November 2014

What is the county's mission

By Galen Larson

Now that Montezuma County has a relatively new staff and board of county commissioners, I ask: What is their mission? Do they have an agenda to lift our county out of poverty? What will they come up with to help those struggling to make ends meet?

If they are to be our leaders, they should take the helm and steer us forward, using the assets available in this area. That would not only bring pride and prosperity for the community, but it would make a name for them.

I don’t really care to hear that refrain, “It’s not our job.” You are not in a union, you are elected officials. Leaders are supposed to overcome these impediments. Supporting affordable health care as our hospital does and working to increase the minimum wage in the county and state would accomplish more than chasing chickens and running to the state legislators to prevent someone from garnering money from the sale of his property. They should do research into what local amenities could be used to bring jobs to the area, the cost of implementation, and where and how to get financing for those who have an idea and need a boost.

I am absolutely certain that people do not care to work two jobs with no benefits and remain in a state of poverty. I think it is up to our elected officials to make a concerted effort to alleviate this problem for the good of the community. They seem to be willing to spend time, effort, and our taxes on things that are of no consequence to the average person’s lifestyle. This diverts attention from the real problem – 37 percent poverty in this county. That should shame leaders to try to find the causes, then work to alleviate them. Start with elevating minimum wages, not only in the county but the state. Now, that is something to bring to the legislature. A forward-thinking and prospering state brings in tax monies, the result of good-paying jobs and education. If the legislators won’t do it, then go over their heads to Congress and get a boost in the federal minimum wage.

Another key factor to focus on is local business. There needs to be local business here, owned and operated by local people – not giant corporations who siphon off the cream and ship our money out. We need to ship our products out, not our money. I mind not at all helping those that struggle to put food on the table and shoes and clothes on their children, but it angers me no end to elect and put people into the greatest welfare system in the county and see no positive results, when they are already among the 1 percent in income in this community.

Our leaders need to consider the people’s needs. Why is there not a ground-floor office and commission meeting room in an area easily accessible to aged, infirm, and busy people, so all who care to can attend?

I’ve lived here longer than anywhere else. My wife and I chose this area for its beauty and small-town atmosphere, which I have seen decline faster than mash goes through a goose. I was ashamed recently when two ladies came through Cortez and couldn’t find the downtown area.

We can do better. Remember, poverty enhances no one, not even those in charge.

Leadership does not mean on-the-job training for those we elect. They should come into office with awareness and knowledge of the problems, and hit the ground with some ready answers. But of course no one has all the answers, nor the questions. It shows leadership to reach out to others. Have a brainstorming session with interested local constituents. We aren’t all fools.

Anyone can perform an easy task. It takes leaders with knowledge, guts, and determination to tackle the hard questions. “It won’t work” and “It can’t be done” are not steps toward success.

Galen Larson writes from Montezuma County, Colo.