FOREST SERVICE … As chair of NACo’s Gateway Communities subcommittee, I’ve teamed up with old agency hand Lyle Laverty on a Natural Resource Academy idea. That meant meetings with Forest Service deputy chiefs – Joel Holtrop, Mary Wagner – and associate deputies and planners Joe Meade, Tony Tooke, Ric Rine – and several trips to the Forest Service national headquarters at 14th and Independence … I missed one meeting with Deputy Chief Jim Hubband, getting all confused with all the shifting dates and times … But lots of work got done, and plans to try and lobby NACo for a multi-year budget for the Forest Service and expanded Resource Advisory Councils. Clearly, the most productive part of this DC trip was all the great Forest Service contacts and the ability to help them put collaboration with local governments at the top of the new planning rule agenda. For that alone, it was very successful. And I felt I made a lot of great contacts that I’ll be able to work with in future years.
MORE MEETS … Our new Third District rep in the House was kind enough to host a dinner for a couple dozen commissioners at the America restaurant in Union Station. It was a chance to meet with him, connect with his staffers, and establish the kind of personal relationships that are crucial for a small county like ours … Mike Hess, Tipton’s chief of staff, promised that he and Scott would be coming to visit Telluride, which was good news. And already I’m talking with Steve Siegel of the Norwood Clinic to see if we can get Scott down there to see all the good federal dollars have done in providing quality health care in our rural areas … Also had dinner in the Democratic National Club with policy analyst, committee staffer for West Virginia’s Rep. Nick Rahall and expert on water Dave Wegner (originally from Durango). I filled him in on our local water issues and he me on the national debates. He is a key contact to have in DC, and I look forward to working with Dave on several water issues … I also had lunch with Greg Walcher, former Club 20 director and Republican natural resources consultant. I’ve always liked Greg, and it’s good to get a perspective on issues from someone on the other side of the aisle … I also had several conference calls with groups back home while I was in DC – one with the Painted Sky group in Montrose (we voted to find a new director) and another with the Colorado Cattleman’s Partners for Western Conservation board trying to get them interested in my Payment for Ecosystem Services project (successfully).
CIVIL UNIONS … Senate Bill 172, to legalize civil unions, made it through a key State Senate Committee vote last week, thanks to Rep. Ellen Roberts, who voted with her Dem colleagues to advance the measure to the full Senate. Sen. Jeanne Nicholson is a co sponsor of this bill – one of my county commissioner allies who’s advanced to the legislature ... “I will be voting in favor of this legislation,” she explained in her weekly newsletter. “Recognizing civil unions, without infringing on the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman, will provide couples with security as they face challenges of everyday life such as medical emergencies, estate planning and end-of-life decisions. In these tough economic times, we have a responsibility to ensure that all Coloradans have the tools they need to provide for the ones they love. We are also seeing research that legalizing civil unions will be beneficial for the state economy.” … All of which is true, and pertinent. But given the Republican nature of the House, it’s unlikely this bill will succeed this year … As I’ve stated before, I think government should get out of the business of marrying people. Marriage is a sacrament and should be left to religion. However, the state should grant the legal rights and responsibilities of civil unions to whomever fills out the required forms and wants to make that commitment. That would be a lot cleaner system for all of us.
THE TALKING GOURD "The only thing
he ever really stroked
was my ego."
- Shannon Johnson