Salazar discusses issues with residents |

Salazar discusses issues with residents

Christina M. Currie

Rep. John Salazar discussed veterans’ services, local drug treatment options, the federal energy bill and other issues during a stop Thursday in Craig.

The Democrat from Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District invited residents to the Museum of Northwest Colorado as part of his statewide “Listening Tour.” More than 20 attended.

“I will adamantly protect the values that are so near and dear to my brother’s heart and to my heart,” said Salazar, referencing U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar. “Across rural America, it’s not about partisanship, it’s about values — values that are as important to me as they are to you.”

Salazar serves on the House agriculture and transportation committees. He said he opposed the Central American Free Trade Agreement because he believes it will have a negative impact on American jobs, contribute to the increase of illegal immigrants and broaden the trade deficit.

“It’s going to be as bad for Americans as much as (the North American Free Trade Agreement) has,” he said. “It’s not going to help the beef industry.

He also was happy to report that Colorado’s increase in transportation funding was the third-largest in the nation this year.

But, he said, “the most important thing we have to do is open our ears and listen to you.”

To Ada McArthur, whose husband died while serving in Vietnam, veteran’s issues are paramount. Her concern is the difficulty she has had in getting information from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“A knowledgeable veteran’s service officer is needed here,” she said. “They shouldn’t have to be a veteran, they should just have to know what they’re doing.”

There has been a local effort aimed at getting a veterans clinic in Northwest Colorado, or at the very least, to get Veterans Affairs to allow veterans to get preliminary services from local doctors, Moffat County Commissioner Darryl Steele said.

He asked that Salazar advocate for that need in Washington, D.C.

Salazar said he agreed there was a need, but that the nation’s budget doesn’t allow for many expanded services.

“We need additional funding and as health care in this country becomes more expensive, a lot of veterans are falling back on (Veterans Affairs) for care,” he said.

He is spearheading an effort in the House to approve a GI bill of rights, which would guarantee funding for veterans programs.

“That way we won’t have to fight for an annual appropriation,” he said.

Moffat County Sheriff Buddy Grinstead asked for Salazar’s help in getting a drug treatment center in Craig, saying rising methamphetamine use created a huge drain on rural resources. “It’s hard when you have such a huge need,” he said. “I hope somewhere down the road we can get someone to listen to what’s happening in small towns.”

Salazar offered staff time to help Moffat County work on proposals for grant dollars.

“We’ll try to help you put something together and hopefully get some federal dollars,” he said.

Salazar talked a little bit about the federal energy bill. He supported the final version, he said, because it focused funding on developing renewable energy and allowed for local comment on oil shale development.

“It’s a very good bill,” he said. “I think in the long term it’s going to have a good impact on energy development.”

Salazar said the United States must avoid policies that encourage reliance on other countries for oil or food.

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