May 2014

Taking care of our community

By Galen Larson

A group that doesn’t take good care of its members is a group that doesn’t command much loyalty (and probably won’t last long). – Daniel Quinn, “Beyond Civilization.”

We are not beyond civilization; we are not even civilized. The difference between us and other animals, they say, is we have a thumb, but we are so busy thumbing our nose at others it obstructs our vision and we can’t see opportunity.

The Cortez Journal on April 1 stated 32 percent of the children in this community live in poverty. I mentioned that to a fellow. His answer was, “Well, isn’t that because of their ethnicity?” Is that the mindset of this community? Then we are poorer than I thought.

Entering Cortez from any direction looks like an explosion in a landfill – junk everywhere. Thrift stores, coffee shops, corporate pizza, hamburger drive-throughs and the necessity to provide a place for the homeless.

When my wife and I settled here it was a thriving community, locally owned and operated. One could get or order most all of their needs here. Then came the decay. Safeway left. The best the leaders could think of then was, “Let’s get a prison here” but wiser heads prevailed. Once you step into that quagmire you can never extract yourself.

A number of economic groups formed but seemed to be all talk, no walk. If any commissioner was forward-thinking they never could get elected or remain past first term.

Then came the guillotine for all small towns, the big-box store that got a hefty tax reduction. Have our elected officials ever given a small business start-up the same courtesy?

When you sell out to the highest bidder you lose your integrity. As George Bernard Shaw stated, when a lady said yes to his request to bed her for a million dollars but no when it was reduced to two, “We have determined your status, we are now haggling about the price.” If you compromise your integrity, your face value goes down considerably.

The slamming of the doors of small business sounded a death knell of the community. Pride has gone by the wayside. It took three tries to pass a small mill levy to build the rec center, now a much-used facility. The boat of education sailed by us when we rejected a new campus for Southwest Open School to help those that desire an education but through personal problems have a difficult time attaining it. Why help those in need when it’s easier to demean them?

This, “Pull yourself up by the bootstraps” is a blatant lie. You can’t float alone unless someone salts the water. I have many people to thank for giving me the opportunity to show my mettle. There are many others that could have done as well or better but never had the opportunity. Thanks to a few dedicated people we at least are going to build a high school with more than one electrical plug-in for modern students.

It takes leadership to make progress, a thing sorely lacking here. We have three commissioners who are protecting us from sage hens when they should be exploring ways to bring or create enterprises that create jobs.

This area was settled by people with ingenuity and drive. I have seen a number of good ideas go by the wayside through jealousy or our motto: “It can’t be done.” If the first settlers had had that attitude, we would still be a mud flat.

Our leaders are afraid to make a decision that might cost them an election. I would rather lose with pride than be a lackey. I take umbrage at the remark that expecting leaders to govern for the benefit of all makes me a socialist, when the man who said that shops at a store supplied by a Communist country. What is wrong with “union-made and made in America”?

Why can’t our leaders have a meeting with the leaders of Mancos, Dolores, and Cortez and the county commissioners to discuss possibilities for economic development? We are never going to get the wagon loaded till we agree to work together.

It wasn’t very enlightening to read the answers by persons applying for elected office, as published in the Cortez Journal. It was all political-speak. Jobs were their primary objective, but I heard nothing of how they were to accomplish this except to cater to a minority group of saber-rattlers.

Are they going to woo more big-box stores whose profits leave the area before you’re out the door with your purchase? Do they have ideas to capitalize on local amenities, of which there are a great number? Do they intend to work closely with the three towns, or let each fly alone? We should have learned that dog-eat-dog economic development will not sustain a community. We only have one alternative, work together or die. So let’s hear some concrete ideas from the candidates.

I attended an event called Heart and Soul of Cortez. I think it should have been called Hearts and Flowers. We have lost our soul.

Galen Larson writes from Montezuma County, Colo.