Goodtimes:Weaving the County and Region Together | Up Bear Creek
by Art Goodtimes
07.08.07 - 11:00 pm
COLLABORATION … A couple years ago I went just outside Ridgway to visit former San Miguel County Commissioner Gene Adams, after setting things up with Terry Adams who works for our county attorneys. It was a very instructive meeting. Gene was definitely old school, his language frank.

But I was most impressed with his explanations of his own state and regional networks that he’d used to keep San Miguel County on an even keel for the many years he ran the show here … I couldn’t help but contrast that with the situation when I got on the county board some 11 years ago. San Miguel County was suing the Mountain Village. Telluride didn’t trust the County (and vice-versa), and there was no love lost for the Mountain Village. Norwood, Ophir and Sawpit didn’t even figure into the regional picture. Most of the surrounding counties were viewed suspiciously as Republican strongholds where our liberal values were not shared, and were often actively opposed. We felt some affinity with Pitkin and Boulder counties, but our contacts and interactions – outside of Colorado Counties, Inc., some highway planning groups, a token connection to a relatively dysfunctional Region 10 group, and a tourism presence on Club 20 – was next to nil … A decade later that’s all changed. Within our county we’ve set up an Intergovernmental group with all our incorporated towns, hold regular meetings, have work groups and task forces involved in recycling, the powerline issue, facility planning, and more. We communicate regularly, try to keep each other up to speed on our own operations, and work toward regional planning on issues like affordable housing, transportation and environmental protection (the successful San Juan Fen Partnership a direct result of this intra-county cooperation). There are numerous local boards and commissions that the commissioners participate in, from the airport authority to early education planning … On the regional level, we’re an active member of the Public Land Partnership dealing with public land management issues, and have a Burn Canyon Monitoring Task Force demonstration project in Norwood under the PLP aegis that continues to receive grant monies. I’m in leadership for Club 20, serving as secretary of their executive committee. Our administrator Lynn Black has been an important factor in the reorganization of Region 10 under the capable hands of Paul Gray. Joan May has stepped up to the plate on our regional transportation planning boards … On the state level, Elaine Fischer is deeply involved in CCI leadership, serving as president of the Western District and vice-chair of a Tourism and Resorts Steering Committee that San Miguel County helped create. I’ve recently become the only Western Slope board member of the Colorado Progressive Coalition, a racially integrated organization working on social justice issues around the state … And on the national level, I have the privilege of representing CCI on the National Association of Counties’ Public Lands Steering Committee, along with seven other state representatives … It’s a very full plate. But it’s also a web of interconnections that keeps the county informed, offers us partners and allies in various campaigns, and brings us exciting new programs – like a drug benefit discount program for the uninsured that the county will soon be offering through its NACo connections. Things have changed from the days of Gene Adams in county government, but our web of connections has only gotten stronger.

TRI-COUNTY SOUTH … Organized a few years ago by former Commissioner Dwayne Findley of Montezuma County and myself, this group of three counties (San Miguel, Dolores and Montezuma) works on issues of joint concern, like the Norwood-Dolores Road and the reclaiming of the Greager Road access to Lone Cone (where Dolores County has been a huge help to us). At our meeting last week we learned that Montezuma County, very much a strong private property rights region, had turned down a proposal for a large subdivision on 140 acres because of insufficient water. A brave stand in a county where Findley was turned out of office because his board was moving toward the creation of a land use code … I had invited the San Juan Citizen Alliance in the form of Amber Clark and wilderness advocate Jeff Widen to explain their Dolores River campaign (to get a chunk of the basin into wilderness status). In one way it was like feeding innocents to the wolves, and the enviros got a lot of hard questions and tales of negative experience from the Dolores and Montezuma county commissioners present. But it was a first meeting and the putting of intentions on the table. Something that must be done to ever get to collaboration … Plus, after the meeting, Amber and Jeff got to speak to some of the commissioners individually. Now each side has a face and a contact for the wilderness issue. And so I considered it a success. Instead of trying to circumvent criticism and initial opposition, Amber and Jeff accepted the negative first impressions and left the conversation open to future discussions. Thus begins dialogue … It was nice having the institution of this twice-a-year meeting with our colleagues to the south to open up the dialogue, rather than a public hearing where everyone is in their respective roles and taking die-in-the-ditch positions.

TRI-COUNTY NORTH … As it happened, we had our tri-county north meeting last week as well (San Miguel, Ouray and Montrose). This collaboration has been going on for a while, but it hasn’t always been a paragon of cooperation. Lately, however, with changed boards, the collaborative spirit has gotten stronger. Not without bumps, of course, but the way you handle bumps demonstrates the strength of your collaborative intent … I was upset with Ouray County for failing to arrive at a seamless OHV ordinance among all counties of the high passes here in the San Juans. Ouray County is choosing to not require driver’s licenses, only insurance, from its OHV riders, and is unable to pay for any enforcement of even its watered down ordinance. It’s going to create a problem for all of us wrestling with the OHV question in the high country. I’ve even heard talk of closing Tomboy Road to OHV use if Ouray doesn’t want to collaborate, although I hope we don’t have to go there … A bigger bump was a report that Montrose County had abrogated a recently signed Memorandum of Understanding among Montrose, San Miguel and Ouray counties and the Forest Service over the issue of the new development and road improvements along Dave Wood Road and (in our county) Horsefly Road. That turned out not to be true, although a lot of questions had to be asked and answered. But in the end all three counties (and even the Forest Service) agreed to work together on this complex issue … No, our counties and the feds are not on the same page, but it’s wonderful to see us working together locally. That serves the best interests of all our constituents.

WHIRLED MUSIC MEDICINE SHOW … It was the Rez Rock song “Fry Bread” at the first annual Whirled Music and Medicine Show at Moab’s beautiful Old City Park a couple weeks ago that made one very mellow June day most eventful. No it wasn’t the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. It was cheap, laid-back and oh-so-heartful … Keith Secola, a six-time Native American Music Awards winner, pulled dozens of kids (including little Gorio) up on stage to dance and sing and deliver a stirring finale to a day of original ballads, windy cottonwood fuzz snow, blue skies, a waterfall pond for the kids to play in, and some strong down-home family energy. Featured artists included Telluride’s own Heartbeat, “Bedrock Rose” Griffin and poetry from yours truly. As a crescent moon set over the rimrocks and Jupiter rose in the slickrock sky, the Wild Javalinas got everyone on their feet and dancing in the cool grass under the bigleaf cottonwoods (www.secola.com) … Put this event on your calendar for the end of next spring, and bring the whole family. For more info, go to www.whirledattractions.com.

THE TALKING GOURD

The Phrenologist

“Oh Good God,”

he said.

“I could wear a hat,”

I said.

-Richard Ganci

San Francisco

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