Sunday, September 27, 2009

A very busy week and a bike ride

This week was extremely full of important things.

Monday started with the "Bringing Health Home" conference in Pueblo sponsored by The Colorado Health Foundation and The Adams Group. The conference brought together several best practice examples of many communities who have managed to tackle the health care issue in very creative and successful ways. There were several teams from many different areas across Colorado. I had the privilege of attending with Julie Thompson, Missy Rodey and Karen Zink. It provided us with even more ideas of what might further advance the work of the Health Services Steering Committee (HSSC) and other groups that have been working on health care in our community. Julie Thompson, who has been compiling data and taking surveys should be close to a recommendation of action steps for our community. I am certain it will be a multi-pronged approach and will involve community desires as well as proven models. It will provide us with some clear direction for moving forward in addressing our primary care needs, as well as other areas in need of improvement. There is some great information available via the Colorado Health Foundation's website: This organization is a huge asset to our state and has not only provided our community with great resources through research and funding, it also works to promote the important role of public health in our communities.

The conference ended on Tuesday, which gave me just enough time to get home to welcome folks to our first annual breakfast report of 4CORE (The 4 Corners Office of Resource Efficiency). LPEA graciously hosted us and Aileen Tracy, the Executive Director did a great job of presenting the first-year of success for this important organization. We had members of the Durango City Council, the Board of Directors for LPEA as well as all three county commissioners and representatives from BP and the town of Ignacio. Southwest Sustainability Alliance have been strong advocates for more energy efficiency in our community and continue to be very active in the work of this diverse board of directors. We feel very fortunate to have a group of committed people who are all interested in hearing the various ideas and opinions about ways in which we can balance the energy needs as well as increase efficiencies in our region. In fact through 4CORE's great collaborative approach and direct funding awards from the Governor's Energy Office as well as others, at least 65 new jobs will be created and more than 2 million dollars have been brought into the region. This plus all of the amazing returns on the initial investment made by our community in a number of ways. Check out more at:

Wednesday morning lead into a meeting with CSU Extension Director, Darrin Parmenter as we have been working hard to make sure that we have the staff and resources available to help continue the great 4-H program and other extension services that we have in our community. We have some good news in that we have come up with a good compromise and will retain our local collaborative effort. We will hear in the next few weeks about a funding agreement to find a replacement for Bob Salzar (he is already missed as he heads into the sunset of retirement), It looks like we have a good proposed plan in place to be considered. I am sure that we will see an agreement before the BoCC for consideration in the coming weeks. You can find out more about extension programs at:

Thursday started with a breakfast with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission ( as they held their regular meeting in Pagosa Springs on Friday. We met with several of the commissioners prior to their tour of the area that included a visit to the Southern Ute Reservation and their "picket fence" along the outcrop of the San Juan Basin.

I then headed over to the Durango Recreation Center for a pep rally for our local "It's About Kids" Network. There were many partnering organizations and agencies represented in attendance as well as a letter read on behalf of State Representative and State Senate Candidate, Ellen Roberts who has been a strong advocate. This organization does a stellar job of working to increase the for the the kids of Colorado. They keep folks updated on potential legislation that may be beneficial and or potentially harmful to our youth. Our local organization has seen many accomplishments as they partner with the Colorado Children's Campaign (

Their mission:
  • Represent the needs of children at the state capitol
  • Build public awareness about key issues
  • Gather and analyze data to support local needs and coordinate a statewide grassroots
    advocacy network to influence legislative decisions
  • Develop coalitions of diverse groups and help them create a shared vision
It was great to hear about their success and plans for this legislative session and to see the many supporters. I know that they have just hired a local coordinator and are always interested in finding more people to work with them in their grassroots advocacy network.

Later on Thursday, we had the board meeting for the San Juan Basin Health Department in Pagosa Springs. We continue to hear about the planning efforts for H1N1 and ways that our community is preparing. You can find out how you can prevent the spread by going to: There you can also see the many other programs that they provide in our community. We have set up two subcommittees, one to work on the budget needs as well as one to work on strategic planning and the community assessment. We have accomplished much, but are still in the process of finding a better way to break down the programs into how much they cost, who benefits and what the results are related to improving the public health in our community.

Friday was the COGCC meeting that I mentioned earlier in Pagosa Springs. There were many in attendance and the commission discussed the statewide permitting process and methods for tracking as well as new water studies and other issues relating to oil and gas development in the state. We are fortunate to have many people in our local community who are experts in this field and do a good job of always trying to balance the economics and benefit of extraction with the public health and safety as well as our environment. We know it is a benefit to our community to have this huge resource and must continue to find balance in this often complex, technical and specialized arena of our county. I listed the website earlier in my comments for the COGCC and here is our local Natural Resources team within the Planning Department. There are some good resources available on this site as well.

Phew! I really needed that bike ride up La Plata Canyon today! The fall colors are spectacular and it reminded me of why I love to work as a county commissioner---one of the reasons is: I truly love where I live.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Annual La Plata Dems Picnic

I went to the annual La Plata Dems picnic yesterday with a good friend of mine. I know that several people were surprised to see me in attendance, and I can appreciate that in light of recent changes. I wanted to attend and let people know that even though I may not be affiliated with the party any longer, I care about the people and the issues. There were many candidate speeches and a special "roasting" of former State Senator Jim Isgar. It was especially nice to hear from Jim as he spoke very humbly about what he had accomplished during his time in office. It was amazing to hear about the number of bills that he had sponsored and the people with whom he worked closely. One of them was Jack Taylor, a Republican. Jim said that he knew if he had both of them supporting a bill the likelihood of it passing successfully was greatly increased.

One of the things that sparked my interested in politics was because of Jim Isgar---and Mark Larson. I met both of them while at my former job and witnessed the good work they did together as a Democrat and a Republican team of sponsors that took the best of differing opinions and came to compromises that made a difference in our community. I can look back now and be thankful that this was the norm that I was exposed to and it made a lasting impression upon me.

Tonight I also had the opportunity to listen in to a conference call with Jackie Salit, who is a cofounder of the Committee for a Unified Independent Party (CUIP)--and The call discussed unity (or the lack thereof) in our country right now. There were some interesting statistics mentioned like the fact that 40% of American voters are independent, and that number grew by 10% after the last election. I have found some of the conversations and articles on this website very interesting and hopefully others will as well.
That's all for now---thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Am I being mistaken for Diana DeGette?

So today in the Telegraph, it stated in the "Quick'n'Dirty" section, third paragraph down under the "Scott Graham vies for commission" section it reads: "In sharp contrast to Riddle, he noted that the safety and security of La Plata County's drinking water supplies-municipal as well as rural-currently are threatened by proposed natural gas drilling and the potential pumping of hydraulic-fracturing chemicals. Plans to drill in the nearby Perins Peak State Wildlife Area, a mere half mile away from the streams that could contaminate Durango's Drinking water, are of particular concern to Graham."

Okay, so here I have the opportunity to make a choice after reading this little snippet. Do I just ignore that allegation and hope that most people would think it ridiculous (because it is really) or shall I respond? I have been of the opinion that it's best to not respond to some things--but the blog-thing somehow seems different, so here's what I think. I may veer around a bit, but I'll come back to that quote.

I was out riding my bike tonight and I got to wondering about how many people have contacted Representative DeGette urging their support of her hydraulic fracturing bill. She has introduced the bill every congress since 2005 and hasn't moved it forward. As a county commissioner, I had the ability to vote in favor of a nonbinding resolution urging the support of this bill---NOT voting literally for or against this legislation. Hence, my question: Am I being mistaken for Diana DeGette? Do some people think that I have more authority than I really do? It seems that, in some people's mind, the issue of hydraulic fracturing has turned into something that I alone have control over and that my vote on a nonbinding resolution in favor of Federal Legislation would have caused the bill to magically work its way through both the House and Senate and be turned into law. ("nonbinding" is exactly what it says: meaning that our local vote would have little to no effect on the actual passage of this bill - it's up to Congress to do that!- not a board of county commissioners!- for Pete sakes!) I feel like some people will blame me for the demise of this bill, should that occur. I know that may seem a little far fetched, but I really think so. To put it another way, it seems that certain members in our community think that I could have voted this into law on July 14th--which is really far from the truth.

I would like to ask Representative DeGette if people are contacting her about this proposed legislation, but when attempting to email her I was turned away for not having a zip code that is within her district. How many people from La Plata County have contacted her or Representative Salazar, and our other federal legislators? I know that I have had many people tell me that this is important to them (and many more who haven't said anything at all) I just hope they are telling the people with the authority to act upon it and move it forward or suggest another way to approach the issue. I have urged Governor Ritter and both Senator Udall and Congressman Salazar to help problem solve the current situation.

As far as my jurisdiction goes, I am proud of our Chapter 90 Land Use Code Rules regulating Oil and Gas. It was a unanimous vote by the commission to pass them close to a year ago now and they have been touted as some of the best. Because of my vote (and my fellow commissioners') those rules were then adopted and are being implemented today. They have even been looked to and replicated in part, by other counties as well as the state. I am clear on my jurisdiction with respect to the county and will continue to do what I can to foster good relationships between surface and mineral owners within our land use arena. I will also continue to advocate for a proven science based approach--such as a study, or at least a review of the current data available by an entity such as the National Academy of Sciences as an alternative or interim step relating to Representative DeGette's bill.

Now, just to close out---I do care about safe drinking water in both the municipal ( the municipalities have some responsibility in this) as well as the rural areas of the county (we have some great water providers). I also know that we have good state and local agencies that care about our water resources as well, and help in a myriad of ways to ensure that we have a safe and good supply of water. I know that it's vitally, lifegivingly (don't think that 's a word) important to every aspect of our lives.

I also care about the Perin's Peak Wildlife area for many reasons---that's why I brought the resolution requesting that we do not allow drilling in the area to the Board of Commissioners for consideration and---yes, I voted in favor of it. That also, was a non-binding resolution, because it's out of my jurisdiction. When discussing this resolution prior to a vote, we heard from the Energy Council that no company had interest in bidding on those leases at that time (or she didn't think anytime in the near future)---so I think we need to focus on a way to urge them to be permanently removed from the list and protected. I would work for that end and have been talking to Congressman (he has the jurisdiction) Salazar's office about it for a few months now. I love that area and get up there as much as possible---Dry Fork Trail was one of my first mountain bike rides and remains one of my favorites. I am glad that this is a priority for Scott Graham as well as San Juan Citizen's Alliance and hopefully others.

So to end the late night discussion on hydraulic fracturing and mistaken identities, I may look a little bit like Diana DeGette, I am an elected official--but we don't have the same job and I don't have the ability with my vote to enable federal legislation. I do also know that I have an ability to advocate for my community in a unique way--which is why I am urging all of us to work together and find a solution (if we don't have one in place already) that will stand the test of court.