August 2012

Pruning the tree of politics

By Galen Larson

Montezuma County’s elected officials today are all Republicans and mostly conservatives. I know that none of the appointed have signed the pledge that our Congressman Scott Tipton signed to shrink our nation and government to the size Grover Norquist proclaims is his mission. But they have not disavowed his statement, either, so I assume they go along with the idea that smaller is better.

If they believe in shrinking government, I must ask, are they willing to start here in Montezuma County? Where do we start? Do we need three $50,000-a-year county commissioners to govern 26,000 constituents? Shouldn’t an administrator and a small staff be enough?

I strongly support law enforcement but do we need a sheriff at $75,000, plus a city police chief and a Mancos town marshal? Wouldn’t combining all those two forces save money and be more efficient?

And why three school districts with top heavy administrative costs? If we consolidated school districts, that should release some monies for the teachers who are digging into their pockets for school supplies. They are so badly in need that a local group called Montezuma County Loves Its Kids and Teachers has started a drive for private citizens and compassionate businesses to donate money and materials to local educators.

Then look at Cortez. There is a city government and a separate sanitation district. Does that make any sense at all? The city runs the water and the special district operates the sewers. Why not combine them and create greater efficiencies?

Same thing for the fire districts. Why do we need five, all with different chiefs? Let’s have a single district serving the entire county.

And let’s think even bigger. Couldn’t Cortez, Dolores, Mancos and the county all come together and form a home-rule government as Denver has? Of course we are not Denver, nor will we ever be. But if it saves money, as the Republicans claim is their primary concern, it may be worth looking into.

Now I am sure that we will hear myriad excuses as to why this sort of thing can’t be done. I’ve already been told it’s all mandated from the state. But a county so in love with individualism should stand up and demand to go the way of greater cost-cutting.

Yup, I agree, we need smaller government, fewer taxes, no food stamps, no unemployment insurance and definitely no Social Security. Everyone should have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. Of course, when the soul is gone it does no use to pull on the bootstraps, but never mind. So it’s small government we want. So be it. But let’s start pruning the tree from the top to make the lower branches stronger and more fruitful.

I am anxious to see which one of our elected officials from the party of small government and less spending will step forward and initiate a program to reduce the top-heavy structure of government in Montezuma County. I don’t want to hear “can’t” as a reason. “Can’t” just means someone doesn’t want to, has no idea how to, or hasn’t got an ounce of leadership. Do we really need a thousand employees to govern 26,000 residents? I don’t think so.

Galen Larson writes from Montezuma County, Colo.