August 2015

Our county's negative notoriety

By Galen Larson

Hooray, hooray, Cortez is leading the way – to the bottom. I saw in the news recently that we here in Montezuma County have garnered the dubious distinction of being the eighth-worst place to live in the state of Colorado. I know the list actually said Cortez, but Cortez is in Montezuma County, and all fish smell the same when they are in the same bucket.

Now, I realize this list was put together by one small outfit on the Internet and it may not be perfectly fair, but it provides us the chance to think about this place where we live and how it is faring.

At one time this was a thriving community with access to many prospering avenues. McElmo Canyon was noted for its fruits and vegetables. Many in the area were shipping apples, cherries, peaches, and apricots out. There was a vigorous downtown area appealing to visitors and locals alike and offering the necessities of living in a rural town.

But then there came setbacks and panic set in and with PPLS we hastily encouraged the scourge of small towns to come here, giving them tax incentives that small struggling local businesses never got. We allowed ourselves to become dependent on energy/ CO2 extraction for a huge portion of our economy. What, I ask, sustained the forefathers here who built our towns and developed this area without CO2 and gas and oil? If we have become dependent on just one enterprise we are in dire straits. One should always have a little mad money in one’s shoe – if not, you are left standing by the side of the road.

Why are not the leaders of Montezuma County and the three municipalities getting together to route a plan that benefits all? It is astonishing to me that so much of our taxes are spent on leadership, yet we have none. Are they proud of the fact that Montezuma County is close to the bottom?

One area badly in need of improvement is education, yet this need is recognized by only a few. It brings tears to my eyes when I see our little ones so proud and eager on their first day of school, then as time goes on, we slam the door in their faces by not giving them the necessary equipment and support. It is hard to make the farm profitable when the tractor is running on only one cylinder.

Look at the failure of the bond issue that would have supported badly needed improvements to Southwest Open School. Now, instead of a campus we could all have been proud of, we wind up with another gas station. Where were our elected leaders in supporting this issue? They were very quiet.

Forward thinking seems to be lacking as a whole in our community. We are great about placing the blame on others, not having ever walked in their moccasins. Everything that is wrong here is somehow the fault of someone back in Washington, D.C. We waste too much time and energy picking fights with the federal government and don’t spend enough time looking at what we can do locally to improve things.

First we’re terrified of some prairie chicken that we have driven nearly to extinction and we want to pass measures to try to keep it away. Then we spend good money to join some ridiculous club that does little but improve the financial status of a Utah legislator. It angers me when those that enjoy an income from our tax money – who sit in a government chair before a government-provided table in a government building – decry government, and some of us mistakenly and ignorantly join in this tirade.

Instead, our elected county commissioners should come together with Dolores, Mancos and Cortez leaders to develop innovative ideas, pursue grants, and do whatever it takes to turn this area around. That is what great leaders do.

Galen Larson writes from Montezuma County, Colo.