July 2011

Celebrating the Dolores River's flow

By Art Goodtimes

DOLORES RIVERFEST … Invited down to the 8th annual local event to emcee, I found it a pleasure to share good music, good food, and warm (if smoky) weather with lots of wonderful fellow Coloradoans. This wasn’t so much a tourist draw, as a local chance to celebrate the Dolores River, to learn about lots of great groups doing good work in the watershed, and to have a good time. The Greater Dolores Action folks put it on. Lots of great activities for kids. Raffles and giveaways for adults. Raft rides. A water parade. And some rocking music … Paonia-based singer/songwriter ace Russ Chapman kicked things off with a lively round of original songs. Elizabeth Rose got the ear juices flowing with her great vocals and piano. Exciting Afrobeat Minion brought out the crowd’s inner dancers. As did Albuquerque-based The Tijerina Band. Even Dolores’s own Lindells did a turn … But it was the headliner finale that overshadowed everything before it – the Flobots. Brer Rabbit & Jonny 5 were in dazzling shape (they played Red Rocks the next day). Their band was tight, in synch and hot. Bass. Violin. Drums. They’d come two years before and the kids of the Dolores remembered. They sang along, crowded the stage, waving hands, conveying bodies overhead in front, as the Flobots danced and gyrated, hip-hopped and told their slam poet stories to a wild, Dionysian beat of voice & drum, string & strung … Hell, it was the best show I’d ever seen from backstage. I bought all three of their CDs.

VAIL … Colorado Counties, Inc., held their summer meeting in Vail’s pricey Cascade Resort and Spa last month, and those of us embattled Dems & Greens got a taste of what “bi-partisanship” means in the hands of a triumphant & combatitive Repub county-commissioner majority at CCI … We have 10 state steering committees to help us craft language for bills we sponsor, support or oppose. The state can do a lot to help, and hinder, local government. So it’s important to have a unified voice on legislation that will cost local taxpayers more money or less services. But most goodwill in the group was gone when the Repubs teamed up to knock all Dems and Greens (just one, actually, me:>) out of leadership last fall. Only one Dem remained as vice-chair out of 16 positions. Traditionally, a Repub is chair if there’s a Repub majority and a Dem/Green gets vice-chair – to sort of balance the energies. Oh, but not this batch of partisan Repubs … So, at our Vail meeting, when it came time for district elections (another separation of the membership into five geographic regions for extra regional meetings), we Dems/ Greens in the Western District put up Lynn Padgett of Ouray as our choice, and the Repubs put up Audrey Danner from Moffat County as their choice. Danner won handily, which was to be expected. But then instead of letting Lynn take the vice-chair position, the Repubs put up Olen Lund of Delta, a second Republican – effectively, once again keeping progressives out of leadership in

THE TALKING GOURD

Blue Fleece Pullover

Too hot pouring concrete
I yank it off,
toss over a rock,
forget it.

Next morning picking it up
a mouse runs out!
Chewed its way in
under the right armpit
with another hole six inches away.

Probably had to pee
during the night.

Doc Dachtler
From “Skid Marks
and Snow Geese”
(Larkspur Press, Kentucky, 2011)

CCI … Never in the 14 years I’ve been working within CCI has the group been so partisan, and so dismissive of minority opinions. It’s making some of us wonder if, in these hard times, we ought to be putting our taxpayer dollars into an organization that shuts us out of leadership and supports positions that our citizens don’t agree with.

OUTPOST MOTEL … If you’re passing through Dolores and you need a pillow for the night, let me recommend this oldfashioned fishing-camp gem. Not glitzy or modern. But scrupulously clean, and quaint in the way of old country inns. Spent a lovely night their during the Dolores Riverfest days, and they were kind enough to even send along some crucial things in my world – like the one-of-a-kind thread I needed to finish a basket for a very important former county employee and a fold-up flashlight that I can use in my red Honda Civic (officially “totaled” a year ago) whose interior dash lights never worked when I got the car from my daughter several years ago … Funny how we get so attached or place such value on the oddest of things.

ROAD SAVVY … Any bright neophyte driver knows the first rule of the road – Be Safe. But following that rule on Norwood Hill in San Miguel County could get you into trouble … The big danger there is rockfall. So, many of us regular commuters keep as far away as possible from the toe of Norwood’s eroding sandstone cliff-face – preferably straddling the centerline (if no one’s coming uphill) at 10 miles above the posted speed limit, one eye on the slope and one on the road. Or, cutting across lanes on hard curves looping into the hill … For years, my kids would play the “Rock-in-the-Road” game, where I’d have to swerve all over the pavement to avoid old rockfall (only rarely rocks in the act of falling – although a five-pounder did catch my Amani t amobile once)… If you drive down that stretch of road in the full sunlight of the pre-noon hour, p a r t i c u l a r l y after spring rains or winter snows, you can almost hear the geologic freeze/thaw, if you roll your window down. Snap of rock. Tumble of stones. Piles of them like grizzly-gutted humpies scattered on a B.C. streambank … I have a friend who was driving home from Telluride the other day and caught a boulder on her hood. It shattered the pickup’s windshield and smashed up the passenger side of the cab (where her daughter had been riding shortly before). It’s stories like those that have some of us breaking the law to be safe … Currently, most of us know that it’s in violation of the vehicle code to cross lanes on curves, straddle the centerline or drive faster than the posted speed. State police do have personal discretionary latitude not to ticket someone for driving to avoid dangerous conditions, but the law itself doesn’t exactly give them much leeway. And their job is to enforce the law, not allow its avoidance … But I have to tell you. Keeping to one’s lane all the way down Norwood Hill midday under blue skies after rain or snow is dangerous, legal and probably stupid.

SOLUTION? … It’s not good policy to criticize things without giving some recommendation for a fix. So, try this on for size -- let’s run a bill that reduces law enforcement duplication, saves the state valuable tax dollars and increases local control. Plus, is a funded (not unfunded) state mandate … Sound too good to be true? Maybe not. What if we left state highway patrolling of traffic to local law enforcement – particularly county sheriff departments? We’d reduce our state patrol numbers (saving a bunch of money) and limit them to a smaller force to patrol freeways, federal highways and counties unwilling to take on a state highway traffic role … But to pay for the task, the money from the sheriff-enforced traffic stops would go half to the state and half to the county of origin … Local deputies can appreciate local hazards, so the bill would allow counties to recommend speed-limit changes to the state more in line with local usage and safety, rather than bythe- book speed limits regardless of special conditions … I’ve talked with Sheriff Bill Masters in the past, and he (I think) has expressed the wish that his officers could have primary law-enforcement authority within county boundaries, and not have duplication on state highways with state patrol officers. As a locally elected Green official, I like the idea of devolving government authority down to the local and regional level (where people actually live) … Of course, not all counties (or sheriffs) might like this idea. So, we should make the law permissive, allowing counties that want to do this the choice, and those that don’t the continued service of a shrunken state police force… Now we just need to find a populist legislator (working for the people) willing to carry a bill like this.

Art Goodtimes is a county commissioner in San Miguel County, Colo.