recreate on our rivers, the River District is working to develop every tool possible to ensure that West Slope water users are represented and protected.

In fact, the district recently received a $315,000 “WaterSMART” grant, which we will use to analyze many of the risks that we face on the West Slope in an uncertain water future.

Despite the optimism from recent snowfall, Colorado is still amid a prolonged decline of flows in the Colorado River — and facing more variable weather conditions and snowpack with each passing year. When you combine that with growing population in the Colorado River basin, both in Colorado and downstream, we’re looking at an uncertain water supply.

Under the Colorado River Compact, Colorado and other states in the Upper Colorado River Basin are required to keep a certain amount of water flowing to states in the Lower Basin. But declining flows have signaled a risk to that obligation. And continued drought could mean water users in the Centennial State might have to reduce water use in the future without compensation in order to meet this compact commitment.

As part of a multi-state plan to avoid that, Colorado is exploring the feasibility of a program called demand management, which would pay farmers, industry and cities to voluntarily and temporarily reduce water use in order to bank it in reservoirs for use in preventing an uncompensated call. At the Colorado River District, we have concerns about if such a program is advisable or necessary, but even as we seek answers to those concerns, others are looking at how such a program will be structured.

Right now, there are a lot of questions. As Colorado decides if and how demand management would be implemented, we want to advocate for rules that are the best possible for West Slope water users. We are studying the hypotheticals and talking to a broad set of water users to understand what might work in Western Colorado.

The Colorado River District received a $315,000 WaterSMART grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as part of a federal water planning program. We will be working with the Southwestern Water Conservation District, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, The Nature Conservancy, Basin Roundtables, the state of Colorado and others to study risks to our water supply. Leveraging these federal funds and partnerships allows us to do more to protect West Slope water users.

Agricultural producers play a critical role in our local economies, whether its equipment repairs at a local mechanic or a ranch hand buying a burger at the local diner. Our main street businesses could see changes if farmers, even temporarily, aren’t farming.

To understand how our local economies might be affected by demand management, the River District is sponsoring a study of the potential secondary economic impacts that such a program could have on the businesses and communities that West Slope agriculture supports.

The grant will also fund the next phase of a multi-year study to understand the risk to Colorado’s water users if a call under the Colorado River Compact requires that we use less water. This study is designed to give us all an idea of what water rights might be curtailed by a compact call, giving water users across the West Slope a better idea of what could happen to their water.

Finally, the WaterSMART grant will help us bring West Slope water users together to understand how to create a program that makes sense for them. While we can’t get the thousands of water users in the Colorado River District in a room to decide what demand management should look like, we’ll be working with a broad cross-section of water users from different industries and communities in the district to do just that. We want to be sure that if demand management is implemented, it works for ranchers, towns, and rivers in Western Colorado.

All these studies and conversations will give West Slope water users the information and tools they need to decide if they should take part in demand management. They will also better allow the Colorado River District to advocate for those users and protect water on the West Slope in an uncertain future.

Andy Mueller is general manager of the Colorado River District.

Mulhall column: A new Congressional catechism

A first-term impeachment by a Democrat House of Representatives ought to be a job requirement for any non-Democrat president seeking re-election.

It hasn’t always been this way, but we’re just about all the way there now.

Today, Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters, Gerald Nadler and Adam Schiff enjoy the power in the House, and as Representatives of California and New York, they show how political power will stack in the future, particularly if the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact passes — you know, that compact to eliminate the Electoral College Governor Polis signed us all up for last spring?

Of course, if the compact ever turns into law, Democrats will have chipped away at the likelihood a non-Democrat President would ever get elected.

But in the odd event one did slip by, a Democrat-controlled House would quickly follow the precedent laid down by this 116th House and start conjuring up impeachment articles even before the polls close.

Why?

Partly because an Alinsky-esque contempt for rules is a hallmark of the modern coastal Democrat, to whom rule following is for people who use a restroom, or worse, those who would honor the gender sign on the door. For them, when it comes to getting rid of a goofy chimp, depraved orangutan, or whatever other kind of small-handed non-Democrat gets elected, rules, especially those Constitutionally prescribed, don’t help.

Accounting for the possibility, however remote, of even more regular non-Democrat presidents simply means that the only thing more common than impeachment articles would be elections themselves.

Even such an absurdly hypothetical scenario would pose no problem, however, for Democrats have now demonstrated they can fashion impeachment articles out of almost anything.

Take Article I of last month’s impeachment: abuse of power. This article charges President Trump for doing something President Obama did.

Last summer, President Trump withheld lethal weaponry from Ukraine. In 2015, President Obama did the same thing. Yet, as House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff put it, “I hope to hell I’d vote to impeach Obama if he did what Trump has done.”

What was the difference?

Maybe President Obama observed un-codified Congressional protocol, which is to say he gun-controlled the potential for military conflict out of existence, or something like that. Whatever it was that he did enjoyed tacit Congressional approval.

President Trump, on the other hand, withheld military aid to get Ukraine’s President to help expose Joe and Hunter Biden’s political baksheesh.

Ordinarily, an effort to uncover and deal with corruption in your own house is as good as a good idea gets. Yet ask the average voter to name the least-worst thing about President Trump and you won’t hear, “he asked Ukraine to help expose US government corruption.”

Trouble is, if you’re not a Democrat president, and the corruption arises from a D.C. insider who is a former Democrat senator and vice president, the excrement’s going to get real.

Through all the spin you’ll no doubt hear as this dumpster fire burns, impeachment’s strictly political. Not one Republican voted for impeachment, and not one Democrat voted against it, and this house-divided extends to the American people.

For some of us, this impeachment is all about icky comb-overs, orange tans, quid pro quos, unapologetic hearsay, and whatever else sticks to the wall. For others, it’s a posse of party partisans circling wagons around one of their own.

However you’ve come to think about it, this impeachment is about rooting out government corruption, and no matter how you define that corruption, nothing any political figure could do today — perhaps least of all a Senate trial — could unify the country.

Fear not, however, for this refactored impeachment process, along with the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, will eventually bring about a homogenized government controlled by Democrats and unelected administrative minions.

Until that day, impeachment articles brought by any Democratic House of Representatives should be a first-term job requirement for any non-Democrat President.

Mitch Mulhall is a husband, father and longtime Roaring Fork Valley resident. His column appears monthly in the Post Independent and at postindependent.com

DeFrates column: City not doing enough to engage public on big issues

The city of Glenwood is a wonderful place to live, but it has a civic engagement problem. If you’ve felt a bit out of the loop on some major decisions the city has made over the last year or two, you are not alone.

In a time when population growth and external threats like the Mid-Continent quarry expansion loom large, the city needs more buy-in from locals and more diverse voices at the table.

It is obvious, however, that city leadership does not feel the need to prioritize those things.

Before I go any further, if you are hoping for a witch hunt or a muckraking session, don’t bother to keep reading. I believe that the people involved in the government of Glenwood Springs are dedicated and passionate individuals who care deeply about the town in which they live. I know there are staff shortages and budget woes, overbooked schedules and late-night sessions at which most of us would cringe.

I also know that the majority of the people who live in this valley feel that their voices no longer count even at the local level. They are frustrated by decisions that affect their lives and livelihoods which appear to be made behind more and more closed doors.

For the city to grow in a healthy direction, that perception, and the reality behind it, needs to change in a big way.

For those on the inside, it is easy to dismiss concerns about citizen participation with the old “bootstrap” argument — anyone who really wanted to could show up.

The reality, however, is that the only voices being heard are the voices of the very well-connected, highly motivated residents with an advanced level of English-literacy, flexible schedules and disposable income. A valuable group, no doubt, but not one that represents even a significant percentage of the town’s almost 10 thousand residents.

Take, for example, the recent Strategic Plan and Visioning draft that the City Council discussed on Monday, Jan. 7. In the public comments folder there were nine comments submitted. Nine.

Only nine voices were heard from the public about a document which is meant to align the next five years of the city’s priorities with the needs of its residents. Yes, the document was drafted with input from citizen-led committees like Planning and Zoning, but the fact that only nine members of the public sent in a comment should have been a red flag.

I am a little ashamed of the town as a whole that even after a newspaper article and a month-long public comment window, only nine people managed to weigh in. I am even more ashamed, however, that the city saw that number last October and said, “Yeah, that’s enough.”

Another example of where public engagement stands on the priority list is the website for the City Council’s agendas and minutes. Most agendas do not appear until two days before a meeting, too late to find a baby-sitter if you need one. Then, if you wanted to follow up on a meeting you missed without watching the four-hour recording, you might have to wait a few months for the minutes to be posted.

My kid’s elementary school can hit me up with an email/text blast several times a day in two languages to talk about potlucks, fundraisers and traffic concerns, but the city government can’t find a way to use their automated alert emails (which you can sign up for on the website) to tell people what will be discussed at the next City Council meeting?

When minutes do become available they are full of the following three lines over and over again:

“Mayor Godes opened the item for public comment.

None were noted.

Mayor Godes closed the item for public comment.”

Even on major issues like infrastructure spending, the Hanging Lake shuttle being incorporated into downtown, and grants for the LoVa Trail have no input from the people who live in the town.

Unfortunately, sometimes even showing up is not enough.

Take, for example, the meeting on Sept. 19, 2019. I attended to speak in favor of the proposed Two Rivers Shoreline plan. Along with 11 others who spoke in favor, and one against, members of the public were actually present at this meeting.

Yet, after hearing the public comment, right as the vote was about to start, members of the council suddenly bumped the vote back. Without giving an explanation, the council suddenly agreed to delay the vote until a special council meeting at 12 p.m. the next day. Sure, it was going to be an open-door session and we were all cordially invited, but who can attend an impromptu mid-day meeting when they have inconvenient things like jobs and families?

Local civic participation has never been a thriving activity, exactly, but the complacency of the staff and council for the town to engage with citizens is not acceptable any longer.

If the city of Glenwood and the other communities of the Roaring Fork Valley want to survive the growing pains and external threats we are going to experience over the next decade, they need to do more to bring diverse voices back into City Hall.

Lindsay DeFrates is a freelance writer living in Glenwood Springs. She can be reached at http://www.roaringforkwriter.com

Beinstein column: Where there is no mercy, there is no hope

Central to the current dysfunction in Washington is an inability to forgive.

Upset with the way Robert Bork was treated in the 1980s, for example, the Republicans recently slammed through Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Still upset over the Supreme Court’s decision in 2000, the Democrats, in 2009, rushed through the Affordable Care Act the moment they returned to power, acknowledging they didn’t even know what was in the health care bill when it passed.

Lingering with resentment over Bill Clinton’s 1998 impeachment, the Democrats seem gleeful to impeach Trump now. How else can you explain Nancy Pelosi snapping at a reporter when accused of hating the president?

And Republicans are currently fuming over these impeachment humiliations — what else explains the desperate attempt to sidestep Trump’s Ukraine issues by invoking problems that Nancy Pelosi’s son, or Joe Biden’s son, might have had in the oil and gas industry.

With a government filled with childlike adults, who pine for retaliation and hate any displays of vulnerability or humility, this is what hell must feel like — a place filled with people who only worship themselves and their own power and their own glory.

Luckily, there have been a few heavenly examples in the history of American politics. George Washington enthusiastically made peace with the British after the Revolutionary War concluded. Abraham Lincoln handed out a record amount of pardons to Southerners who wanted him dead. And Martin Luther King Jr. would often say it’s hard to judge even the worst bigot, for if you were always raised with hate, what else could you expect.

But today does indeed feel so unheavenly. Hate continues to compound on itself. The egos get larger and more vicious. And the collective heart of our government seems to only move further away from any degree of mercy or kindness.

If Trump gets another term, he’ll want further revenge on Democrats.

If Biden or another Democrat wins, he or she will light up at the chance of humiliating and mocking Republicans.

Thankfully, our Founders anticipated this dark side of human nature. James Madison famously said, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”

From a scientific standpoint, the separation of powers under which our system is predicated will allow this Republic to perpetuate itself. But there is something horribly sad, and dispiriting, that the best we can do as a country is to restrain evil. How much fonder it is to think, even if it is indeed a utopian thought, to one day leave this hell, where, instead of only loving ourselves, we loved others.

As the scriptures say, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

For a nation founded by Puritans, maybe one day we can all be something other than pagan. Happy belated New Year.

Alex Beinstein is a millennial who grew up in Aspen, lived in Carbondale for a while and now writes from Washington, D.C. His column appears monthly in the Post Independent.

’Tis the season for Christmas tree disposal

With the holiday season over, Glenwood Springs’ Christmas tree drop-off site has opened.

Located at the old rodeo grounds on Airport Road adjacent to the Glenwood Springs airport, the Christmas tree drop-off location officially opened on New Year’s Eve and will remain open until Jan. 31.

“We would appreciate it if all ornaments, lights, toppers, garland [and other decorations] would be removed from the trees prior to drop-off,” Matthew Langhorst, director of public works, said. “If you have wrapped your tree up in a bag to remove it from your home, please remove the bag and take it home with you.”

Although located in the same area where the leaf drop-off occurs in the fall, the site will accept only Christmas trees until the end of January.

“This is not a time to bring yard waste or trash,” Langhorst said.

Instead, that type of waste needs to go to the city’s South Canyon landfill, Langhorst explained.

Langhorst also asked residents not to leave Christmas trees outside of the site’s gates or attempt to throw holiday trees over the fence when the site closes at the end of the month.

“This is a frequent event that just causes confusion for others and more work for city crews,” Langhorst said.

According to Langhorst, the free service brings in large volumes of Christmas trees each year, which crews chip up and transport to the landfill for composting.

“We have never kept track of how many trees we take in,” Langhorst said. “I can tell you that it’s a lot.”

mabennett@postindependent.com

Chacos column: Guns — Freedom is never really free

Editor’s note: This is a bonus column from Andrea Chacos, who pens a monthly column for the Post Independent, in response to her Dec. 10 column regarding America’s gun culture, which generated a lot of feedback.

Gun talk is passionate, and I eagerly awaited responses for printing an opinion piece on the topic. I heard from some privately while others posted publicly; some stated views on parenting in an age of gun saturation while other responses proved irrational, no matter how many times I reread for clarity and understanding.

One thing became clear — gun advocates miss the larger message. The gun industry would have my fledgling support, and I imagine from thousands of other moms like me, by shoring up policies that have gaping holes, acknowledging inconsistencies between state laws and working together to get guns out of the wrong hands.

A Better Background Check

First, the NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check) needs to be consistent and comprehensive. Federal law requires a national background check on all gun sales that go through a dealer holding a Federal Firearms License (FFL), like Cabela’s and Walmart. Since the system was launched in 1998, 1.5 million people have been denied, according to the FBI. This is a narrow net at best.

Going through a private gun seller is one way to avoid an FFL dealer and the required NICS. They occur all over the country through online auction sales, chat rooms, on social media sites, and at some gun shows. These individuals fall under private sale exemptions where background checks are not required. There are currently only 12 states, including Colorado, that require background checks for all point of sale purchases (whether it’s through a private sale or through a licensed dealer) at a gun show.

The gun show loophole refers to personal transactions that bypass a national background check. Gun advocates debate this term, sidelining the actual discussion. Every individual, on every type of sale, in every state in the country, without exception, should go through a national background check. Secondary market gun sales should require the purchaser to go through a NICS. No one should dispute tightening up current policies with gaping holes. Still, there’s plenty of pushback.

Next, the national background check should be more comprehensive. This should include mental-health and drug screenings, a mandatory waiting or “cooling off” period, valid identification with ways to verify authenticity, and dissolving the “default proceed” policy so there’s adequate time for the background check to be completed thoroughly.

Purchasing a gun should not be impulsive or simplified for the impatient customer. That would be like allowing eager teens to get their driver’s license without first going through a year of practice that includes applying for a permit, driving with a parent, taking costly classes, passing a written test, and then passing the driving portion. After that, if a teen has the means, they will be able to drive legally on the road; that is, if the driver can show proof of insurance, vehicle registration and a valid driver’s license.

Drive responsibly or get pulled over for driving with a cell phone, going too fast, going too slow, driving past curfew, driving without a seatbelt, forgetting to turn on the blinker, for swerving, for running a red light, or because it’s a random Friday night checkpoint. The driver will pay a penalty, and in some cases, have their license revoked.

If an individual is caught drinking and driving, their license can be taken away for years and will be a process to get back. These are comprehensive policies, and although not perfect, stringent driving laws pushed through by an angry public, not the auto industry, have reduced the dangerous, unintended consequences that millions of people with cars on the 21st century road have given us.

Inconsistency

Disparate state laws allow some people with a history of assault, stalking, intimidation, violence or abuse to own a gun. Although it’s a federal crime for individuals prosecuted with a domestic violent misdemeanor from ever possessing a gun, individuals convicted of a violent misdemeanor, and how each state categorizes such, can still legally purchase a gun in half the states in our country.

The ability to carry a concealed weapon is another difference between states. Although safety classes and a criminal background check is most often required prior to the CCW permit, each state operates individually. One third of the states do not require a permit prior to carrying a concealed weapon. Carrying a gun, whether you believe it to be your inalienable right or not, should not be inconsistent.

If we want to stop gun-related crimes, there is no one silver bullet; no one measure toward success. Our responsibility is to change the currency for the price we’re willing to pay for our guns. The right to own a gun is simply an American privilege we choose to tolerate in today’s society, and it comes with great responsibility. Use it.

Andrea Chacos lives in Carbondale, balancing work and happily raising three children with her husband. She strives to dodge curveballs life likes to throw with a bit of passion, humor and some flair.

Vidakovich column: The week that changed my life

It was mid-August in the summer following my 8th grade year at the Glenwood Springs Junior High. The calendar read 1975 and I was getting geared up for my freshman year in high school.

With just a few weeks to go until classes would begin, my friend Glenn Samuelson and I had one last summer adventure in us before hitting the books and immersing ourselves in the world of academia. We would be heading to the Colorado School of Mines in Golden to participate in the week-long Denver Nuggets basketball camp to be put on by Coach Larry Brown and his staff. Samuelson and I had signed up for the camp months earlier, so it was a date that had been much anticipated throughout the summer.

Glenn’s parents, John and Angie, toted us over the mountains for our week in Golden at the camp. The first stop, though, was a preseason football game at the old Mile High Stadium. It was the Denver Broncos against the Baltimore Colts. Yes, the Colts were in Baltimore at the time and they were usually one of the better teams in the NFL. I don’t remember much from that game other than Notre Dame running back Eric Penick was a rookie with the Colts, and I was hoping that he would make the opening-day roster for Baltimore.

The next morning we were dropped off at the camp check-in area at the School of Mines. I think Glenn and I were a bit scared of what we had signed up for. A full week would be the longest I had ever been away from home and, after all, this was the Nuggets camp. Surely there would be many players there that I could not even hope to keep up with on the court.

At the time, the Nuggets were in the old American Basketball Association and played with a red, white and blue ball. The league wasn’t as popular or as well-received as the NBA, but the ABA did attract many of the top stars in the game like Julius “Dr. J” Erving, George McGinnis, and Marvin Barnes.

Denver was coming off a loss that season to the Indiana Pacers in the league’s Western Conference Finals. I was at that game in the old downtown auditorium arena. My brother-in-law Rudy Steele and I had made the trip over to watch the big game, only to have McGinnis drop in 30 points on many long-range shots to send the Nuggets to defeat. The NBA did not have the 3-point line in those days, so it was an unforgettable treat to watch McGinnis, who shot the ball one-handed, throw in those long bombs.

Other than being instructed by professional and college coaches, the added bonus to that week was that each night, us campers got to watch the Nugget’s rookie draft picks go through workouts and scrimmage.

The name I am about to throw out to you may not mean a thing unless you are an old timer like me, but when I saw prized rookie David Thompson from North Carolina State walk through the doors of the Mines gym for the first time, I was awestruck. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him, and there is good reason why.

Thompson was voted the player of the year in college basketball the previous spring. He was an All-American with a 44-inch vertical leap. Thompson was the unanimous number-one pick in the draft by both the NBA and the ABA. Somehow the Nuggets had managed to lure “The Skywalker” away from the bright lights of the big brother league.

I sure am glad they did, because I got to watch Thompson and other notable rookies such as Monte Towe, Mo Rivers, Rudy Carey and Greg Popovich perform for us all week long.

The name Popovich should ring a bell with many of you sports fans. At that time, he was a little known guard from the Air Force Academy. He didn’t end up making the Nuggets roster; in fact, he had trouble keeping up with the rest of the rookies on a nightly basis. Popovich, as you may know, has had a bit of success in the coaching ranks, having guided the San Antonio Spurs to several NBA championships. He is still the head man in San Antonio.

Carey is the other name that should be recognizable, especially if you are a fan of Colorado high school sports. Carey, fresh out of Colorado State, did not make the team, either, but went on to win several state basketball championships as a coach at Manual and Denver East high schools. Carey and Denver Christian’s Dick Katte are the winningest coaches in Colorado High School basketball history.

The most unforgettable moment of that week came one afternoon when Thompson and Towe, who were teammates at NC State, stopped by during an afternoon camp session to watch us kids. What a thrill! When we got a break in our routine, several of us went over and sat by the two college greats and listened to them talk. They ended up talking with all of the campers that afternoon.

I had always been a big basketball person since my early days growing up in Glenwood. Basketball was almost a religion in our family, and going to those early Demon games when I was in grade school and watching Coach Chavez direct such greats as Kirk Lyons, David Deane, Johnny Swartzendruber and John Courier had me chomping at the bit to wear that red-and-white uniform.

Something Thompson said to us that day at camp hit home with me, and I started living at the asphalt courts at Sayre Park as soon as Glenn and I arrived back home.

Thompson told us kids that he used to practice between two to four hours every day on the outdoor courts growing up in Shelby, North Carolina. He said much of that time it was just him and his basketball, shooting and dribbling. Perfecting the skills that would lead him to college and professional stardom. At night, he and his friends would play well after dark at the local high school court. He even recounted to us the number of shoes he wore out on the cement courts. He laughed when he told us how much trouble he would get into with his mom for going through another pair of sneakers.

I decided I would start wearing out some sneakers, too. And, by golly, I was going to play for Coach and those Demons someday.

There were no fancy club sports or AAU tournaments back then. No summer team camps to showcase our skills for college scouts. It was just me, and luckily, a bunch of other guys like Kevin Flohr, Rick Eccher, Greg Piper, Troy Holman, Bobby Barrows, Tyler McClain, Rick Chavez, Scott Bolitho, Kevin Schenkelberg and countless others, who would get together at Sayre Park every evening. We would shoot and dribble the ball until we were blue in the face, then we would go toe-to-toe as shirts and skins with only the winner getting to stay on the court.

Thank you, David Thompson, wherever you are. They nicknamed you “Skywalker” after that boy in the Star Wars movie that had just come out at the time. But Luke is imaginary. You were real to this young man, and I am forever in your debt.

Mike Vidakovich is a Glenwood Springs native and regular Post Independent sports contributor.