Editorial: Playing politics
April 30, 2011
Colorado House Bill 10-1365 may not be the only reason the Western Slope feels largely distrustful of the legislature and Front Range agendas, but it’s the most recent. If last year’s passage of the bill taught local governments anything, it’s that there needs to be a bigger emphasis on overcoming our disadvantages in population and representation with a more active and unified role in the political process in the future.
It remains clear that, a year later, the passage of Colorado House Bill 10-1365, cleverly guised as the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act, remains a sore spot in Craig and Moffat County, and rightfully so.
The bill is viewed in our community as an anvil hanging over the heads of our energy industries, threatening jobs, livelihoods, and ultimately our energy-driven economy.
Time will tell how the bill plays out, but the nightmare scenario is our worst fears about the bill turn to reality.
At its Monday meeting, the Editorial Board discussed these disadvantages and how communities such as ours could prevent future state measures heavily sided against the Western Slope from happening.
The best answer: more aggressive and strategic political activism. It's a basic answer, but there's little doubt about the truth behind it.
As sad as it is, politics today boils down to winning and losing.
On H.B. 10-1365, the Western Slope got beat. When you cut through everything else, that's the plain and simple truth.
Although the bill was far from transparent throughout its process from introduction to approval, the fact is that our governments, the lobbying groups our tax dollars pay for, and many others were asleep while wheels were put into motion on a bill that harms the Western Slope and benefits the Front Range.
It's true that a commendable effort was put forth by the coal industry, some local leaders and Western Slope advocates to speak out against the bill, but those efforts were after the fact.
But, what if they had come beforehand? What if our coal miners, industry leaders, private residents and elected officials had put up such a unified front in Denver prior to the bill passing the legislature?
Might lawmakers have had a tougher time approving a bill that hurt people in our community if they had to look them in the eye before doing it?
Maybe the bill would have passed anyway, but at least our communities would have had a fighting chance, something they didn't really have last year.
The only way to combat something like H.B. 10-1365 from happening in the future is to put out a better effort, a smarter effort.
The Western Slope is always going to be the minority in the state; there isn't ever going to come a day when we aren't outnumbered by the Front Range's population, representation, political resources and agendas.
That doesn't mean all is lost, however.
It means communities and governments on this side of the mountain have to play the political game, by the established rules, and be smarter than their opponents.
It means we have to spend our money better and more wisely and see more results. It means our elected officials have to constantly be in the ears of state legislators. It means governments have to hold lobbying groups that are paid good money to look out for and protect our interests more accountable than they have been.
It also means a role for residents, too.
One question posed to the Editorial Board on Monday was how many of us have ever spoken to our state legislators? How many are contacting them and speaking about issues important to them?
Probably not many of us, but if we're to overcome the deck seemingly stacked against us, that's exactly what needs to happen.
After all, if we've learned anything from the sham Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act, it's that if we're asleep at the wheel, if we're not paying attention to activity at the state level, we can bet someone is working somewhere to exploit that oversight.
It's time for the Western Slope to stop being a victim and start fighting politics with politics. Better and smarter politics.
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