April 2009

Looking out for county interests in D.C.

By Art Goodtimes

D.C … The National Association of Counties (formerly the National Association of County Officials) is the organization that represents most of the 3000+ counties in the country. It provides various services, hosting gatherings and (most importantly) lobbying for county interests on the national scene. Especially for things like increased federal transportation money, an end to unfunded mandates or PILT (payment in lieu of taxes) … Without federal help, roads in rural areas would mostly likely never get fixed. And without NACo lobbyists, rural interests could easily get forgotten in D.C., where only those who push the hardest get heard … Unfunded mandates are the bane of local taxpayers. When the Feds require a program and don’t provide funds to pay for it, guess who picks up the tab? Yep, state taxpayers. Just as when the state mandates a program without providing funds to pay for it, it’s Joe and Jane Propertytaxpayer who end up footing the bill. NACo helps guard against unfunded federal mandates that trickle down increased costs to counties … And one area that I’ve been actively involved with since becoming a commissioner and getting involved in NACo has been the PILT program. Since many Western counties have considerable federal lands within their boundaries – lands that are exempt from local property taxes — NACo has been successful over the past 30+ years in lobbying for and getting money to local counties to off-set the avoided property- tax revenue from untaxable federal lands. In Southwest Colorado counties, more than half of our land base is under federal ownership and unavailable to property-taxation revenues … Although it’s been a long battle, just this past year – primarily through the astute legislative skill of our own Sen. (now Secretary) Ken Salazar, counties across the country have fully funded PILT monies for the next four years – a boon of millions of dollars to Montezuma, Dolores and San Miguel counties. In these hard economic times, that’s a significant stimulus to local economies … And as Sec. Salazar told us in a private visit with the Colorado county delegation at NACo, it was primarily because of NACo -- and particularly the efforts of former Colorado Counties (CCI) Public Lands Chair Jake Klein [D-Otero County] — that Salazar worked so hard to get counties full funding … San Miguel County Commissioner Elaine Fischer joined me at the annual NACo Legislative meet in DC this year – her expenses, like mine, paid for by the state organization. Elaine represented CCI in the Land Use and Natural Resources Committee and I represented CCI in Public Lands. It’s a testament to the increasing importance of progressive leadership in the state that our small Four Corners county had two representatives on the national level in a state delegation of 42 Colorado attendees.

WEEKLY QUOTA … “If we don’t fight hard enough for the things we stand for, at some point we have to recognize that we don’t really stand for them.” — the late Sen. Paul Wellstone


Tao Is Up

as the DOW dives again today
we plunge our shovels in
rich llama dung
worth more than gold in this valley of the verdant
we laugh about our great fortunes
on this hot day of March's debut
net worth of our garden soars
the ultimate in carbon sequestering
this market of soil and poop opened early this
microbial communities finding consensus
no bipartisan struggle in this omni-liscious
pumping shiny bio-currency into garden soil,
mycelia running marathons for the good of the
delivering nutrients faster than a courier to
wall street
our news is good today: the worms have multiplied
no bailout needed here -- a bale of straw will
cover it all
our long term investment pays off viscerally as
we're surprised by over-wintered dividends
lavender, onions, carrots, greens and
hand to mouth we hunter-gather
onto our palate gritty lusciousness of spring's
going off like unscheduled fireworks

our camaraderie index soared today
tied to the futures of our rich Mother Earth
our funds entrusted to her majesty

— Lindamarie Luna
(aka Linda Marie Wilson)
Paonia (formerly of Lebanon)

SKIING … It had been 25 years or so. Back in the early ’80s, when I was editor of the old Telluride Times, I’d been given a free pass for the ski area. I tried downhill a couple times, but I was too busy running a paper to make use of that great bennie … Then, by the mid-’80s I had a kid and family, and was barely making ends meet, so buying a pass and equipment was lower on the purse-string totem pole than a whole lot of other basics … Fast forward to 2008. I’d spent the summer with my dying dad, Vincenzo, and hardly any time with my youngest son, Gorio. So, when I came back to run a re-election campaign, I made my boy a promise. If I won, I’d let him teach me how to ski … He thought it was a great idea. I wasn’t sure. At 63 my once-athletic body had endured too many years behind a desk. But I’d always wanted to learn to ski. … So this March, after pushing past a first-of-the-year angiogram and then a colonoscopy , it was show time. Before I knew it I was out on the slopes. Okay, just the Meadows. Doing the snow plow. But hey, it was fun! I fell a couple times. Most embarrassingly, getting off the lift the first time. But by the end of a lovely day, I was up on 10 making snowplow turns flaw(and fall)-lessly, and enjoying the view, the day, my boy and the alpine pleasure of sliding downhill on groomed snow … Yes!

CHAVEZ … Widely underreported, Venezuela’s populist president won a referendum in February abolishing term limits for the presidency of his oilproducing country — some 54 percent of the electorate supporting his neo- Bolivarian revolution … Presidential term limits are one of the interesting set of checks & balances built into the American revolutionary system that have turned out beneficially for the Republic, but changing political leadership works best when the people have a relatively stable (if not immutable) Constitution. In nation-states where the military plays a big political role, stable civilian leadership is almost always preferable to military coups.

DRUMS & DANCE … Once again my friend Lea Rolfsen of Paonia is offering an exciting spring weekend of Zimbabwean drumming and dancing, featuring Rujeko Chenzira and Heidi Alina, at Memorial Hall in Hotchkiss April 10-12. I attended several of these workshops over the years, and have absolutely loved them, both the drumming and the dancing (although the latter is energetic in the extreme and requires one to be in fairly good physical condition) … There are six workshops in all, a drum and a dance workshop on Friday and Saturday in the early evenings and a drum and dance workshop Sunday afternoon too. The price for all is $108, or you can take individual workshops for $20 each ($18 before April 4th). Space is limited, so sign up early. Camping is also available for out-of-towners (no dogs) for only $15 … For more info, call Lea at 970-872-6004.

Art Goodtimes is a San Miguel County commissioner.

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