Monday, September 26, 2016

Elbert County Is Full of Good People

Sometimes, when you write a column with the odd title of “Mundus Vult Decipi, Ergo Decipiatur” the topics come easily.  After all, the average person, if they are being honest with themselves, do wish to be deceived.  We want to believe that nice guys finish first, that if we just work hard enough our ship will pull into port, or that if we just keep picking that combination of numbers that  include our pants size in high school combined with the date we first got kissed we will win the lottery.  Hope springs eternal.  But that is not always the case when you sit down at the keyboard and start to write a weekly blog and are trying to meet a deadline.  The well, is sometimes dry.  Tonight is just such a night.That said, there are plenty of things to be written that are important at this time of the year and so I will take this opportunity that has been presented to me in the form of writers block to indulge myself and hopefully do some good.

Elbert County, despite its reputation for political dysfunction, its lack of commerce, its abysmal lack of infrastructure, is a wonderful place to live.  I say this even though I have found myself at the heart of much turmoil over the years due to my penchant for citizen advocacy.  There are just some things that I feel must be defended.  That is the way I felt about the Super Slab. That is the way I feel about the groundwater.  That is the way I feel about volunteer firefighters,  That is especially true for my belief that public education is our best insurance for a sound future.  But to the point of this article, this county is a wonderful place to live because of its charitable people who give so much to the common good with little or no reward.

On several different occasions over the past few years, my family and myself included, have been stricken with illness.  My sister who lived in West Virginia came down with lung cancer a few years back.  The struggle which eventually took her life was lengthy and painful. One morning during her fight to recover she received a package from Gail Segreto of the Elizabeth Piecemakers. In it was a quilt to make her feel better during her days as she battled her illness.  It made a profound impact on my family that a group of ladies that had never met her and lived over a thousand miles away had taken the time to send her a handmade quilt.  Presumably, the Piecemakers came into the knowledge of her illness by reading about her struggle from some of the social media sites where I post my articles.  Since that time, I have myself experienced some debilitating injuries to my back. I, too, received a quilt during my convalescence.  To this day I cannot adequately express how much that this has meant to my family.  These are my neighbors.  We likely do not see eye to eye on political matters and to be certain, other than Gail, I do not know who the current quilters are, but they care about everyone and that makes me a fortunate individual because of where I live. They deserve recognition.  They deserve charitable contributions from their neighbors.  Give back.

There is a lady in the town of Elbert who epitomizes why Elbert County is such a wonderful place to live.  Her name is Jo Petit.  She runs a circus.  The circus is called Circus-YOUR-Way LLC. It is a youth training and employment organization and its sole purpose is to bring  local youth and seniors together. Yes, it is an LLC, but it would be a stretch to say that anyone is monetarily profiting from this. They do not. Jo trains local entertainers. She trains them to be performers but in reality she is teaching them the life skill of self confidence and physical exercise.  She helps promote community involvement, service and volunteer work right here in Elbert County.  The kids have something to do and they give back to their community.  They go to civic events, bring joy and engage senior citizens.  These kids stay out of trouble, they are learning to stand in front of a crowd and confidently, juggle, do acrobatics, dance and sing.  Can you do that?  Jo is doing a great service for our youth.  Give back.  Go see them when they perform and donate if you are so inclined!  They make Elbert County unique and special.

And finally there is our Elbert County Community Outreach store (ECCO). ECCO gives monies to those that are in need of emergency housing due to disasters.  They have helped people who have found themselves without the resources to have their proper medical needs met or who might find that they are in need food and clothing.  They help people learn how to find employment, balance household finances, and live a more productive life.  If you have ever found yourself down and out in Elbert County, chances are pretty good that you have used ECCO’s services.  They help families that foster children, women in domestic abuse situations and senior citizens in need of a hand.  Last year, when I helped a friend go through a devastating medical and financial crises, ECCO was there with me every step of the way.  This is truly an amazing organization that inspires and brings hope to hundreds of families in need.  And if that was not enough, they have the coolest store between Castle Rock and Limon for clothing, household goods and anything else you can imagine.  All the money raised goes to help Elbert County residents.  Go to their store, spend money, make a donation and above all, get to know these wonderful people.  Oh, by the way, you can donate household goods, clothing, tools, and working electronics if that suits your fancy.

So that’s it.  This is the beginning of the holiday season.  It is getting colder and people tend to have more emergencies this time of year.  Here in Elbert we have people who reach out and help.  They make Elbert County special in so many ways.  Please consider giving back.  Please think about volunteering to help with community outreach projects.  Please be generous with your time, your energy and your money so that Elbert can be the kind of place we all want to call “Home.”

Monday, September 19, 2016

Robert Rowland Wants To Tell You Something and I Try to Help Him Out

I have a couple of Republican friends who get all of Commissioner Robert Rowland’s email missives as the leader of the Elbert County Tea Party. They send them to me for some strange reason. Now before I move into my topic, let me be clear on something: Rowland deserves some credit for practicing his politics.  He does not approach politics in the manner that I believe that it should be approached, you know, by researching facts, telling the truth and being transparent, but he does participate with fervor in his own way.

Back to Rowland’s most recent missive in which he attacks Jill Duvall and all of her ilk over at the Prairie Times.  This following is the text of the letter:

I'm not going to waste a lot of time in responding to Jill Duvall's latest desperate attempt at being relevant here in Elbert County, but her ad in the Prairie Times warrants a rational response.  Here she is in this latest edition forced into our mailboxes by the Editor controlled by the local radical wing of the Democratic Party running an ad that like most of their rhetoric is false and insulting to most clear thinking Elbert County citizens.   She uses my picture and that of Colonel Chris Richardson, the Republican candidate for Elbert County Commissioner District 1 to claim if you elect this proven leader and Conservative that you are getting just another me.  While I'm honored to be compared to Colonel Richardson in such a manner, her delusional latest garbage is not intended by these radicals to be a compliment. 

I think it's time for all of Elbert County's voters, except for those far left followers of Duvall's to recognize this Democrat for exactly what she is, a disruptive, willing to say anything radical who has and will continue to cause disruption, wasted taxpayer dollars and confusion for as long as she is standing and able to spout her venom.

We all know Colonel Chris Richardson as the free thinking, dedicated, honest and proven Conservative he is, and we all know that he is beholding to no one, which makes these latest vicious lies all the more despicable.   We are a county of conservative, patriotic citizens, and while we may differ at times, while we may get angry at each others views or approaches, we know that this group of HIllary/Bernie/Bennett supporters, these folks who oppose everything but their own out of touch radical leftist agenda, these folks who believe lies are justified if it fits the end game, are not what this county or any reasonably managed local government needs.   

I say reject Democrat Jill Duvall and her campaign trash, reject the Prairie Times that has all but turned over it's content to this gang, let's move this county forward with responsible, honest and proven Conservatives, the Democrats have proven they are unworthy of our trust or out votes.

First of all, his entire letter is fraught with grammatical errors making it hard to to follow his reasoning with any preciseness. It has a number of erroneous assumptions in it, but as fortune would have it, and as a former public educator, I am here to help you with all of this. In the first sentence he says he is not going to waste your time responding to any of this before he responds to everything, real or imagined, in a paid political ad, which I have provided in this blog entry. Her “delusional attack” on Chris Richardson is to point out that that he represents the status quo, and a vote for him insures you will get more leadership that has been served up by the likes of the current sitting commissioner, Robert Rowland. No hyperbole. No ad hominem verbiage.  Nope, this is just a simple opinion that states that it is her belief that Richardson does not represent change.  
Mr. Rowland seems to be saying that he recognizes what people of all political persuasions are saying about him, and he wants none of that for his friend.  I just do not see anything wrong with her statement, but apparently Mr. Rowland is feeling a bit chaffed at where his personal reputation has ended up after four years of contentious leadership. Paid ads are the lifeblood of any newspaper and coming from a man who says he was a leader at the Denver Post, his complaint about the Prairie Times is silly.  Anyone who knows Mr. Bishop and his family know that they are conservatives.  That the Prairie Times provides a place for citizens to air differing opinions than Rowland’s is laudable.  If it was not something his readership wished to see, free market forces would have brought pressure to bear against the content.  Instead, it appears that it has become very popular.  The Bishops continue to keep the lights on thanks to the generosity of their advertisers.

Rowland states that Duvall is a disruptive radical who wastes taxpayer dollars.  It is hard to imagine just what Mr. Rowland means when he uses the word “disruptive.” The synonyms for that descriptor are: troublesome, unruly, badly behaved, rowdy, disorderly, undisciplined and wild. I have spent countless hours in meetings with Mrs. Duvall.  At no time have I ever seen disruptive behavior from her nor has she ever been escorted from a county meeting due to misconduct.  She does irritate the crap out of commissioners who have no use for her point of view, but that hardly qualifies as disruption.  Mrs. Duvall is always prepared with thoughtful research and she is well within her rights to question activities that appear to be in conflict with either state law, the will of the people, or both.  Opposition may be viewed as inconvenient to those wishing to accomplish an unclear agenda, but it is the way our laws work.  If she is breaking the law, then I suggest Mr. Rowland engage the legal resources at his disposal to halt this horrible and venomous behavior.  However, as Mr. Rowland clearly knows, it is not okay to falsely accuse someone of breaking the law and then acting upon a false assertion.  

Mr. Rowland suggests that Mrs. Duvall has wasted taxpayer money.  Of course unless you were born yesterday after an unfortunate fall from the bed of a truck full of turnips you are aware that Mrs. Duvall has never sued the county nor have the members  of the Elbert County Democratic Party.  He affectionately refers to us as leftists “unworthy of our trust or votes.”  No, the real expense to which he is referring is the taxpayer money that he himself has wasted trying to defend his own reputation using the highly expensive services of the so-called “county attorney” and to keep him from having to pay a $1000 fine levied on him by a judge.  To my knowledge, the judge in question was not partisan, did not know Mrs. Duvall, had no beef with Robert Rowland, and would have been judged sane by a jury of his own peers.  I believe Commissioner Rowland would be wise to just take out that  sentence and move on to the next part of his diatribe.

Mr. Rowland wants us to believe that everyone knows Chris Richardson and his tried and true conservatism.  The fact of the matter is that before this campaign, few people ever heard of him.  He certainly was not at the meetings of the BOCC, the planning commission, or the water advisory board making his important conservative values known.  This is not a slam on Mr. Richardson; he might be all of the things Robert Rowland states, but there is little history on which to judge these claims.  There is nothing wrong with being new to the political scene, as is Democrat, Don Cherobe, but it is inappropriate to suggest that these two candidates do not need to bring us up to speed with their beliefs.  I applaud them both for their personal service to our country, but that is not enough for many of us who want some substance to show us they are ready to take the helm of Elbert County.  I applaud both the Prairie Times and the online Elbert County Citizens’ Page for trying to bring us the answers to the pressing questions of the day.  Despite Mr. Rowland’s claim over the past few years, the audit shows us we are still sinking financially and we need to select leaders, not political monikers.

Jill Duvall, Chris Richardson, Danny Wilcox, Don Cherobee, Barbara Miller and Grant Thayer are all trying to become Elbert County Commissioners.  It is hard work.  They are trying to take the reins on a wagon that some might argue is running out of control.  I have run for this office and it is no picnic.  Can we all just listen to what the candidates have to tell us without all of the the name calling and personal attacks?  Let’s try something different at the county level this year and be more disciplined than state and federal politicians.  More discourse and less drama.

And one more thing, when you read a quote from a founding father on Mr. Rowland’s letters, be sure to take it with a grain of salt.  Thomas Paine never wrote, “"The duty of a patriot is to protect his country from its government.” Simple fact checking at the following link to the Thomas Paine National Historical Association might have saved him some embarrassment.

Monday, September 12, 2016

What if Elbert County Actually Stepped up to the Plate and did Something Important?

Sometimes I am no different than anybody else and I get something stuck in my craw and I want to just bitch and complain.  But then, shortly afterwards, I remember that I am a grownup, that bitching never accomplishes what I want it to do, and there are certainly more productive things to do with my time.  Such was the case this week as I watched people of all political stripes go bonkers over sports figures exercising their constitutional right to protest.  Whether you believe the National Anthem is to be revered or not, damned few people wanted to listen to the  other side’s explanation.  Nope, it is too easy nowadays to just pick a side and embrace the polarized morass that our country has become.  

Instead of becoming all indignant and digging through your closet for an outfit that is red, white and blue, perhaps we should pull together and do something that might actually demonstrate that we care about our country. Why don’t we do something that not only would show everyone that we care about our nation, but those who serve to protect it as well?  I have had a notion which has met with underwhelming attention for nearly ten years, but it might just be that now is the time to trot it out there again and see if there is any interest.

I propose that Elbert County remake its image and become the most Veteran-friendly county in this state.  Instead of complaining that we do not show the respect to those who have fought for our freedom, we open our doors to United States Veterans who have been disabled in sacrifice to their country.  

Everybody knows that the VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System and Hospital is located in Aurora.   It is there to provide medical care to those who have served our country while in uniform.  Despite its own rocky start with inadequate funding, the complex is now getting on its feet and helping Veterans from all over the western regions of our country.  As a result, we have many families that have relocated to Colorado to be closer to this state-o-the- art medical facility.  What I am asking our BOCC to consider as one of its goals is to encourage veterans' based businesses to locate within Elbert County.  

The Small Business Administration (SBA) has made provisions to assist disabled veterans to start up businesses based on the the Veterans Benefits Act of 2003 (Public Law 108-183). This was an act passed by Congress. It set up a procurement program for Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Concerns (SDVOSBC). From the SBA site:

"This procurement program provides that federal contracting officers may restrict competition to SDVOSBCs and award a sole source or set-aside contract where certain criteria are met.

The Small Business Administration has issued an interim final rule, establishing a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Concern Program. This program establishes the criteria to be used in federal contracting to determine service-disabled veteran status; business ownership and control requirements; guidelines for establishing sole source and set-aside procurement opportunities; and protest and appeal procedures for SDVOSBC procurements.”

So we have the Vets, we are located conveniently near a major VA Hospital complex, and our general populace wants to honor the commitment of these great Americans.  What they need to complete this scenario is a place to go to work.  Small towns like Simla, Elizabeth, Elbert and Kiowa are great locations for these kinds of businesses.  Without much modification to existing infrastructure, a small business that does injection molding or cleanroom assembly of electronic or medical devices is very doable.  We are talking about businesses that may employ five or six people, some who may be disabled, but others who are not.

Let me give you an example of which I am very familiar.  A few years ago, a couple of friends of ours joined my wife and I in a small business endeavor.  We purchased an old building in the town of Elbert.  It served many purposes over the years, but most notably was the Elsner Building where that family sold tractor and farm supplies.  We restored the building.  We replaced the old wiring and brought the building up to a standard where it could have been modified into a small manufacturing business.  There is three phase power in the town of Elbert.  To those who may be unaware, that is a real bonus in manufacturing.  The zoning was such that we could have put in an injection molding business, a furniture making shop, etc. Sadly, as is sometimes the case, the partnership dissolved before any plans came to fruition.

That said, I did explore the possibility of a veteran based business in that building.  I began floating my idea of making the town of Elbert a veteran friendly town.  I talked to locals who seemed interested in the idea and offered to help any family of a veteran move into the community and even go so far as to help convert one of the old houses in the town into an ADA compliant home for the new community member.  I talked a bit to a couple of teachers from the school at the time and asked them what they thought the impact might be on the youth of Elbert if their little town opened its doors to someone who had made the kind of sacrifice that a disabled vet might have made but it left them with special needs.  To a person, they all thought it was a good idea.

Unfortunately, none of this would or ever will be possible unless the BOCC, the county planner, the zoning officials and grant writers for the county are all on board with this.  You see, we do not have a lot of extra cash on hand over at the government offices in Kiowa. We spend too much money (in my opinion) on frivolous litigation, designed to improve our tarnished reputation in the state.  Nothing, I repeat, nothing, could  repair the reputation with the State of Colorado than a public policy that states, "Elbert County wants veteran based businesses to locate in our county and we are willing to bend over backward to make that happen because we owe them something for their service."

It not only be a boon to those who served.  It would not only show our children that this is a worthy endeavor.  It would be something we could all agree upon.  It would bring others here who might provide services to the veteran community such as physical therapists, ambulance cabs, etc. to help them lead normal lives.  It is of course much more involved than this. But if we pulled this off, Elbert County could provide a model for other counties that have this sort of community spirit.  

Imagine Elbert County being a leader for other counties and doing such good work.  Honestly, doesn’t this make more sense than screaming at your television set when you see an athlete taking a knee during the National Anthem?  This is replacing anger with meaningful action and cooperation.

Monday, September 5, 2016

When you wish upon a star...

Why are you here?  That’s right, I am talking to you.  Let me be a bit more specific.  Why are you living here in Elbert County right now?  Were you born here?  Did you want to live in a county that was a little more rural?  Did you want to raise chickens?  Did you always want to have your very own horse to ride?  Did you get a belly full of having neighbors whose house was within ten feet of your property line?  Did you want your children to grow up in a place that was free of some of the pressures that inner cities often place in the way of their development?  Did you want to revel in the pristine quiet and the incredible night skies? Perhaps it was just a chance to catch a glimpse of honest to goodness wildlife. Every one of those choices are legitimate and you probably know someone who could identify with one or more of those reasons.  

If you are being honest with yourself, you probably did not move out here so that you could snap your fingers and your surroundings would turn into Aurora or Colorado Springs.  If you actually made the conscious decision to move here, then you probably did not expect to see an AMC 24 screen movie theater in a brand spanking new mall any time soon.  You probably understood that your drinking water was going to be from a domestic well.  You probably understood you would be driving your car on gravel roads a good portion of the time and your windshield would need replacing from gravel projectiles pelting it on a regular basis.  This is what living in the rural areas along the Front Range in Colorado is like.  You can wish it was different, but that is not going to bring about significant change unless investors from areas outside the county decide they need what you have; undeveloped property, underdeveloped natural resources and/or unexploited tourism potential.

Elbert County is on the cusp of consequential change and I predict that in a few years, unless we do a better job of planning for it, few of us are going to recognize the old place when and if current population projections hold true.  As I stated in my last blog post, there will be an additional 2.4 million Coloradans living here by the year 2040.  They will mainly live along the Front Range in the area from Ft. Collins to Colorado Springs.

It is not impossible to foresee a doubling of the Elbert County population in the next few years.  With no intention of casting shade on the Independence development project or the other plans for development along County Road 58, that area alone, if built out to completion will likely represent a 10% increase in population in our county.  If it happens, (and I have little reason to believe it won’t), we have to hope that our elected officials have their thinking caps screwed on tightly for a wide variety of reasons.  

When population grows, there is a mixed bag of ancillary side effects that must be taken into consideration.  Some of them are wonderful.  Some of them are not.  Some of them include hard lessons that change the persona of a community or county in unexpected ways.

As of January 1, 2016, Douglas County population was projected to be 327,230.  In 1970, Douglas County’s population was 8,608. When I moved to Elbert County in 1997, Douglas County was slightly  above 130,000. That represents a 251% increase in 19 years and an overall increase in population of 380% since I graduated from high school.  If you were born on a farm in Douglas County in the 1960’s and are still living there today, your perspective on rampant growth might be something Elbert County might wish to discuss with you. 

Sometimes you have to be careful when making wishes.  Most of you reading this would agree that we need more commercial development in the county so that there are more local jobs.  That said, you have to be prepared for the increased traffic, the sprawl of housing developments that eradicate the once beautiful views that surround you today.  You have to be prepared for increased needs for new schools, changing political dynamics, increased costs of services and a diminishing rural lifestyle. 

Let’s also be cognizant of the fact that if housing brings in more blue collar workers than upper management types that you might find in Douglas County, our Elbert County may start voting a more blue agenda.  Are you ready for marijuana dispensaries, for instance, because this is Colorado after all ?  

I grew up in Aurora when it was rural and conservative.  Today it is a very different place and I do not go back there often.  I am not saying it is a bad thing to grow and that you should be fearful, but I am asking you if you are prepared for it. Growth changes communities, that no one can deny.

If it means anything to you at all, do something about it today, while you still can.  Attend meetings about developing a new master plan.  Go to a few planning commission meetings to see how this body produces recommendations to the BOCC.  Call and ask our planners specific questions about future growth and demand answers.  They are there to serve the community, not produce a future that does not include your input.  "Mundus cult decipi, ergo decipiatur” suggests that if you wish to abdicate the decision of Elbert County’s future to those whose vision might not reflect your values, then let it be so.  It may be that my vision is different than yours, but if neither of us stand up and make our voices heard, then the future of Elbert County belongs to those whose only vision is to prosper by our inaction.