Like the parable of the blind men describing an elephant, it’s easy to forget that not everyone in our state is surrounded by the rugged mountains, green fields, charming small towns and rural living of Southwest Colorado.
After the 2017 legislative session, I traveled throughout my district and the state to see how local variables influence residents’ needs and concerns. These visits help me understand how the laws we make in the Legislature impact all corners of Colorado, and help me assess what’s working and what isn’t.
Pagosa Springs High School has a public-private partnership allowing students to work in apprenticeships in the construction industry, in combination with a construction-focused class. Students will graduate with hands-on knowledge, local apprenticeships and usable skills.Water storage near Montrose could be a reality. Experts are studying several potential areas and have narrowed the list to a few finalists; geological testing and fiscal notes are pending. Particularly during the dry year we are currently experiencing, the more plentiful our Western Slope water supply, the more security we have for future domestic and agricultural use. After uranium mining made residents of the former city of Uravan sick and contaminated the soil, the entire town was buried. Former residents still hold reunions, celebrating their friendships and history, but the town is no longer. We can learn a lot from the mistakes made; sensible mining laws can protect public health and ensure safety.Near Loveland, they manufacture wind turbine parts in several factories built next to rail lines so materials can be quickly distributed all over the U.S. Transportation infrastructure is critical to their business development and hundreds of jobs. The Eisenhower/Johnson Tunnel at an altitude of 11,158 feet has a small city inside, whose main focus is driver safety. If a car breaks down in the middle of the nearly 1.7-mile bore, assistance is rendered immediately. The investment keeps mountain traffic moving, and lives are saved.Near La Junta, “neighbors” live miles from each other. Shopping locally means a long drive, but they do it because they believe in small, local businesses that provide jobs and a tax base. Everyone knows everyone else, and they revel in supporting each other. A Denver women’s prison has a wing dedicated to prisoners who are trained with job, leadership and communication skills, giving them hope and opportunity when they finish serving their term. When inmates are released, they are ready to be productive members of their community. It is money well spent.My travels have given me great insight into how I can better serve both the 59th district and our state. I’ve been lucky to meet some amazing people and hear innovative ideas about how to make the state function better. Our diversity is what makes us one of the fastest growing states in the nation, with the one of the lowest unemployment rates.
Barbara McLachlan represents HD 59. Reach her at email@example.com.