By JIM SPEHAR
Help me understand.
Mesa County is the epicenter in Colorado, the Wuhan if you will, of the vicious Delta variant of COVID- 19. While we have one of the lowest vaccination rates in the state with only about 40% of us over the age of 12 fully vaccinated. Our hospitals are teetering against capacity limits and, as of mid-week, 244 Mesa County residents have died after contracting COVID-19.
What to do? Besides getting vaccinated.
How about doubling down on the misfortune and declaring the county a “constitutional sanctuary” (whatever that is) where state and federal laws, along with health-related restrictions, are ignored? Something our county commissioners, after two meetings ended with anti-vaxxers haranguing them about the pandemic response, say they’re “looking into.”
I suppose that’s to be expected in a state where county sheriffs vow not to enforce gun laws or health orders. Where opponents of Gov. Jared Polis are said to be mounting still another recall effort, undaunted by the reality this third effort will be just another scam aimed at collecting donations to line the pockets of organizers and their attorneys while, not incidentally, creating mailing lists of duped supporters for future political efforts.
It’s apparently too much to ask of our three commissioners to, borrowing words from another sort of campaign, “Just Say No.” Like they did when prematurely removing common-sense pandemic restrictions and leaving their county, once among the leaders in battling the pandemic, now somewhere toward the bottom of the list.
I’ve spent a few hours at the front of rooms filled with angry constituents. Something about the Ten Commandments comes to mind, along with managing the building of a new jail forced upon us (for the right reasons) by a federal judge in the latter stages of the economic downturn that followed Black Sunday. It’s important to listen and to offer opportunities for citizen input. But equally important to be honest and forthcoming when offered “fake news” and asked to incorporate that into what are literally life and death decisions.
All the while remembering that those who speak longest, loudest or last don’t always reflect the attitudes of the entire community you’re pledged to serve.
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Last Sunday’s Colorado Parks and Wildlife/JT Romatzke/Randy Hampton column provoked more comment than usual. What was also unusual was that it was universally positive, a rare occurrence.
Here’s just a sample, the first from a retired prominent Grand Junction business leader whose political leanings don’t match mine.
“You raised a great point in Sunday’s commentary about the integrity of public institutions and the people responsible for running them and how that affects the public’s confidence. I am cynical about how local and state governments and their agencies are led and managed and I am usually a trusting optimist. Thank you for bringing this matter to the top of the table. Perhaps something good will result.”
Then this brief but meaningful missive from another local business leader of the opposite political persuasion whose name you’d most certainly recognize.
“We don’t often agree, but I’m totally on board here!”
Another telling comment from a self-described hunter and retired biology teacher.
“Seems pretty clear that the wrong guy resigned. I don’t care how exemplary he may have been in the past. Lots of folks didn’t do anything wrong before they committed their 1st crime.”
Put a simpler terms by another local businessman familiar to many.
“Is Randy Hampton the only adult in this fiasco?”
And this from someone with considerable experience and insight into inner workings at CPW.
“You set up the ethical expectation we should have of all public officials, especially those in leadership……This is less about JT’s unethical likely illegal behavior and more about an agency culture that allows or even encourages JT and others like him to take the calculated risk.”
During this past week I found myself wondering this.
What confidence are we to have that the wishes of voters will be carried out appropriately when the lead manager in the region in which most of the wolf reintroduction activity will occur has attempted so blatantly to throw multiple monkey wrenches into the works? Or in a governor and his appointed leaders at CPW and the Department of Natural Resources, as well as the Parks and Wildlife Commission, moving back to business as usual, seemingly willing to consider the matter settled?
Jim Spehar thinks some personal time out on our public lands is in order. Comments still accepted at firstname.lastname@example.org.