The beginning of 2017 delivered a lot – a lot of snow, for one – snow that residents and tourists are missing now like a dear, old friend. We all watched the inauguration of an unconventional president, whose election surprised many. President Donald Trump, and members of his Cabinet, moved rapidly, and dramatically, to reshape the federal government’s approach to many issues that affect us.
Energy, the environment and public lands are a few issues that hit home, as did health care and state and local funding. The dizzying pace at which the administration moved has made it hard to keep up. But respond we did, in support of the Environmental Protection Agency making good on its commitment to reimburse local businesses for losses incurred from the Gold King Mine spill, and to fully fund the Bonita Peak Superfund clean-up.
The editorial board has continued to support adequate funding of, not cutting, our natural resources and environmental agencies, and for broad and inclusive approaches to the planning processes that inform natural resource decision-making. We opposed weakening the Antiquities Act and existing national monuments, and defended the Bureau of Land Management’s Methane Rule, which should be implemented without further delay, and its public health, environmental and economic benefits.
We recognized the importance of the natural gas industry to La Plata County, and have been pragmatic about globally depressed gas prices, climate change and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The editorial board has been supportive of efforts by La Plata Electric Association, the city of Durango and other local organizations to support solar development, electric cars and bikes, and educate our community about how to increase the availability of locally procured renewable energy.
Because of low gas prices, and the Gallagher Amendment-mandated drop in residential property values from which tax assessments are formulated, our property-tax dependent La Plata County government, led by Joanne Spina, its first female county manager, had to take a close look at expenses this year. Hard decisions included leaving 19 positions vacant, withdrawing funding for two branch libraries, closing the Bayfield DMV but one day per week and reduced funding for road and bridge projects and public service agencies.
The editorial board supported the Durango Fire Protection District’s successful mill levy increase to pay for additional fire protection and emergency services, and the state Legislature’s use of the hospital provider fee to benefit Colorado hospitals, transportation and education. And we said no to an additional tax on our emerging marijuana industry and to removing fluoride from the city’s water supply, also supported by 64 percent of voters.
The hardest parts of the year were undoubtedly when we learned about another loss of life to suicide – there were 19 deaths between the ages of 14 and 77. We maintained there is a need for continued government-supported health care, especially for children, and applauded the Legislature’s bipartisan action to temporarily fund the CHP-plus program.
The changes for the opinion pages included Bill Roberts retiring as Editorial Page editor and establishing a new Editorial Advisory Board.
The August total eclipse of the sun gave us a reprieve from the rancor of today’s politics, and we all looked toward the sun together. Let’s hope for more of the same in 2018. Look for what we expect in the new year next weekend.