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Editorial: Have you thanked a plow driver?

When a snow storm blows through the Yampa Valley, inundating much of Moffat County, those of us who live in the Craig city limits have it pretty darn good.

While most residents were sleeping in their warm beds March 13, oblivious to the frigid, 15-foot-deep blanket that — to this day — coats much of the landscape outside town, snow plow crews with Moffat County and Colorado Department of Transportation were hard at work trying to break through the white wall isolating our beautiful town from the rest of the outside world.

A picture posted on social media by Dan Miller, the county's road and bridge director, confirmed what many of us already knew — those of us who live outside the city were buried, and some still are.

Miller and his crew of plow trucks and motor graders aren't invincible. They were forced to stop their attempts to beat back the snow March 13 after blizzard conditions reduced visibility to nearly zero. Moffat County Sheriff KC Hume activated the county's emergency operations center and said wind was the most significant risk factor for maintenance personnel still working in the elements.

"It’s unsafe for those crews to be out," Hume said March 13. As a result of Hume's and Miller's actions, no one on Moffat County's plow crew was injured — though some vehicles became stuck in the snow — but the fact remains; snow plow drivers risk their lives to make our lives easier.

The day following the March 13 blizzard was beautiful — sunny skies prevailed as kids walked about Craig enjoying a rare snow day. Some might rush to judge Moffat County School District for canceling school a day too late. The reality is the school district canceled school on the correct day because the roads were not safe for school buses. Can you imagine a bus full of our kids getting stuck — or worse — after trying in vain to navigate Moffat County's frigid and isolated county roads a day after a major blizzard?

All it took was one more day for Miller and his crews to knock back enough snow to open the major arterial roadways so most kids could get back to school before spring break.

"The crews did all the work. I just sat in my office and looked pretty," Miller said jokingly Tuesday before acknowledging he did personally take quite a number of calls.

"I did get 150 calls Monday on my cellphone," he said.

You read that right. Moffat County residents can pick up the phone and call the county road and bridge department, and someone — maybe even the head honcho himself — will come dig you out with a heavy piece of machinery.

As one of the largest counties in Colorado, our wide open spaces make for scenic recreation, peace, and quiet. But with those wide open spaces come challenges posed by mother nature, and we all must face them. There are several thousand of miles worth of road in Moffat County. That's why we offer our heartfelt thanks to the plow crews for all their hard work in dangerous conditions during Moffat County's storm. We must also remember to have patience with such crews and know that, once they get a call from a stranded Moffat County resident, rancher, or visitor, help is on the way.

It took city, county, and state crews a little less than a week to open up Moffat County's roads after mother nature utterly buried them. That's pretty incredible, so from the bottom of our hearts — thank you.

Editorial: Our right; our duty

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

On April 2 — a little more than two weeks from today — Craig voters will be tasked with deciding the makeup of their city government for the next two years.

We've editorialized in the past about the importance of voting, especially in local elections, and while electing a mayor and a city council may not arouse the same level of interest and excitement as electing a president and a congress, it is no less important.

In fact, we could argue that — in some ways — it's more important.

It is our local representatives who make the decisions that most intimately impact our daily lives — how our buildings will be utilized, how our tax dollars will be spent, which projects will move forward, which projects will be put on hold, which entities will be funded, which entities will be left out in the cold.

These are not easy choices, and we deeply appreciate those who are willing to step forward and help make them.

But we have to do our part, too. Just as decisions made at the local level tend to have a greater impact on the community at large, votes cast at the local level tend to have a greater impact on who will ultimately make those decisions.

Think about it: In a presidential election, your vote is one among tens of millions. In a municipal election, that same vote is one among a few thousand.

Which vote stands to make the bigger difference?

That said, we ask two things of you, and neither of them is difficult.

First, we ask that you make sure you're informed.

Educate yourself about the candidates running for mayor and city council, as well as the issues likely to face our city through the next several years. Then, ask yourself some questions: Which candidates' values and ideas best align with your own? Which candidates have the knowledge base and experience necessary to effectively perform the job to which they aspire? Which candidates would be more likely to think innovatively about the problems and issues we face and put forth workable solutions?

Many other questions could be added to these, and now it the time to begin looking for the answers. Fortunately, you can find them in a couple of places.

In this week's editions of the Craig Press, we've published question-and-answer interviews with the two candidates for Craig mayor and the six candidates for the three open city council seats.

We urge you to read them.

We also invite you to attend the upcoming Municipal Election Candidate Forum, sponsored by the Craig Press and the Craig Association of Realtors and set to begin at 6 p.m. Monday in the Moffat County High School auditorium. The event will feature every candidate on the April 2 ballot, and most of the questions we'll be asking were submitted by you, the community.

And if you cannot attend in person, we'll be streaming the event live on Facebook.

This election features several political newcomers, and it's important to get a solid grasp on who they are, what they propose, and how they would go about their work if selected to help run our city.

This is your opportunity to meet the candidates and hear what they stand for, what they'll do if they're picked to help run the city.

And second, we ask that, once you've educated yourself, exercise your right and cast your vote. It's been said that those who do not vote forfeit their right to complain, and while we don't necessarily agree with that pronouncement, we do see casting a vote as a far more productive use of one's time and effort than lodging endless complaints after the election is done.

This is our city, and April 2 is our chance to have a say in how it will be run.

Don't let the opportunity pass you by.

Editorial: Red-flag law extreme overreach

For those who may not be familiar with the term, a "red flag law" permits police or family members to petition a state court to order the temporary removal of firearms from those who may present a danger to themselves or to others.

To date, 14 states have passed such laws — nine of them in the past year — and several other states, including Colorado, are debating similar legislation.

When the news hit that lawmakers in Denver were considering such a bill, the reaction in Moffat County — and indeed, across much of Northwest Colorado — was both swift and clear: We do not — and will not — support such a law.

On Tuesday, the Moffat County Board of County Commissioners joined commissioners in Fremont and Custer counties in declaring their county a "Second Amendment sanctuary county," which would allow law enforcement officers not to comply with state gun laws commissioners and law enforcement officials deem “unconstitutional.”

On Wednesday, commissioners in Weld County passed a similar resolution.

And while we understand the stated rationalization behind the legislation, we add our collective voice to the opposition of this legislative overreach.

According to the summary of HB19-1177 — Colorado's version of the red flag law — "The bill creates the ability for a family or household member or a law enforcement officer to petition the court for a temporary extreme risk protection order (ERPO). The petitioner must establish by a preponderance of the evidence that a person poses a significant risk to self or others by having a firearm in his or her custody or control or by possessing, purchasing, or receiving a firearm.

"The petitioner must submit an affidavit under oath and penalty of perjury that sets forth facts to support the issuance of a temporary ERPO and a reasonable basis for believing they exist. The court must hold a temporary ERPO hearing in person or by telephone on the day the petition is filed or on the court day immediately following the day the petition is filed."

Upon issuance of the ERPO, the respondent — who does not have to be informed of the filing or included in the ERPO hearing — must "surrender all of his or her firearms and his or her concealed carry permit if the respondent has one" to law enforcement or a federally licensed firearms dealer.

If the respondent refuses, he or she will be "guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor," under the bill’s provisions.

Finally, if a temporary ERPO is issued, the court must schedule a second hearing no later than 14 days following issuance to determine whether a "continuing ERPO," which would remain in effect for 364 days, should be imposed. The respondent may petition for removal of the ERPO, but "the respondent has the burden of proof at a termination hearing."

We could cite a number of reasons we oppose this bill, not the least of which is at least three Northwest Colorado sheriffs — including Moffat County Sheriff KC Hume, Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins, and Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario — have expressed serious reservations about its prudence, constitutionality, and likely efficacy.

But at its core, we oppose it for two main reasons: It seeks to circumvent the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and it would upend the bedrock upon which our entire legal system is based.

The Fourth Amendment states: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

In our view, this means U.S. citizens are constitutionally protected from being searched or having their property seized without "probable cause," and "probable cause" is generally taken to mean a reasonable basis for believing a crime may have been committed by the citizen in question.

The last time we checked, the belief that someone might commit a crime is not a crime, and "probable cause" cannot exist until and unless a crime has been committed. For that reason alone, establishing that a person may pose a risk does nothing to justify seizing his or her property under the Fourth Amendment. In fact, it doesn't even come close.

If we begin treating those who might commit a crime the same way we'd treat someone who probably has committed a crime, then we must treat everyone that way. After all, anyone might commit a crime.

That, alone, would be enough for this bill to earn our opposition, but there's also the matter of due process. Our judicial system operates on the same principles as any valid logical argument: The null hypothesis must be presumed until it has been proven false. Hence, a suspect must be presumed innocent until he or she has been proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

But HB19-1177 explicitly states: "The respondent has the burden of proof at a termination hearing." This amounts to presuming a respondent — who still, by the way, has not been charged with a crime — is guilty of maybe being likely to commit a crime at some date in the future until he or she proves otherwise.

Do we really want to be presumed guilty until proven innocent, particularly when we're not even talking about an actual crime? Do we really want to start down the road of stripping people of their guaranteed rights under the U.S. Constitution based upon nothing more than the suspicion they might do something bad?

If we do, we might as well chuck the entire document.

To be clear, both suicide and mass shootings are serious problems, and we're all for finding solutions to those problems, as long as those solutions are rational, constitutional, and likely to bring about the desired result.

In our view, HB 10-1177 is none of those things, and in the name of the U.S. Constitution, we respectfully urge our legislators to vote it down.

Editorial: How will things be?

Editor's note: Craig Press Publisher Renee Campbell was unable to attend this week's meeting of the Editorial Board and did not participate in the development of this position.

After 17 years working to bolster economic development in the area, the Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership on Wednesday officially closed up shop. At the same time, the related Marianna Raftopoulos Business Incubator Center was also dissolved after six years of service to the community.

We are saddened to see these two worthwhile and important organizations come to their end, and we offer our heartfelt appreciation to all those who have been involved with their efforts through the years. We cannot thank you enough.

We won't belabor the circumstances that led to the dissolution of these organizations. While there is little doubt more than one factor came into play, in our view, the final nail in the coffin lid was a lack of funding exacerbated by declining revenue streams — ironically, the same issue these two organizations were founded to address.

But debating the reasons behind the groups' departures is not nearly as important as ensuring their efforts and vision do not die along with them. As Michelle Perry — who served as executive director for both organizations — wrote in a farewell column published Wednesday, the dissolution of the two organizations: "… does not mean — in fact, it cannot mean — that economic development is no longer a critical need. Our community is up against a fight for its life, and we need powerful economic development more now than likely ever in our past."

We wholeheartedly agree.

While we salute and commend ongoing efforts by our city and county officials to identify ways of trimming budgets and combining efforts wherever possible and appropriate, we think it unlikely our community will be able to sustain itself — much less thrive — into the future through cost-cutting measures alone.

Our energy-reliant tax base has seriously eroded, and in the coming years, it will erode further.

These are unpleasant, yet inescapable facts.

If we intend to leave a thriving community for our children and our grandchildren, we must take decisive action now to diversify our economy toward the inevitable changes that continue to rush toward us.

And happily, we see signs such action may already be in the works.

We were encouraged by news this week that the Craig City Council is preparing to ramp up its efforts to remove blighted structures in the downtown area. Nothing says "this town is dying" any more clearly than empty, deteriorating storefronts and unoccupied, ramshackle houses littering the thoroughfares, and we commend council members for taking action to expedite the removal of such structures.

Efforts are also afoot to rehabilitate some of our historic downtown structures that have fallen into disrepair. For example, one of downtown Craig's older buildings — located at 576 Yampa Ave., next door to the Museum of Northwest Colorado — is currently undergoing extensive repairs and renovations by Yampa Valley Brewing Company and will soon become home to the Barrel Cathedral, Craig's first brewpub. This addition is almost certain to bolster downtown business and create a far more attractive streetscape.

We see opportunities for many more revitalizations of this type, and many might be at least partially funded by historic grant funds.

We were also encouraged by the Moffat County Board of County Commissioners' recent decision to approve a conditional-use permit for TransWest's proposed multi-state electric transmission line, which would cross the county and could generate an estimated $31.4 million in property taxes through the 50-year life of the project.

Will either of these projects alone turn our county around?

No.

And perhaps that's at the root of why some residents didn't recognize the full value of the work spearheaded by CMEDP and the Raftopoulos Center. Economic development is a slow process, and we shouldn't expect to see results overnight.

There is no silver bullet.

But at the end of the day, it's up to us to ensure Moffat County remains a quality place to live 50 years from now … 100 years from now … beyond.

And this task will become even more challenging without an organization dedicated to ensuring it happens.

So, we salute and thank those who poured their blood, sweat, and tears into furthering the work of the CMEDP and the Raftopoulos Center and we encourage our leaders to continue exploring ways to continue that work.

Returning to Perry's farewell column: "Economic development is the most crucial role for our community's leaders at this critical time in our history. We hope you'll keep this role and the projects we've spearheaded top of mind. Economic development is the key to Craig and Moffat County's future success. Let's not forget that."

Hear, hear.

Editorial: Worthy idea, poor execution

Editor's note: Publisher Renee Campbell and Community Representative Codi Fisher were unable to attend this week's meeting of the Editorial Board and did not participate in the development of this position.

Near the close of an emotional meeting of the Craig City Council on Tuesday, city leaders voted to put the brakes on discussions about the possible consolidation of city/county services and place a five-year moratorium on any such talks in the future.

The news was both disappointing and unsurprising — disappointing, because some of the possibilities being discussed by the Joint Services Committee merited further consideration, and unsurprising, because such seems always to be the fate of forward-thinking notions in our community.

In principle, we take no issue with the work of the Joint Services Committee, which was headed by City Councilman Chris Nichols, County Commissioner Ray Beck, and City Manager Peter Brixius, and we are convinced all three had the best interests of the city and county at heart.

It is a fact that Craig Station's Unit 1 will close Dec. 31, 2025, and its loss will strike yet another blow to the community's economic outlook. For that reason, alone, it was both wise and prudent to begin discussing ways to save money, and combining duplicate services might be a good way to accomplish this.

So, in terms of principle, the idea was a worthy one. In terms of execution, however, it left much to be desired.

Meeting largely in secret, the committee's plans and ideas were kept largely shrouded from public view, and once word leaked out that part of the discussions involved the possibility of dissolving the Craig Police Department and contracting with the Moffat County Sheriff's Department for city law enforcement — a plan Nichols said might have saved the city $750,000 per year, with no reduction in service levels — the rumor mill ratcheted up to full force, heralding the beginning of the end of talks.

Police officers and their families — as well as other concerned community members — packed City Hall on Tuesday as City Council gathered to hear the particulars of the committee's work.

But council members — as well as the standing-room-only crowd — also heard an emotional appeal from Craig Police Chief Jerry DeLong, who said he had not been included in many of the discussions leading up to the recommendations.

DeLong referenced a Feb. 7 "strategy session" held by the committee, a session he was not notified of until after the fact.

"I feel like my organization, your police department, is getting a raw deal," the police chief said. "I feel like someone is putting their foot on the gas pedal, and they just took off."

DeLong said the situation was difficult for him, as he felt shut out of discussions that stood to deeply impact his department and his employees.

"I get emotional, because this is very difficult for me …," DeLong told council members. "I just hired four people that might not have a job in six or eight months."

And while we are not convinced consolidating law enforcement services throughout Moffat County was the best approach, we unfortunately never even got to hear the full proposal. This, in our opinion, is true because the public was not kept apprised of the committee's work and because DeLong was apparently not included in the process.

Such seems to have become a recurring theme in Craig and Moffat County. Our elected leaders begin discussing something that stands to impact everyone in the community, but fail to effectively inform the community about what's being discussed, and a rudimentary fact of human nature is, if people aren't provided with a narrative, they'll manufacture one of their own.

This is what we think happened here, and it's a pity.

No one should be angry with the police department, and particularly, with Chief DeLong, who risked his job in defense of his employees. His actions were courageous and honorable, and we certainly hope there will be no reprisals directed toward him or his department.

Similarly, any anger directed toward Nichols or Beck or Brixius should also be tempered.

Though we take issue with their process, we don't believe any of them went into the situation with nefarious intentions. On the contrary, we have every confidence they were trying to do their duty as elected officials.

But we hope that, in the future, our elected officials will be mindful of the lessons to be learned here.

Community members must be kept informed about issues that stand to impact them, and though the Joint Services Committee seems to have adhered to the letter of the Sunshine Law, we're not entirely sure they honored the spirit of it.

We, as a community, have met tremendous challenges in the past few years, and it looks like we'll be facing more of them in the future. If we expect to survive and thrive in the changing economic environment, we have to learn to trust one another, be transparent, and keep the door open.

We hope Tuesday's unfortunate outcome will drive that point home.

Editorial: Don’t become a statistic

According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, 628 people were killed in automobile crashes on Colorado roadways in 2018, a slight decrease from 2017 numbers, but still a troubling statistic, particularly when one considers how many of those deaths might have been prevented.

Another — and perhaps more striking — way to look at it is this: If historical trends hold true, some 500 to 600 people who are alive and well and planning for tomorrow as you read these words won’t be by the time Christmas rolls back around, and they won't be because they will have been killed in an automobile crash that hasn't yet occurred.

We don't like to think about things like that, so most of the time, we don't. But whether we like thinking about it or not, traveling by automobile is risky business, particularly in the icy heart of a Northwest Colorado winter.

Much of the problem is, we humans tend to take the things we do every day for granted, and most of us who are past the age of 16 drive an automobile pretty much every day. It's a familiar activity, and familiarity, unfortunately, sometimes breed complacence.

But consider this. If you're traveling in a car at 65 miles per hour, you're covering just over 95 feet every second. A controlled study at the University of Iowa conducted in 2000 found the average driver reaction brake time to be 2.3 seconds. In other words, at 65 miles per hour, the average driver will have covered 218 feet between the time he or she sees a road hazard and the time he or she hits the brakes. That's a little past the 70 yard line on a football field.

Now, consider the fact that overall stopping distances are doubled on a wet road and multiplied by a factor of 10 on an icy or snowpacked road.

With those facts in mind, it's really no surprise that automobile crashes invariably rise during winter months.

Granted, there's only so much we can do. Most of us have to drive, and regardless of how careful we are, driving in winter carries risks.

But there are things we can all do to minimize that risk.

• Never drive while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. This should be obvious, but many feel they're fine to drive after a couple of drinks. The fact is, however, that consumption of alcohol — even in small amounts — depresses the central nervous system and reduces reaction time.

• Always wear a seatbelt. We've lost count of the number of fatal crashes we've reported on in which the deceased persons were not buckled up and were consequently ejected from the vehicle. We wonder how many of those people would be alive today if they'd taken two seconds to fasten their seatbelts.

• When following other vehicles, do so at a safe distance. Based upon the above reaction times — and under ideal driving conditions — you should maintain a distance of a little more than three feet from the vehicle in front of you for every mile per hour in speed. That calculation is a little too involved to perform while driving, but it can be estimated using the Two Second Rule: When the vehicle in front of you passes a landmark, begin counting up from 1,000. If you pass the landmark before reaching 1,002, you're following too closely. If the roadway is wet or icy, the safe following distance should be multiplied by a factor of two or 10, respectively.

• Always remember that the many potential pitfalls of car travel are multiplied when roads are wet or icy, so plan ahead. It's going to take a little longer to get where you're going, but getting there a little later is infinitely preferable to not getting there at all. So, allow a little extra time, and try to be patient.

Essentially, it comes down to being mindful of your own safety and the safety of others. Just like an aisle in a grocery store or a downtown sidewalk, the roads are shared spaces, and sharing requires thinking about the needs and well-being of others. The critical difference is, when it comes to sharing the road, we're all converted from a couple of hundred pounds of flesh and bone into a couple of thousand pounds of steel.

We realize that some — probably the folks who most need to read and heed these words — will cast them aside.

"I've been driving in Colorado for 40 years," we can hear them saying. "I know what I'm doing."

And maybe you do. Maybe it will never happen to you.

But the fact remains: Some 500 to 600 people in our state who are alive today won't be by Christmas.

Please, do everything in your power to make sure you're not one of them.

Editorial: Keeping us mobile

This past week has brought a welcome break from the almost daily snowstorms we endured the week before. But we’re living in Northwest Colorado in the heart of winter, so our brief reprieve is sure to be just that: brief.

And as inconvenient as a significant snowstorm can be, on some level, we all recognize we need the precipitation; healthy snowpack in winter translates to healthy river flows in summer, and for evidence of this correlation, we need look no further than last year, when subpar snow led to drought conditions, rampant wildfires, and the first call ever on the Yampa River.

But as important as snowpack is in our high-desert home, our purpose today isn't to deliver a droning lecture on the environment. Rather, it is to recognize and express our sincere gratitude to the men and women who keep us mobile whenever Mother Nature decides to deliver another dose of winter wonder.

We refer to the dedicated individuals who are up and at it every morning when most of the rest of us are still nestled in our warm beds, working to ensure the streets and roads of Craig and Moffat County are cleared and safe for motorists.

These employees, charged with the removal of snow from our roadways, are all-too-often overlooked; even worse, they are sometimes scorned.

Sure, it can be annoying to approach your driveway after a long day at work to discover an impassable windrow has been deposited there by the last snowplow to come through the neighborhood, but have you ever stopped to imagine what would happen if all the snowplow operators in Craig and Moffat County suddenly disappeared or went on strike, even for a few days?

The fact is, we depend on these workers, and without them, everything in the city and county — commerce, recreation, education, health care — would grind to a shuddering halt for five to six months every year.

It's discouraging to realize these dedicated employees who keep our streets clear of snow and ice are sometimes yelled at, cursed, or given the one-finger salute for nothing more than doing their jobs and keeping us safe. But despite these reports of disrespect and abuse, we feel sure the majority of Craig and Moffat County residents appreciate these individuals and join us in sincerely thanking them.

Following are a few facts about what snowplow operators do for us.

• Any resident who is 65 or older or disabled can sign up with the city of Craig to have the windrows left behind by passing snowplows removed by city crews at no cost.

• During a significant snow event, Moffat County snowplow operators are on the road by 4 a.m., working to clear roads across the county's 4,734 square miles, and during a major snow event, they may well have to start all over again once they "finish."

• Snowplow drivers clear school bus routes first, followed by main collector routes, then secondary roads. The county's motor graders average 96 lane-miles cleared following every storm.

We also offer our special thanks the city of Craig for stepping up and addressing a serious problem of snow pile removal on the 400 and 500 blocks of Yampa Ave. This shows the city values the downtown business, as well as the safety of citizens who visit and shop in those business.

These are but a few examples highlighting the vital work our snow removal employees do for us. Next week, the Craig Press will publish an in-depth article further detailing the work of these dedicated individuals.

We realize snowstorms can be aggravating and inconvenient, and travel delays seem to bring out the worst in all of us. Yet, we ask everyone to please remember that the snowplow operators are not the problem; they are the solution, and frankly, we couldn't get along without them.

So, when you encounter the plows out making the roads safer for all of us, please remember their drivers are charged with a difficult, vital, and all-too-often thankless task, and maybe spare them a smile or a friendly wave.

It's true they may sometimes cause us to move a little more slowly, but without them, we wouldn't be moving at all.

Editorial: You don’t know us

One of the first lessons a journalist should learn is that writing and reporting are two different skill sets, and to succeed in the news game, you have to be good at both.

That was the lesson that sprang to mind as we read an article published Jan. 20 in USA Today, an article which — under the promise of a look inside Trump country — instead delivered a caricature that unfairly casts the people of Craig and Moffat County in a pretty unflattering light. The article's author, Trevor Hughes, is an undeniably gifted writer, but as we ponder the words he had for us, we find ourselves questioning his skills as a reporter.

Beneath the headline "In Trump country, Republicans cheer on shutdown: The 'government is our biggest enemy,'" Hughes couches his reporting in a series of observations about Craig and Moffat County that coalesce to suggest our town and our county are peopled by pockets of backwoods hicks who care nothing about the government shutdown or the simmering, partisan fury that's slowly fracturing our nation.

And sadly, the tainted perspective he presents is much of the fuel behind the mistaken perception that residents of coal country are, by default, ignorant, backwards, and selfish.

"In this low-slung Western town that still celebrates cowboys and cattle rustlers, Christmas and Christ, and where the smokestacks of coal-fired power plants bracket the broad valley, residents wonder aloud: Doesn’t the shutdown prove their long-held argument that the federal government is too big, too powerful and too expensive?" Hughes writes.

Substantively, the paragraph contains very little we can take exception to. Yes, we celebrate our Western heritage; yes, we honor our religious convictions; and yes, we do these things as our coal-fired "smokestacks" (just for the record, Mr. Hughes, that’s not smoke you noticed rising from Craig Station — it's vapor) provide reliable power for countless American households.

In another passage, Mr. Hughes writes: "For many Craig residents, the shutdown remains mostly abstract: The federal government isn’t a big employer here, and people are mostly worried about how air-quality regulations are slowly squeezing the life out of the coal mines and power plants. That helps explain the popularity of GOP candidates, where voting for Republicans comes as naturally as breathing, regardless of how you feel about the president. This is a town where pickups and SUVs rule the roads and renewable energy is often scorned as unreliable and unproven."

Here, the inaccuracies grow a little more glaring.

The federal government isn't a big employer in Moffat County?

We're pretty sure the furloughed employees with the at least nine federal agencies who make their homes in Northwest Colorado would disagree with you there. It's true we tend to vote Republican here, and while we are open to new ideas, we are not yet convinced of claims that renewable energy is ready to replace fossil fuels as our primary source of power. But we hardly see how our preference for SUVs and pickup trucks has anything to do with that. Mostly, we drive those types of vehicles because they make sense in our mountainous biome, where winter sometimes drags on for five or six months.

Our vehicular choices are irrelevant, yet the image of cowboy-hat-wearing, Bible-thumping, environment-wrecking coal miners roaring around the Yampa Valley in jacked up trucks fits your narrative, a narrative that, frankly, seeks to paint us as the very worst America has to offer.

We could go on, but the outright factual inaccuracies in the article aren't at the crux of our objections to it. As we said in the beginning, our problems with the article are mostly its tone, its timbre, and it's apparent deliberate attempt to jam us into a narrow box that fits the desired narrative, but doesn't fit who we really are.

Frankly, Mr. Hughes, you don't know us, and you err when you pretend to. We realize your primary readership will probably gleefully consume this article and from it, undergird their already skewed impressions of us.

But those impressions are incomplete and erroneous, and that's unfortunate.

If, instead of drawing stereotypical caricatures to confirm your preconceived notions of us, you'd taken the time during your visit to really get to know us, you might have seen that we care deeply about many things that have nothing to do with coal mines or power plants or President Donald J. Trump.

Mostly, we care about each other, and that caring extends to our visitors, even to visitors like yourself, who seem to have come to our town only to gather fodder for a hatchet job.

So, again, sir, you are an excellent writer, but based on this article, you're not a very good reporter.

If you're interested in using your impressive writing skills to craft an accurate story about us, we invite you to return to Craig for another visit. But if you decide to do this, we hope it will be with an open mind and a commitment to write the story the facts suggest, not the story you already wrote in your mind before you ever set foot in our town.

The fact is, you failed to do your research, and you wrote a lazy article that does nothing but perpetuate a myth and widen the growing rift that threatens to tear our country to pieces.

Regardless of how well you write, facts must always inform conclusions, not the other way around.

We hope you'll remember that going forward.

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.