Shannon Schwingdorf: Commissioners are right

— Dear Bryce Jacobsen:

I read with amazement your diatribe about the stance of the Moffat County Commissioners regarding tax ballot issues and the Craig-Moffat EDP.

In your commentary, you state the following: "The current Moffat County commission have shocked and appalled me by their actions in two recent situations, so much so that I am concerned for the future of this community that if we continue down the road that they are leading us, I am scared where we may end up."

"Shocked, appalled, scared, frightening," all words used by you to describe your feelings about the leadership of the current County commissioners.

Wow. This is serious stuff.

Bryce, if you were to sit back and read what you had written, you would realize that you are not making sense. First, you say that you want the commissioners to come out and state their opinion, yet, when they do, as in their stance on the EDP, you become shocked, appalled and frightened.

You then use your position to write a scathing column that, in so many words, describes the commissioners as liars and mindless fools.

Bryce, it is you who frightens me.

Your first issue with the commissioners is your belief that they should all come out and state their positions regarding ballot issues, specifically, tax increase requests that will go before the voters.

It is the commission's job to run this county, and it's the taxpayers' job to decide which ballot issues will get passed and which will not. The commissioners, who were elected by the majority of the voters within the county, run the business of the county, not as they see fit, but as they believe the majority of the constituents want them to run this county.

We as taxpayers don't need, or want the commissioners' opinions regarding ballot issues. We, as voters, need fact-based information, not spin.

We will then form our own opinion and vote the way we see fit. And, as far as I know, the commissioners are voting citizens and have the same right as anyone else, to cast their votes in private.

By the way, providing fact-based information about ballot issues and other "newsworthy" items, is your job. You should spend more time fact-checking articles your organization prints and a little less time using your platform to spout your personal politics.

Your second "issue" with the commission is its stance on the EDP.

According to a previous article in the Craig Daily Press, the Craig-Moffat EDP has been in existence since the late 1980s and in that time, has received more than $1 million in funding from local government.

In all of the arguments for continuing to fund the EDP, I have not heard one single success story directly attributed to the efforts of the EDP.

That's right: 20 plus years, $1 million and nothing to show for their efforts.

It seems to me that the commission is making a decision based on facts and common-sense. They realize that continuing to fund this "group" without a means to measure their success, would be mindless.

The facts are these: Moffat County's economy is dependent on commodities. Take away the coal, and there would be no power plant. Take away cheap BLM grazing land and there would be no sheep or cattle. Take away the elk, and there would be no "Elk-Hunting Capital of the World" sign in front of the local auto-parts store. Our county's entire economic existence depends on natural resources.

We have no feasible transportation network. We do not have an educated workforce, nor do we have a cheap workforce. We don't have affordable housing, gas or food. We don't have any of the infrastructures that the manufacturing industry requires, yet these are the types of companies that the EDP tells us they are trying to attract.

According to an article about the EDP in today's Daily Press, Dave Fleming, EDP Board of Directors member and Moffat County National Bank manager says, "it's not reasonable to dismantle a group (the EDP) moving forward because of failures in the past."

I'm sorry, but I don't believe the commissioners have the authority to dismantle the EDP, nor are they trying to. They just don't want to give them any more tax dollars based on experiences of the past.

Here's a term I learned last week in my economics class at CNCC: "sunk cost." It's money that's already been spent on something and that you can't get back. The $1 million that the local governments has given the EDP is a sunk cost.

Here's a phrase my Dad taught me in my youth, when I was trying to get him to finance one of my ill-perceived business ventures: "throwing good money after bad."

Isn't continuing to finance the EDP after 20 plus years of nonperformance just that? If Dave Fleming really believes that you can't base an economic decision on past performance, then I'm going down to the bank tomorrow to see him about a loan. I have a great business idea.

According to the same article, Jerry Thompson said that when Tim Gibbs quit, "he left with two or three projects in the pipeline, including a Holiday Inn Express and a New York company that cleans power plants."

He also said that "both enterprises were interested in moving to Craig and both ventures fell through after Gibbs resigned."

So, according to Jerry, the decision of a multi-billion dollar company to locate a franchise in Craig rested entirely on Tim Gibbs and the existence of the EDP? Give me a break. Companies will come to Craig if it is profitable for their business to be here.

The EDP, at least our EDP, does not have the authority to give tax breaks, or other enticements that will attract business to a community. All that our EDP can do, is market our community. Isn't that the job of the local business-funded Chamber of Commerce?

To see how ineffective the EDP is at marketing our community, simply have a look at its Web ite, www.moffatdevelopment.com.

Also in today's Daily Press article, Scott Ford, the interim director of the EDP says businesses will move to Craig because "ownership wants to be here or (the location) can enhance their business."

Bryce, I'm going out on a limb here, but I'd bet that Bill Clinton is one of your favorite presidents. In an effort to speak your lingo, I'm going to respond to Scott's comment with a phrase that President Clinton might use: That's a bunch of hooey.

Business owners will locate their companies in communities where labor is either cheap or educated, depending on the type of business they operate and where transportation, logistics and infrastructures meet their needs.

If "ownership" wants to be here, they will locate their business where they can make a decent profit. They will then take that extra profit and buy a vacation home or condo in Steamboat.

In the end Bryce, if the EDP could report one success in the 20 plus years of its existence, one measurable positive result, it may make sense to fund them. I would not consider talk about a Holiday Inn Express coming to town, an economic success.

If they were to work with CNCC and other state colleges and universities, not in training more workers for the energy sector that will inevitably bust, but in trying to develop Craig as an education destination, they may be worth funding.

If they worked toward creating a technology infrastructure that would attract both tech and service sector companies to our area, they may be worth funding. If they reported their progress, or lack thereof and their results to everyone involved, not just a select few, they may be worth funding.

Bryce, the question I think you have to ask yourself is, "would I give this group another $1 million of my money today?" I think that's the question the commission is asking, and that in my mind, is neither shocking nor appalling.

Sincerely,

Shannon Schwingdorf

Editors note: This letter is being run longer than the 500 word policy as to give the same space Bryce Jacobson used in his column.

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