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Editorial: Please end it now

Editor's note: Dan Davidson was unable to attend this week's meeting of the Editorial Board and did not participate in the development of this position.

On June 21, 1788, our Founding Fathers ratified the United States Constitution, the bedrock upon which our republic was built and from which it has grown and thrived for the past 230 years.

The preamble to that document — which most of us were probably forced to memorize way back in seventh-grade — states, in part, that the words following it were being enshrined in our founding documents to "provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity."

If that is the standard, then our federal officials — each of whom swore an oath to "protect and defend" those words and the precepts underlying them — are failing us, and they're failing us miserably.

As we write these words, the partial federal government shutdown has persisted for just over 26 days, making it the longest in U.S. history, and if we are to believe what our leaders are telling us, there is no end in sight.

As a consequence, 800,000 federal workers are going without their paychecks, national parks are shuttered, and a number of federal agencies — including the Internal Revenue Service, NASA, the Department of Labor, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Food and Drug Administration — are not being funded and will not be funded until Congress and President Donald Trump reach a budget agreement.

Most of us are very familiar with the point of contention: The president wants a $5.7 billion budget allocation to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, a wall he says is the only way to effectively turn the tide of illegal immigration and stem the flow of dangerous narcotics across our southern border. The Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives, on the other hand, insists funding such a wall would be an ineffectual waste of funds and argues instead that there are more sensible solutions to solve the border security problem. Consequently, they have vowed that the funding Trump wants will not be forthcoming.

In the Senate, meanwhile, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will not call a vote on any legislation the president doesn't support.

In effect, then, the president refuses to sign a bill that doesn't include the $5.7 billion he wants for the wall, House Democrats refuse to advance any bill that includes the $5.7 billion, and the Senate has essentially taken a knee on the sidelines and is waiting to see how this whole miserable mess plays out.

Our purpose here is not to debate the merits of a border wall, nor is it to minimize this nation's problems with respect to border security. The problems are real, and it may be that a wall is the best way to address them.

But the shutdown, now about to enter it's fifth week, is doing nothing to solve those problems; on the contrary, it is exacerbating them, while simultaneously dumping a host of new problems into to the mix.

Make no mistake: This is not effective governance, it is not good for America, and it is not the way our government is supposed to work.

We're not assigning the blame to the president, nor are we foisting it upon House Democrats; we think both are equally culpable, and we suspect the whole pretext of a disagreement over border wall funding — while perhaps valid in the beginning — has become nothing more than an excuse to deliver yet another whack to the ideological wedge that's splitting our union like a dry log. At this point, it's nothing more than politics and the paralyzing fear on both sides that, to give in — even an inch — might be perceived as some kind of loss.

Meanwhile, the real losers are those who really don't have a dog in the fight they're paying for. They're the people who are desperately shuffling their finances to make their mortgages while they're furloughed from their jobs. They're the economically disadvantaged who depend on SNAP benefits to feed their children. And perhaps most ironically, they're the employees who continue working to "provide for the common defense" and "promote the general welfare," while their own personal welfares become more and more in doubt.

These are not anonymous anecdotes from hundreds of miles away; they're human beings, and many of them are our friends and our neighbors.

It's time for this to end, and it will only end when both sides agree to do what's necessary to end it. That will mean talking to each other, discussing compromises, and maybe — perish the thought — actually working together for the good of the nation.

We are not so presumptuous as to think anyone with the power to turn this shameful page in our collective history will ever read our plea or heed it even if they did.

But we make it nonetheless.

This counter-productive shutdown is the very definition of dysfunction, and it's causing incalculable harm to the people you swore to protect and serve.

Please end it now.

Editorial: Do the right thing

Editor's note: Codi Fisher was unable to attend this week's meeting of the Editorial Board and did not participate in the development of this position.

To the enthusiastic applause of a room packed with friends, family, and interested community members, Moffat County's newest elected officials took their oaths of office Tuesday morning, then immediately turned their attention to the public's business.

We offer our congratulations to the county's newest public servants, as well as our heartfelt thanks for their willingness to sail into the often stormy seas of political discourse in service to their community.

Holding public office is a difficult, but essential job, and we can never be grateful enough to those who make personal sacrifices to fill these vital public roles.

That said, we challenge our new officials to step fearlessly into the uncertain landscape and always remember that your first and most important job is to serve the people who — by giving you their votes — have also given you their trust.

With that in mind, we encourage you to keep a few key points firmly in mind as you embark upon your new journey.

First — and so far as you are able — look for ways to cooperate and compromise. Recent national headlines demonstrate all too clearly what happens when elected officials — officials of both parties — fail to do this. The best solutions usually rise from the crucible of disagreement, and the greatest progress is generally made when good people with differing opinions sit down, talk, and forge solutions to the benefit all concerned. Please keep this in mind.

Second, listen. Each of you was elected because you campaigned on messages that resonated with voters and aligned with their views about what needs to be done. But the willingness to listen all too often evaporates once the final vote has been counted, and this is unfortunate. Now that you are in office, listening to the people you serve becomes all the more crucial. We realize you will sometimes make difficult decisions with which some of us will not agree, but we ask you to listen thoughtfully to your constituents before making those decisions.

Third, resist the temptation to change too much too soon. Processes are usually in place for a reason, and though we encourage you to actively look for more efficient ways of doing things, please take the time to carefully analyze existing protocols and identify their strengths and weaknesses. In this way, you can make educated decisions about what needs to be changed and how those changes should be introduced.

And finally, continue to foster intergovernmental cooperation. Remember that the county and the cities that lie within it will often have similar challenges and goals. Look for ways governmental entities can pool resources and combine efforts to create a more effective service system for the citizens of Moffat County. The opportunities are out there; it is incumbent upon you to find and facilitate them.

Before administering the oaths of office Tuesday, Moffat County Court Judge Sandra Gardner offered brief remarks to the county's new officials, and we close by borrowing from her wise words.

"Looking at our politics on a national level, 2018 has been quite a year, and 2019 already promises to be, as well, as our country enters the third week of a government shutdown caused by the inability to engage in non-partisan discussions," Gardner said. " May we here in Moffat County not mirror what is happening on the national level. May we engage in meaningful discussions and recognize the power of words, which includes the ability to lift up and empower others — not use words to ridicule, discourage, and tear down others.

"In doing your jobs, always ask questions; always speak the truth; and always have the courage to have the hard conversations.

"And why do this? Because you care about the people, the issues, and the wellbeing of this community. You are leaders in not just your departments, but the community as a whole, and the people looking to you for guidance, direction, and support."

We agree wholeheartedly with the judge's admonition and join her in wishing you success.

Your success is our success, and we're behind you all the way.

Editorial: New year … new possibilities

Once every 365 days or so, the calendar tells us an old year has ended and a new year has begun, though in actuality, the "new year" is nothing new at all. Time marches doggedly forward in an unbroken, possibly infinite line, and the only dilineations in that line are the ones we arbitrarily set and agree upon.

But those dilineations — imaginary though they may be — still serve a purpose, and that purpose goes far beyond merely establishing reference points that allow us to agree on what time it is, what day it is, what year it is. The mere belief that something magically changes the old into the new every Jan. 1 provides us with a kind of mental and emotional reset button, allowing us to put the past behind us and turn our attention toward what lies ahead.

But if our symbolic "reset button" is to have any effect — if the new year is to bring anything genuinely new — we must recognize that magic has nothing to do with it.

Every year, we hear people say things like, "Well, I'm sure glad that year is over. I hope the new year will be better."

But the new year — because it really isn't anything new — won't be any better than the old one unless we take the steps necessary to make it better.

Some try to do this through making new year's resolutions, but resolutions go nowhere until and unless the people who have made those resolution put legs underneath them and embark upon the journey.

So, what can we do to find those legs, to ensure 2019 is, indeed, better than 2018?

In our view, the first thing is to realize a year is made of months, which, in turn, are made of weeks, days, hours, minutes, and seconds. Accordingly, having a better new year depends upon making better months, weeks, days, minutes, and seconds. We might think of it like this: What we do in each moment represents a single thread in an intricate tapestry that will eventually define the year 2019.

And, in those terms, the question becomes, what kinds of threads are we going to weave into our tapestry? What positive actions can we take now to help ensure 2019 will be better than 2018?

One thing we can do is become more involved. As we noted last week, Moffat County is a tremendously giving community, but there are always needs waiting to be met.

St. Michael's Community Kitchen, the Craig Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors, the Craig Rotary Club, local hospice services, local schools, the Interfaith Food Bank, the Humane Society of Moffat County: All are in almost constant need of volunteers and/or contributions.

So, if you're not already involved, get that way. One of the best ways to put our personal struggles in perspective is to extend a helping hand to others.

And it isn't only organized volunteer work. We can reach out to one another in compassion and love every hour of every day. Resolve to be nicer, kinder, more understanding. Pay it forward, and engage in random acts of kindness. Hold the door for people. Smile, and say, "Good morning." Listen to understand rather than to criticize. Look for opportunities to help others, and cheerfully seize those opportunities when they arise.

Will all this guarantee a better 2019? Well, nothing's guaranteed, but we think it's a great way to start.

In the final analysis, nothing is new — not the year, not the day, not ourselves.

But if we approach the "new" year as a collection of moments — moments we can spend lifting one another up rather than tearing one another down — we feel sure we'll reach the end of 2019 saying, "Wow! What a great year."

Editorial: A wealth of giving

We never cease to be both gratified and amazed by the boundless spirit of giving that lives with us here in Craig and Moffat County, though we really shouldn't be amazed at all; time and time again, this community has demonstrated — and continues to demonstrate — its steadfast willingness to step up and offer a helping hand when any of its members are in need of one.

Examples of this surround us, particularly this time of year.

The Ridgeview Elementary School Food Drive, the KRAI Toy Drive, Operation Christmas Child, Shop with a Cop, Love INC, St. Michael's Community Kitchen, the Community Budget Center, Moffat County United Way, the Moffat County Humane Society, the Salvation Army, the American Red Cross: All these groups and the charitable work they do day in and day out stand as bastions of goodwill against a world that is all-too-often cruel, callous, and unrelenting.

And that generosity doesn't end with the myriad organizations and events specifically designed to meet the needs of those in crisis. Many local businesses also freely give back to the community that supports them, businesses such as KFC, Walmart, Memorial Regional Health, and City Market, all of which cheerfully donate to help those in need. And our area ranchers — joined by businesses such as Brothers Custom Processing and organizations such as our local Elks Lodge — regularly donate meat to help support the work of the Community Kitchen.

We could go on, and no doubt, we're overlooking other groups and businesses that also step forward to give back.

That's just the kind of community we live in.

But what strikes us most keenly — and a point that is frequently overlooked — is that, behind all these organizations, businesses, and events are individuals — individuals who may be struggling themselves, but who step into the breech and do what they can, regardless.

One employee at City Market annually gathers coats, scarves, and gloves to leave for anyone who may need them. Resident Karen Jewett annually sets up a small, wooden Christmas tree, upon which she hangs goodie-filled stockings that are free and available to anyone who needs them. Resident Charratina Pankey decorated her chainlink fence with candy canes and the simple message: "Merry Christmas and a very blessed New Year to you and your family. Stop by and get yourself a candy cane."

And this year — following an unspeakably tragic house fire that claimed the life of a 3-year-old child on Christmas Eve — the community once again showed what it's made of. Before the Craig Press even reported on the fire, residents were already rallying on social media sites and lighting up telephone lines, asking what they could do, what they could give, how they could help.

In short, we've never seen a community that gives as freely and as generously as this one, and that fact, alone, makes us proud to be part of it.

Are we the richest county in Colorado?

Well … certainly not in terms of money.

But when you get right down to it, are those little, green slips of paper really the truest measure of wealth?

We think not, and Moffat County proves us right every day.

Editorial: Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

Editor's note: In 1897, 8-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Sun, and the quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial. The work of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church has since become history's most reprinted newspaper editorial, appearing in part or in whole in dozens of languages in books, movies and other editorials. The Craig Press Editorial Board is pleased to reprint it here.

Merry Christmas, Moffat County, and a Happy New Year.

Dear Editor:

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, "If you see it in the Sun it's so." Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

— Virginia O'Hanlon

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Editorial: Anger to action

Editor's note: Editorial Board member Codi Fisher was absent at this week's board meeting and did not participate in the development of this editorial position.

On Monday, a jury found former Moffat County High School teacher and coach Justin Dean Folley not guilty of 10 counts of felony sexual exploitation of a child, as defined under C.R.S. 18-6-403.

The verdict brings to a close an almost 16-month chapter in our collective history — a chapter most of us would just as soon forget.

The case has been in the public eye since Folley's Aug. 17, 2017, arrest, and in the months since, we've been given more salacious details about the case than probably any of us ever wanted. We’ve heard in graphic detail about how Folley systematically groomed one of his female students — who, at the time, was 14 or 15 years old — through a series of sexually charged text message conversations that continued throughout the girl's freshman year of high school.

Note that we do not use the phrase "allegedly groomed," because the fact that the message exchange occurred is not in doubt and was not even challenged by the defense during Folley's trial. To the contrary, it was immortalized on paper.

The jury was given 30 pages of screenshots detailing the exchanges — exchanges in which Folley told the victim of his desire to have sex with her, asked her "how bad" she wanted it to happen, and quizzed her as to whether she had ever masturbated.

It's difficult even to write those words: The very idea of a 35-year-old man sending such messages to a 14-year-old is disgusting and infuriating, and the community is definitely disgusted and infuriated.

We've been monitoring public commentary in the wake of the verdict, both across social media platforms and on our website, and the comments we've read are undergirded by a single, raw emotion: Anger.

And, we should be angry. Anger is an appropriate response when someone — particularly someone in a position of trust — victimizes one of our children, and, criminal or no, Justin Folley did just that. He used his position as a teacher to gain the trust of a lonely child, then used that trust in an attempt to lure the child — a girl young enough to be his daughter — into a sexual relationship. It is impossible to read the message exchange and arrive at any other conclusion as to his motives and intentions.

But anger is a powerful, unpredictable, potentially destructive emotion, and we should be very sure our anger is pointed in the right direction.

We should not be angry with the court or the jury.

According to C.R.S. 18-6-403, the statute under which Folley was charged, sending text messages to a child — regardless of how sick, disgusting, or perverted those messages are — is not, in and of itself, against Colorado law, so long as the messages include words only, and not images or videos.

And though Folley's charges included allegations he'd enticed the girl to send two nude photographs of herself to him and had sent her a video of himself masturbating, the photos and video could not be produced.

They were the heart of the case, and their existence was not proven beyond reasonable doubt. Consequently, under existing law and the instructions given by the judge, the jury did it's job, and our only response toward its members should be gratitude. The task they were given could not have been an easy one.

So our anger, if directed toward the jury, is misguided.

Instead, it should be toward Folley, himself, and a statute that allows sick individuals like him to victimize our children with impunity.

But our anger toward Folley, no matter how righteous, gains us nothing. He's been acquitted, and that's the end of it. The best we can hope for is that he is never again allowed to step foot into a classroom or, indeed, into any role that grants him access to children, and that he one day becomes conscious of the harm he's done and seeks the help he clearly needs.

That leaves us with the statute, and it is here that our anger and outrage can be channeled into positive change.

Frankly, we were aghast to learn that the text messages, themselves, do not rise to the level of a criminal offense. They should. By sending them, Justin Folley — guided only by his perverse, selfish desires — caused tremendous harm to an innocent child, a child he was charged with protecting and nurturing.

That should be criminal.

So, if anything positive is to arise from all this, it is the opportunity to ensure such a thing doesn't happen to another child — or, if it does, that the person responsible pays a steep price.

We should use this case to lobby our state legislators toward strengthening the laws governing child sexual exploitation and sending a clear message to would-be predators that this will not be tolerated in the state of Colorado.

So be angry. And stay angry.

Anger motivates us — strengthens our resolve.

But anger is impotent and self-destructive until and unless we turn it into action.

Write your state legislators, call them on the phone, email them: Demand the immediate closure of this legal loophole that protects predators and victimizes victims.

Here's how to reach them:

• State Rep. Bob Rankin

Address: 200 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, CO 80203

Email: bobrankin.house.state.co.us

Telephone: 303-866-2949

• State Sen. Randy Baumbardner

Address: 200 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, CO 80203

Email: randybaumgardner.senate@state.co.us

Telephone: 303-866-5292

A petition to change the law is also circulating on change.org. To sign it, visit https://bit.ly/2rBa6eR.

We have an opportunity here to make a difference, and if we don't take it, we must accept at least part of the responsibility when it happens again.

And we can't let it happen again.

Not here … not anywhere.

Editorial: A great first step

Last week in this space, we editorialized about the vital role transparency and community involvement play in building and maintaining effective, responsive government, especially at the local level, and this week, we witnessed a sterling example.

On Tuesday, the recently formed Joint Services Workgroup — an advisory committee composed of representatives from the city of Craig and Moffat County — gathered at Craig City Hall to continue exploring ways the city and county might work together to gain efficiencies and save taxpayer dollars.

When we were first made aware of the meeting, it was unclear whether the group would open its discussions to the public. Because the Joint Services Workgroup initially included only two city council members and one county commissioner, and because it was formed as an advisory body, neither the city nor the county was specifically obligated under statute to notice the meeting or invite the public.

But even absent specific statutory requirements, the officials sitting on the workgroup chose to open Tuesday's proceedings to the public, and we cannot commend them highly enough for their decision.

As we noted last week, public business should be conducted in public, and by noticing Tuesday's meeting, our elected officials showed their willingness to do just that.

On the flip side of the coin, the public responded in force, turning the meeting into a standing-room-only affair, and we cannot help but think the presence of the public served to temper the group's discussions and encourage a spirit of cooperation and honest communication.

Topics discussed on Tuesday included the potential for city/county cooperation on highway, street, and pedestrian improvements; law enforcement; and parks and recreation.

So far, the discussions have been preliminary, and we don't know if any of the ideas being discussed will turn into viable options. Yet, we are encouraged that the city and county are talking and that the public is listening.

Moffat County Sheriff KC Hume pointed out during the meeting that the public is frustrated with government, because the general perception is that, for all the talk, nothing ever gets done. He also noted that public participation and community buy-in will be essential if any of the workgroup’s ideas are to bear fruit.

We agree wholeheartedly.

Opening a dialogue is a great first step, but taking that first step won't mean much unless it's followed by a second step … then, a third.

So, we encourage our leaders to continue their efforts toward maximizing our resources to the benefit of all, and we encourage our neighbors to continue their involvement in the process.

As Moffat County Commissioner Ray Beck noted near the close of the meeting, "At the end of the day, it comes down to what's best for the city, the county, and the community."

Wise words … and, based on what we observed Tuesday, those words may herald the birth of a new spirit of cooperation in Craig and Moffat County.

Editorial: We’re in this together

Government transparency: It might seem the foregoing phrase is nothing more than a tired, old contradiction in terms that gets trotted out every couple of years as part of some campaign slogan or another, then packed back into the mothballs until the next election cycle rolls around.

But transparency in government is more than that. In addition to standing as one of our most effective buffers against potential abuses of power, it forms the bedrock that underlies any productive relationship between those who govern and those who are governed.

Where it is present, the public can see and participate in the genesis of the decisions affecting them.

This fosters trust.

Where it is absent, the public can see only a locked door behind which secrets are kept and decisions are made in a sterile vacuum.

This fosters suspicion.

And, when we begin to view our elected officials as shady characters who dictate their whims from behind an impenetrable curtain, we begin to view government, itself, as the enemy, inconveniently dividing ourselves into two groups: us and them.

But it's not an "us/them" proposition, particularly at the local level, where elected officials and citizens live in the same communities, attend the same churches, shop in the same stores, care about the same issues.

And we do have issues.

There can be little argument that our community is facing difficult problems — declining revenue, an eroding tax base, a generally dim view of our collective future — and these are problems we'll never be able to solve until and unless we pull together as one.

So, as we prepare to embark into a new year, we offer a few words of advice for our elected officials, as well as the people they serve.

Elected officials, remember that you serve at the pleasure of the people, and the decisions you make affect everyone in the community. Such decisions — from inception to development to implementation — should be made in the light of day and in full view of the public.

We realize that, sometimes, elected officials must make difficult, unpopular choices, and it is human nature to want to avoid the inevitable fallout. This is often attempted by keeping potentially contentious issues under wraps until the last possible moment. But we can't help but think these decisions — especially the unpopular ones — would receive far better reception if the community were informed about them before the fact rather than after it, then given every possible opportunity to weigh in.

This brings us to the community. It's vital that you take advantage of such opportunities when they are offered. Regardless of how transparent a governmental body may be, it is all for naught until the community makes an effort to objectively look at and consider what's being revealed. So, become involved in the process and rise above the level of a sideline heckler.

Attend meetings. Speak up about the issues that concern you. Call your elected officials and have conversations with them rather than letting your involvement begin and end with a Facebook comment.

And don't speak up only when you disagree with something; any productive dialogue tempers criticism with praise, so when you think our officials have done an especially good job, tell them so.

Too often, we make the people with whom we disagree into "the enemy," but we must remember that we're all members of the same community, and we all want essentially the same thing: a prosperous future for our city and our county.

Both the Moffat County Board of County Commissioners and the Craig City Council meet Tuesday, Dec. 11, and both bodies provide time for public comment. We encourage you to attend, and if you have something to say, say it.

The problems we face are difficult, but the solutions are there. Finding them will require elected officials who conduct the public's business in public and a community involved enough to pay attention and let their thoughts be known.

We're all in this together. So, let's start acting like it.

Editorial: Plenty to be proud of

Moffat County School District has plenty to be proud of this week, and we, as a community served by such a district, have plenty to be thankful for.

On Nov. 13, Craig Middle School Assistant Principal Sara Linsacum was named Assistant Principal of the Year by the Colorado Association of School Executives. As a nominee for the honor, Linsacum was matched side-by-side with the best school administrators the state has to offer and came out on top.

That, alone, justifies some measure of pride, but there's more.

Earlier in the fall, Sunset Elementary School kindergarten teacher Amy Jones was among six finalists nominated to become Colorado Department of Education's 2019 Colorado Teacher of the Year, and though Denver fifth-grade teacher Margaret "Meg" Cypress was ultimately selected for the honor, in the parlance of the Academy Awards, it was an honor just to have been nominated.

These are both highly prestigious awards, and we have the winner of one and a finalist for another right here in our local schools.

In our view, teaching our children is one of the noblest professions a human being can aspire to, so for us, Linsacum and Jones truly represent the best of the best.

But, as we were thinking about how to most appropriately thank them in these few words we allow ourselves each week, it occurred to us that MCSD already had plenty to be proud of. We have a quality school district here, and educators like Linsacum and Jones are as much a testament to that quality as they are a major part of what drives it.

In evaluating anything, perspective is everything. Looking out from the inside, we seem almost instinctively bent toward focusing on what's wrong with things, often to the exclusion of praising what's right with them.

And while it is important to hold our schools to high standards, it is equally important to praise our schools when they achieve — and often exceed — those standards.

We could point out the many other school districts in Colorado that are similar to our own, demographically, yet far worse off, academically. But we're not inclined to frame MCSD's accomplishments in terms of others' deficiencies.

MCSD is excellent in its own right, and it's getting better all the time.

According to Superintendent Dave Ulrich's most recent column, our district earned the rating of Performance (Accredited) from the Colorado Department of Education for the 2017-18 school year, the second consecutive year MCSC students and staff have earned this rating.

In earning this accreditation, MCHS students exceeded the state average according to two key metrics: Status Scores and Growth Scores.

MCHS fourth-graders exceeded the state’s average percentage of students achieving in the top two levels in English Language Arts/Literacy, the first districtwide, whole grade level to top the state average on status scores since the district began taking CMAS Assessments.

Further, MCHS students, districtwide, exceeded the state average growth in English Language Arts/Literacy, the first year for a whole subject, districtwide, that MCSD exceeded the state average growth. By the same metric, Gifted and Talented students exceeded average state growth by 19 percent.

And it's more than just test scores; our students demonstrate their academic excellence and exemplary character on a daily basis, and often, well outside the classroom doors.

The examples of many.

Some MCHS graduates we've heard from have gone on to college and found — often to their surprise — that they were better prepared for higher academic rigors than their peers from other districts.

Our Moffat County DECA and FBLA groups consistently excel in competition, as do most of our sports teams.

In October, Craig Middle School cheerleaders volunteered their time and labor in support of a service project to clean up the school’s landscaping.

Last month, 2017 Moffat County High School graduate John T. Peroulis received a Future Farmers of America FFA Degree, an honor less than 1 percent of FFA members attain.

We could go on … easily. The above examples were drawn from only three months worth of Craig Press archives.

Of course, this doesn't surprise us when we consider our recently honored educators. To a great degree, they — and their equally dedicated colleagues — are the reason.

And we can guarantee you, none of our outstanding educators do what they do for the chance of winning an award. They do it because they care about the youth — our youth — and, by extension, our future.

Linsacum perhaps summed it up best.

“It’s not an award about me,” she said. “I wouldn’t be getting this award without the amazing people I work with day in and day out and the students and the families. I feel like I have been successful because of quality relationships and listening and caring for every kid that walks through my door. Like I said, it’s a ‘we effort.'”

Editorial: The fight’s not over

The 2018 midterm election is now in the history books; after months of rancorous debate and campaign rhetoric, the candidates have either won or lost, and the issues have either been embraced or rejected.

It's over.

And that includes Moffat County Referred Measure 1A.

We won't mince words; we were bitterly disappointed by the outcome on this issue. Measure 1A would have ensured Moffat County Libraries and the Museum of Northwest Colorado would continue their vital services to this community into the foreseeable future, free from the capricious stroke of the budgetary axe. And, it would have done this in return for a pretty insignificant increase in taxes. As we editorialized last month, we saw 1A as the most sensible path to preserving these two treasured local institutions.

But, the majority of county voters disagreed with us, and we respect and accept their decision.

Our purpose here is not to demonize a choice we happen not to agree with; instead, it is to propose a path forward in light of that choice.

During both the lead-up to and aftermath of Tuesday's vote, we caught a glimpse of the reasons so many of our neighbors felt 1A was not a good idea.

Some seemed to express opposition to any tax increase, whatsoever, for any reason, whatsoever.

Others said county and city leaders had not done enough to divert existing funds to the libraries and museum before approaching voters with a mill levy.

Still others stated they never visit the library or museum, anyway, and questioned why they should even care.

Yet, one of the most telling comments we read following 1A's defeat went something like this:

"A vote against Measure 1A was not a vote against the libraries or the museum; it was a vote against higher taxes when other options might be available," and we believe that wholeheartedly.

If the question had been: "Shall Moffat County starve the Moffat County Libraries and the Museum of Northwest Colorado of funding until they die," we seriously doubt the measure would have received a single "yes" vote.

This tells us most in the community share our conviction that the libraries and museum are irreplaceable community assets and that their closures would be a horrific blow to the economic, educational, and cultural well-being of Moffat County.

If this is the case — and we sincerely believe it is — then we challenge ourselves and our neighbors to turn our noble words into tangible action.

As we acknowledged, the 1A question is settled, but the financial crisis facing the libraries and the museum was not settled with it — on the contrary, it was exacerbated. If we fail to act, both will eventually be forced to close their doors.

The bottom line is this: If we truly value the enrichments we enjoy by having a vibrant, active library system and a world-class western museum in our community, then it is we who must fight to preserve them.

What can we do?

We can attend and speak up at meetings of our local governing bodies. We can call our local leaders. We can write letters. We can let the Powers that Be know, in no uncertain terms, that allowing the libraries and the museum to wither and die on the vine is not an option we're willing to accept. And, if we still see no meaningful action, we can fire our leaders at the ballot box and hire new ones who will fight for the things we hold dear.

But if we do none of this — if we instead simply give up on two community treasures like the libraries and the museum — then we WILL lose those treasures.

Even worse, we'll deserve to.