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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.

Editorial: Yes, your vote matters

As you read these words, the midterm election is only four days away, but for many of us, that's a moot point. According to a news release from Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, 2,369 Moffat County residents had already cast ballots as of Thursday.

If you're one of those residents, you have our thanks.

Still others among you have your ballots in hand and are thoughtfully considering the candidates and the issues before making your decisions.

You, too, have our thanks.

But our message today is intended primarily for those of you who haven't voted and perhaps don't intend to. Maybe you're thinking none of the candidates deserve your vote, or perhaps you've been persuaded your vote doesn't matter, anyway.

If you're in this group, we respectfully ask that you reconsider.

We know the political rhetoric in recent years — and more pointedly, in recent months — has become uncharacteristically caustic, so it's no surprise that, as a result, some of us may have become burned out on the whole process.

If this feeling is familiar, we understand. But we urge you to push past it.

Casting a vote is one of the most important things you can do, and the vehemence of the political advertising we're seeing so much of underscores this importance. We live in turbulent, volatile times, and often, it seems the most we — as citizens — can do is vent our displeasure via social media. But once every couple of years — on Election Day — we can do something that might actually accomplish more than a war of cyber-words with total strangers.

On Nov. 6, the enormous power wielded by government is — for a single day — returned to us — we the people. We get to decide, and when you fail to vote, you abdicate this power and allow others to make your decisions for you.

As we mentioned before, you might be thinking none of that matters, that your single vote makes no difference whatsoever in the final outcome.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In 2000, the presidential election turned on the votes of fewer than 1,000 people in Florida, and more recently, in 2014, razor thin margins — margins made up by just a few individual voters in three states — delivered the White House to President Donald Trump.

At the local level, these margins become even more telling.

Last year's $22.9 million bond/mill levy issue in Hayden was approved by a vote of 431-429. That means that, if only three more people had shown up to cast ballots in the other direction, the outcome would have been different.

This year, we're considering several issues that will have a lasting impact on our community, and the fate of some of these issues could be a close as last year's Hayden vote. So, in a very real sense, you — with your single vote — might the one who turns the tide.

During the past month, we've weighed in on several of the more important issues to our area, but today, we're all done with that.

We're not telling you how to vote, and we're not even presenting a case for any one side over another. We're only asking — pleading, really — that you participate in the process and cast your vote.

Yes … it really does matter.

Editorial: Guarding the henhouse

Given the lengthy list of proposals and issues facing voters on the November ballot, it might be easy to overlook Amendments Y and Z. Neither has risen to the level of public debate surrounding some of the more contentious issues, but both, in our opinion, are of utmost importance to the future of fair representation in Colorado, both at the state and federal level.

Amendment Y proposes a constitutional change to Colorado's process for federal congressional redistricting, and Amendment Z proposes a similar change to the process for state legislative redistricting.

Colorado currently has seven congressional districts, from which the state's seven members of the U.S. House of Representative are elected. It also has 35 state senate districts and 65 state house districts, from which members of the state legislature are elected.

In both cases, these districts are redrawn every 10 years following the decennial census to reflect increases, decreases, and shifts in population. Amendments Y and Z would alter the way by which these districts are redrawn in an attempt to remove partisanship from the process.

Currently, the state legislature is responsible for redrawing the congressional districts, an arrangement which has resulted in legal challenges the past four times redistricting has occurred. Similarly, state legislative districts are redrawn by the Colorado Reapportionment Commission, with is appointed by state legislative leaders, the governor, and the chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court.

Under Amendments Y and Z, both processes would be removed from the purview of the state legislature and placed into the hands of independent commissions, one for congressional redistricting and one for state legislative redistricting. These commissions would be composed of 12 members each — four from the state's largest political party, four from the state's second-largest political party, and four with no party affiliation.

The amendments set minimum qualifications for members of both commissioners. Applicants must be registered voters who have voted in the past two general elections in Colorado. Representative from the largest and second-largest political parties must have been affiliated with the same party for the past five consecutive years. Similarly, unaffiliated representative must have been unaffiliated for the past five consecutive years.

Further, the following persons would be barred from serving on the commissions: professional registered lobbyists, elected public officials, elected political party officials above the precinct level, and certain political candidates and their employees.

In both cases, the selection process would be overseen by three-member panels comprised of the three most-recently retired members of the Colorado Supreme Court or the Colorado Court of Appeals.

Finally, both commissions would be required to consider public input on proposed redistricting maps, and final maps would require approval by at least eight members of their respective commissions, including at least two unaffiliated members, and final approval by the Colorado Supreme Court.

Voters should be aware that Amendments Y and Z, though nearly identical, are separate proposals. The former deals with congressional redistricting and the latter with state legislative redistricting.

We acknowledge that both are complicated, but in our view, both work to remove redistricting decisions from the state legislature, which might easily redraw lines so as to maximize the influence of whichever party happens to be in power at the time.

Amendment Y and Z — though complicated — de-politicize the process and ensure district lines will be drawn so as to best reflect the interests of individual communities and geographical areas.

In our view — and particularly given the hyper-partisan climate that has recently arisen in our nation — it is imperative to ensure no one political party is given this level of influence in determining voting districts. To us, retaining the status quo seems a little like hiring the fox as chief of security over the henhouse.

For these reasons, we wholeheartedly support Amendments Y and Z.

Editorial: Road to the future found in Proposition 110

On Nov. 6, Colorado voters will face an important, but confusing, choice as they consider competing ballot proposals to fund the state's transportation needs.

Proposition 109, also known as the "Fix Our Damn Roads Transportation Bond Initiative," would authorize $3.5 billion in bonds to fund statewide transportation projects, including bridge expansion, construction, maintenance, and repairs, and would require the state to repay the resulting debt from the general fund, with no increase in taxes or fees.

Proposition 110, on the other hand, authorizes $6 billion in bonds to fund transportation, but would secure payment of the bonds — not to exceed $9.6 billion — by increasing the state sales tax rate by 0.62 percent, from 2.9 percent to 3.52 percent. Proceeds from the increase would be dedicated to bond repayment, and the increase itself would sunset Jan. 1, 2039.

In our view, there are only two viable options: Either both propositions fail, or one passes and the other fails. While passage of both is possible, that would create a legal conundrum, as key elements of the two are contradictory.

So, discounting the third option, the facts, as we see them, are as follows.

First, it can hardly be argued that Colorado's roads are underfunded and in dire need of repair.

Currently, highway maintenance and construction is funded by the Colorado Department of Transportation, which receives the bulk of its revenue from gasoline and diesel fuel taxes. Colorado's gasoline tax — which is $0.22 per gallon has not increased since 1991 — raises between $500 and $600 million per year, but this amount has not kept pace with the need. CDOT now estimates it will take another $1 billion per year to fully fund the state's highway construction needs.

And those needs are real.

According to a June 2018 report from TRIP, a private, nonprofit national transportation research group, "Driving on Colorado roads that are deteriorated, congested, and that lack some desirable safety features costs Colorado drivers a total of $7.1 billion each year. Due to inadequate state and local funding, 40 percent of major urban roads and highways in Colorado are in poor to mediocre condition."

The report concludes: "… Numerous projects to improve the condition and expand the capacity of Colorado's roads, highways, bridges, and transit systems will not be able to proceed without a substantial boost in state or local transportation funding. If Colorado is unable to complete needed transportation projects, it will hamper the state's ability to improve the condition and efficiency of its transportation system or enhance economic development opportunities and quality of life."

So, it seems clear Colorado's highway needs are urgent, and meeting those needs will be expensive, so we urge voters to strongly consider supporting either Proposition 109 or Proposition 110.

But which one?

The way we see it, Proposition 110 is the clear winner.

Proposition 109 asks us to commit ourselves to $5.2 billion in bonded indebtedness with no specific revenue stream to service that debt. And, while the notion of repairing the state's crumbling highways without increasing taxes or fees might, at a glance, seem appealing, the fact remains: If you take a loan, you have to pay it back.

If Colorado voters opt for the 109 route, the state will be bound to repay whatever it spends, and without a new revenue source, allotting the necessary funds for debt service will mean reappropriating those funds from something else. What might that "something else" be? Education? Pensions? School safety? Health care?

None of these, in our opinion, is acceptable. And besides, it should be self-evident that taking on new debt without knowing how you're going to pay it back is poor practice all the way around.

This leaves us with Proposition 110. It, too, creates new debt, but it also creates new revenue dedicated to paying that debt, and while we are hesitant to advocate another new tax, the modest increase proposed by 110 is, in our opinion, the most sensible path.

First, the increase will be paid by all — resident and visitor, alike — and its proceeds will fund a long-term plan to improve our roads, a benefit that will be shared by all — resident and visitor, alike.

According to Let's Go Colorado, a supporter of 110, the sales tax increase would generate about $767 million in its first year, and a portion of those dollars would be paid by the more than 39 million tourists who visit Colorado every year.

Second, Proposition 110 includes a sunset clause, guaranteeing the increase will be removed in 20 years. This frames the work into a finite window and ensures Coloradans won't be stuck paying a dedicated tax long after the need has been addressed.

Third, it disperses tax revenues throughout the state, so rural areas such as ours — areas that need road work the most — aren't hung to the wind as projects are concentrated around the more populous, richer communities of the Front Range.

Under Proposition 110, 45 percent of the additional revenue would go to the state, 40 percent to local governments for local projects, and 15 percent to multimodal projects. This is a balanced approach that ensures everyone who pays the tax benefits from its dividends.

Transportation is a statewide concern that demands a statewide solution, and now is the time to take charge of our transportation needs and enact a plan that works for everyone.

If we don't, we run the risk that more affluent areas, such as Denver and Boulder, might begin creating their own transportation districts and raising their own money, preemptively and effectively hamstringing any future statewide transportation initiatives.

Club 20, a group known for its devotion to fiscal conservatism, perhaps summed it up best in its Aug. 23 statement of support for Proposition 110.

"This measure provides new revenue that will allow CDOT to address the lion's share of their Tier 1 project list while also providing much-needed funds to towns and counties to construct and repair local roads."

Colorado, particularly rural Colorado, both needs and deserves better roads, and as we plan for our own future, and the futures of our children, it is crucial that we get behind balanced, long-term solutions that benefit everyone.

In our opinion, Proposition 110 does just that.

Editorial: Our kids are worth it

New tax proposals should always be considered through the lens of skepticism.

We are convinced that — so far as is possible — individuals and businesses should keep the fruits of their labor, and taxation, by its definition, belies that principal, taking money from the pockets of those who earned it and diverting that money to uses individual earners may or may not support.

But, at the same time, we recognize we are social creatures; our very survival depends upon how well we can work together, and individual well-being is generally enhanced by ensuring the collective good.

The bottom line is, there are some necessities we can accomplish only through a group effort, and educating our children is among those necessities.

So, while it is prudent to relentlessly question and vet any new tax proposal, it is equally prudent to enact taxes that work to elevate us all.

Amendment 73, in our opinion, is such a measure

If approved by a 55-percent supermajority of Colorado voters, Amendment 73 would do four things:

• Establish a progressive state income tax schedule to include five tax brackets, replacing the current 4.63 percent flat tax rate. Under the amendment, individuals and families earning less than $150,000 per year would remain at the 4.63 percent tax rate, while those earning more would be taxed at a progressively higher rate. The progressive rates would be 5 percent incomes betwee $150,000 and $200,000 per year, 6 percent for incomes between $200,000 and $300,000, 7 percent for incomes between $300,000 and $500,000, and 8.25 percent for incomes more than $500,000.

• Increase the corporate income tax rate for C-corporations from 4.63 percent to 6 percent.

• Decrease the property tax rate for school district levies only from 7.2 percent to 7 percent for residential property and from 29 percent to 24 percent for non-residential property. Again, this provision would apply only to school district levies; all other local government levies would remain unchanged.

• Establish a Quality Public Education Fund to set aside revenues generated by the new taxes to fund preschool through 12th-grade public education. Specifically, the fund would be used to increase statewide base per-pupil funding to $7,300 and increase state funding for special education, English language proficiency programs, gifted and talented programs, and preschools.

Superintendent Dave Ulrich said passage of Amendment 73 will funnel about $2.6 million into Moffat County School District annually, money that will be used to fund long-deferred capital improvements and long-overdue teacher raises.

Funds from the increase will also be used to bolster Colorado's per-student spending rate, which currently lags behind the national average by about $2,800 per student, even though our state boasts one of the leading economies in the country.

Critics of Amendment 73 have said the proposal is unacceptable because it establishes a progressive income tax rate, a system by which those who have more are taxed at a higher rate than those who have less. The objection stems from a belief that such an arrangement is fundamentally unfair; that, by its very nature, progressive taxation "punishes" people for working hard and achieving success.

But it is important to remember that — in most cases — wealthier residents were able to amass their wealth by capitalizing upon the skills and knowledge they gained through a quality education. It is also worthy of note that wealthier Coloradans — typically the people who start businesses and employ workers — will benefit from a better-educated hiring pool.

As we stated from the beginning, new taxes are bitter pills to swallow, especially in the challenging economic climate that has descended upon Moffat County and, indeed, the entire northwestern region of the state.

But Amendment 73 is a winning proposition for both the region and the state.

It reduces property taxes and locks in the property tax rate at 7 percent, while stabilizing the state's formula for funding education, and it does so by shifting the tax burden toward those who are better able to afford it.

A robust, vibrant, well-funded school system is fundamental to the continuance of a strong state and a strong nation, and we are convinced that access to a solid, baseline education should be available to all Colorado children, regardless of how much — or how little — their parents earn.

In the longrun, ensuring such access can do nothing but benefit the state, in general, and the state's smaller, poorer counties, in particular.

If any collective concern is worthy of universal support, it is securing the educational well-being and future success of our most valuable assets: our children.

Our children are our future, and we feel they are more than worth the cost.

For that reason, we wholeheartedly endorse Amendment 73.

Editorial: Prop 112 a poor idea

Faced with a whopping 15 ballot issues, Moffat County voters have a lot to think about in the run-up to the November election, but in our opinion, at least one of these issues should make for an easy choice.

Proposition 112, if approved by voters, would require that any new oil or gas development — including new fracking operations — be located at least 2,500 feet from any structure intended for human occupancy or any area designated "vulnerable."

These "vulnerable" areas are defined as “playgrounds, permanent sports fields, amphitheaters, public parks, public open space, public and community drinking water sources, irrigation canals, reservoirs, lakes, rivers, perennial or intermittent streams, and creeks, and any additional vulnerable areas designated by the state or a local government,” according to the Colorado Secretary of State's Office.

Under existing law, such developments must be 1,000 feet from high-occupancy buildings, such as schools and hospitals; 500 feet from other occupied buildings, such as homes; and 350 feet from outdoor areas, such as playgrounds.

The setback requirements outlined in Proposition 112 would not apply to oil and gas development on federal lands.

Colorado Rising, the self-proclaimed "grassroots group of Coloradans" that is leading the campaign in support of the proposition, argues that, "currently, fracking operations are allowed to take place just 500 feet from a home and 1,000 feet from a school building (and right by school playgrounds). The industry has shown blatant disregard for public health and safety …"

On the other side of the issue is Protect Colorado, which, according to its website,

"… oppose(s) state and local ballot initiatives attempting to limit or ban oil and natural gas development, including any ban or restriction on hydraulic fracturing."

While we understand the reasoning behind Colorado Rising's support of the measure, we vehemently disagree with the measure, itself.

We take this position for a few reasons.

First, the measure would essentially ban new oil and gas developments in Colorado, a move that would be disastrous for the state's economy, particularly the energy-dependent economies of its northern regions. Here in Moffat County, as well as in our neighboring counties, oil and gas development is an essential part of our livelihood, and these restrictions will bring the industry to its knees, potentially pushing many developers to leave the state.

Second, we're tremendously concerned by the language used in the definition of "vulnerable" areas, particularly the phrase, "… and any additional vulnerable areas designated by the state or a local government." This language is far too vague and suggests that any outdoor area could be subject to a subsequent declaration of vulnerability.

All in all, this is not a balanced approach. We agree that areas intended for human habitation and recreation should be protected from pollution, but Proposition 112 is akin to using a sledgehammer to swat a fly.

Moreover, the state already has an Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in place, an agency that includes environmental and reclamation specialists committed to ensuring the responsible development of Colorado’s oil and gas natural resources, and from what we've seen, these professionals are doing a fine job of balancing environmental and economic concerns, despite Colorado Rising's claims to the contrary.

We realize there are some who want oil and gas development out of the state, and Proposition 112 might be the first step in making this aim a reality. But these developments are crucial to this part Colorado, and we cannot sit idly by while groups attempt to cut the legs out from under our future prosperity.

The Moffat County Board of County Commissioners is against it, the Craig City Council is against it, Club 20 is against it, and we're against it.

We try never to tell anyone how he or she should vote. We can offer only our opinion, and our opinion on this issue is clear: A vote against Proposition 112 is a vote for our continued wellbeing.

Editorial: A true ‘win-win’

Though the phrase is thrown around quite a bit, it's rare to encounter a true "win-win" scenario. But, in our opinion, that's exactly what we're seeing in Memorial Regional Health's new affiliation with SCL Health St. Mary's.

The affiliation — which formalizes a longstanding arrangement between the two health systems — was unanimously approved by the MRH Board of Trustees during a Sept. 20 meeting and announced to the community during a news conference the following day.

"SCL Health is a faith-based, nonprofit health care organization dedicated to improving the health of the people and communities we serve, especially those who are poor and vulnerable," according to SCL Health's website. "Founded by the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth in 1864, our $2.6 billion health network provides comprehensive, coordinated care through 10 hospitals, more than 100 physician clinics, and home health, hospice, mental health and safety-net services primarily in Colorado and Montana."

We can understand how some residents might view this affiliation with a measure of trepidation, particularly given the growing trend of small community hospitals being absorbed by large, corporate health systems.

But that's not what's happening here.

According to MRH CEO Andy Daniels, under the agreement, Memorial Regional Health will retain its autonomy — both financially and in terms of administrative decisions — while positioning itself to take full advantage of the resources and backing afforded by the much larger SCL Health. This should translate to several benefits for MRH, and, by extension, its patients.

First, it will save money.

The affiliation allows MRH to replace its "disconnected computer systems" with Epic — a Wisconsin-based patient records system — through SCL Health's investment in the system. This, according to Daniels, means MRH will not only gain access to a more efficient and reliable system of record keeping, but will also realize savings in the neighborhood of $5 million over the next five years.

Further, the affiliation will allow MRH to leverage the purchasing power of SCL Health, saving still more money.

All this should translate to lower prices for services.

Second, it will enhance and expand the care available in Moffat County.

We are classified as a "frontier community," which means patients must sometimes travel long distances to access the sort of specialized care they may need. And while the affiliation with SCL Health will likely not completely eliminate this roadblock, greater access to telehealth and other technologies, as well as a larger pool of providers, should give local patients the opportunity to receive many of these services right here at home.

Third, the affiliation may serve to insulate our local health system from being absorbed by a larger entity. In fact, Daniels said, the affiliation will actually better position MRH to retain its autonomy into the future.

"Let me assure you that we are not for sale," Daniels told a crowd during the news conference announcing the affiliation. "Decisions for what we do and where we go as an organization are still ours; our board of trustees is still governing this institution, and we all remain employees of MRH. … I firmly believe that this affiliation will allow us to remain independent for a good long time," he said. "… Having a much larger partner behind us to give us some advice and resources when we need it will allow us to be your independent health care system for a long time to come."

Finally, the affiliation should better position Moffat County to attract more high-quality health care providers to our community.

In short, this affiliation should lower costs, make MRH stronger, and enable the offering of many services that heretofore have not been available.

"Here is the bottom line message," Daniels said. "We are stronger together …"

We couldn't agree more, and we look forward to seeing the coming benefits to our community and its residents.

Editorial: It is in giving …

We borrow today's headline from the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals and ecology and one of the most venerated figures in the history of Christianity.

And, though the prayer, itself, has been characterized as a declaration of intent and faith, the truth of this seemingly contradictory proposition — "it is in giving that we receive" — transcends the boundaries of mere faith. It is demonstrable, and about this time every year, it is demonstrated right here in Craig, Colorado.

On Sept. 14, Craig residents turned out with open hearts and wallets to support Moffat County United Way's 2018 kickoff event — $15K Day — when the nonprofit organization sought to jump start its annual fundraising efforts by gathering $15,000 in donations in a single day. Yampa Valley Bank once again buoyed this effort by matching up to $7,500 in first-day donations.

As of Thursday morning, Annette Norton, United Way executive director, did not have the final tally on how much the Sept. 14 event raised, but based on the turnout we observed, we can only conclude this year's fundraising effort is off to a strong start.

United Way will continue raising funds through the end of December, with an ultimate goal of raising $460,000 to benefit local nonprofits. The organization set the same goal last year and — thanks to the overwhelming generosity that has always characterized this community — it surpassed that goal by $146.

While specific motivations are individual, at its heart, we are convinced that behind Moffat County's steadfast altruism lies an honest desire to help — an ineffable sense of empathy that intuitively informs us we are always stronger when we work together in a spirit of community.

Hence, our agreement with St. Francis' assertion: It is in giving that we receive.

Consider the causes United Way is able to support through our generosity: Bear River Young Life, the Boys & Girls Club, Interfaith Food Bank, Craig Senior Citizens, Freedom Hooves, Northwest Colorado Health, Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide, Mind Springs Health, Love INC, Horizons Specialized Services, Moffat County Cancer Society, Northwest Colorado Legal Services, the Community Budget Center, Humane Society of Moffat County, and Bridges Out of Poverty, the last of which is an internal program of United Way.

When we consider the work done by these fine organizations — much of which is made possible by United Way and the funds it administers on behalf of us all — it becomes clear that, through helping such organizations, we help ourselves.

These nonprofits function as stabilizers. They offer those in need assistance with the basics of life many of us take for granted; they reach out to those in crisis and offer a hand up, and through helping others to help themselves, we better our community as a whole.

It's been said that a rising tide lifts all boats, and whether you believe such a sentiment or not, the results can be seen in the contents of your wallet. Investing in prevention and assistance pays dividends in the form of a more functional society, and that's good for everyone.

So we salute the Moffat County United Way and all the businesses and individuals who give so selflessly to support its vitally important work.

This year's fundraising drive will continue through the end of the year, and Norton said donations may be made at the local United Way office, on the organizations website, or, in many cases, through payroll deductions.

We thank those who have already given and encourage those who wish and are able to pledge their own contributions.

It is in giving that we receive.

And in this case, what we receive far outweighs the gift that prompted it.

Editorial: Cost versus benefit

Cost–benefit analysis is defined as a systematic strategy to compare the potential benefits of a certain course of action to the costs associated with taking that action. One of the main applications of this technique is to help decide whether an investment or decision is sound by determining whether its benefits outweigh its costs, and by how much.

In November, we, the voters of Moffat County, will be faced with a major decision that could reverberate far into the future: Should we support a dedicated mill levy that would fund operations at Moffat County Libraries and the Museum of Northwest Colorado?

The situation boils down to this.

Moffat County is facing significant financial challenges, and during the past two years, county commissioners have tried to meet those challenges by taking extraordinary steps to trim costs, including cuts of approximately $100,000 each to the library and museum operating budgets. These cuts have prompted both institutions to take equally extraordinary steps to continue operating.

The museum is now tapping its limited reserves to supplement operational expenses, and according to museum Assistant Director Paul Knowles, at the current rate of consumption, the institution has less than two years worth of reserve funds remaining. Once these reserves have been exhausted, the museum's future is uncertain, at best.

As for the library, Director Sherry Sampson and the library board have undertaken a number of cost-saving measures, laying off some workers, reducing hours for others, and cutting hours of operation at all three of its county branches. During a meeting of the board early this summer, directors lamented that identifying further cuts would be "challenging."

The mill levy, if approved, could end the financial struggles for both entities.

It is estimated the increase would generate up to $1.2 million annually, money that could only be used to fund operations at the library and the museum. The funds would be divided proportionally between the two entities, with 64 percent going to the library and 36 percent to the museum. According to Knowles, the estimated dollar amounts would equate to roughly $400,000 per year for the museum and $700,000 per year for the library.

That's the situation. So, what are the costs associated with approving the mill levy?

If approved by voters, the ballot measure would enact a 2.85 percent mill levy dedicated solely to the library and the museum and would cost a property owner with a $200,000 residence about $41 per year, or $3.42 per month. For the owner of a business valuated at $200,000, the increase would amount to about $165 per year, or $13.75 per month.

Those are the costs. What are the benefits?

If approved, the measure will ensure both the library and the museum are able to continue operations, prospects that will otherwise fall into serious doubt.

According to a recent news release from the Moffat County Board of County Commissioners, the museum hosts an average of 12,000 visitors each year, with more than half that number coming from outside Moffat County. It is listed as the “#1 Thing to Do in Craig” by Trip Advisor, was ranked among the six “Top Original Museums” by the Colorado Tourism Board, and was recently named at the top of “15 Museums Not to Miss” by True West Magazine.

The Moffat County Library includes three branches — in Craig, Maybell, and Dinosaur — and reported nearly 83,000 visits in 2017, an 18.5 percent increase from 2014. Its circulation of all print materials is up more than 17.5 percent since 2013, and it currently boasts more than 8,200 active cardholders.

It is neither our objective nor our place to tell anyone how to vote on this issue. Each voter must make that determination for him or herself. We also recognize — and appreciate — the general objection to any new tax, particularly in our depressed economy.

But, in our view, we must ask ourselves if the museum and the library are worth keeping around, and if they are, how much are we willing to pay to keep them around.

We must decide.

These days, it seems there are too many taxes on every ballot to say "yes" or "no" to, so we must make choices, and our choices must be informed by facts. Our choice now is, "Are the library and the museum important, and, if so, is their continued existence worth the asking price?"

If so, we encourage you to vote "yes."

The choice is — and remains — yours, but the results of that choice will resonate far into the future. Please, fully weigh the costs versus the benefits before you make it.

Editorial: The struggle is real

It's no secret that the United States of America is in a crisis situation with regard to the abuse of prescription drugs, and Northwest Colorado has been hit particularly hard by this deeply disturbing trend.

That's why we were so encouraged by last week's news that a local group has won federal grant funding to support prescription drug abuse prevention efforts in Moffat, Routt, and Grand counties.

On Friday, Aug. 31, the Craig Press reported that Grand Futures Prevention Coalition had been awarded a $150,000 grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to help create youth prevention programming in Moffat, Routt, and Grand counties for the next three years.

It was noted that Grand Futures was the only Colorado organization to receive such funding under the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, or CARA.

The grant funds will be used primarily to raise awareness of the problem and create educational programs designed to help area youth make informed decisions about drug use.

We feel this is a sensible approach to countering the insidious and growing trend of prescription drug abuse, because preventing a problem from materializing is almost always easier and more effective than addressing a problem once it has emerged.

And what better place to begin creating new mindsets with regard to drugs and drug abuse than with our children?

Frankly, we were horrified to learn that a 2015 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey revealed that 14.8 percent of youth age 12 to 18 in Moffat, Routt, and Grand counties have taken prescription medication without a prescription in their lifetimes; that figure is 1 percent higher than the state average and 11 percent higher than the national average.

But the percentages, while sobering, are beside the point. In our estimation, if only one child takes a prescription pill without a prescription, that's one child too many.

That's why early education is so vital and why we have such high hopes for the CARA grant.

The funding will be used to support a number of specific strategies, including a youth summit, educational opportunities for adults and concerned community members, community events to drive awareness and help destigmatize the disease of addiction, develop educational materials for patients, create an online resources library, partner with local schools to establish an opioid prevention curriculum, and create additional prescription drug disposal sites in each of the three counties.

Will this, in and of itself, solve the prescription drug crisis?


In a recent interview with the Craig Press, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton rightly pointed out that effectively addressing the nation's — and the region's — opioid crisis will not come in the form of a single, silver bullet, but rather as a multi-pronged approach to a multi-faceted problem.

"Obviously, it's not something the federal government alone is going to be able to solve," Tipton said. "It's going to take collaborative effort with our state governments, our counties, our city governments, and our families, as well."

On this point, we are in complete agreement with the congressman.

The solution will be neither quick nor easy.

It will require personal responsibility, such as ensuring unused prescription medications are properly disposed of. It will require thoughtful legislation that recognizes addiction as a disease rather than a character flaw. It will require revised medical protocols that balance the legitimate need for such drugs with the recognition that unwitting addiction is a real possibility.

All these factors will have to be considered in developing overarching strategies.

But it seems self-evident that providing our youth with the education and tools they need to make informed, prudent choices is the bedrock upon which an effective strategy can be built.

Grand Futures — with the help of these grant funds — is working to establish that bedrock, and we offer our wholehearted support.