RBC I Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado (AGNC) held its monthly meeting in Meeker in April. The half-day meeting covered a variety of topics including Colorado’s upcoming congressional redistricting, 2020 census data tools, updates from federal representatives and more.
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser made an appearance at the meeting to discuss $30 million in litigation awards to the state of Colorado stemming from lawsuits against Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family, for their role in the ongoing opioid epidemic. Weiser discussed the potential of using the money to address substance use and youth mental health.
Examples of ways to address substance use specifically posed by Weiser included law enforcement interdiction, harm reduction for potential overdose situations, education/prevention, along with treatment and recovery programs.
“How we spend the money is a big deal question for all of Colorado,” said Weiser, adding “this has got to be a bottom up solution, what’s gonna work in this region is not gonna be the same thing that works in Denver.”
He went on to explain that most of the money will be designated for “region wide collaborations” on creating/upgrading the kind of infrastructure needed to address substance abuse problems. He also said a certain amount would be given out for community specific “infrastructure grants.”
Weiser noted that individual governments will all get a certain amount of money from the state as a part of the process, but emphasized they are being encouraged to consider leveraging the money by putting it into a larger “pot” with other regional partners. He reiterated the importance of the concept by pointing out that smaller government jurisdictions may not have the capacity to develop drug treatment options locally, but could and should plan to set up agreements with partner regions for more effective solutions. Some local officials expressed doubts and concerns over regional partnerships, noting how past attempts at the same idea hadn’t actually solved capacity issues with law enforcement workers for example.
Colorado AG Phil Weiser continued to encourage regional collaboration, also noting that the money could act as an additional leverageable resource for pulling federal grants.
2020 CENSUS DATA
US Census partnership specialist Brian Meinhart showcased data tools for digging through the latest 2020 census data, including statistics on population, race and ethnicity, employment, housing and more. The new tools can be accessed at census.gov
Former Colorado State Senator Greg Brophy presented about Colorado’s upcoming congressional redistricting process, which is already shaping up to be a major political focus for the state this year.
Thanks to the passing of amendments Y and Z in the 2018 midterms, Colorado’s congressional district’s will no longer be drawn by elected representatives in the state legislature. Now redistricting will be drawn by independent third party commissions, whose members have already been appointed for both state and federal districts.
As per the language of the 2018 resolutions, the process is required to follow the Voting Rights Act, among other basic guidelines. Specifically noted is the requirement to “preserve communities of interest” which is broadly defined.
Brophy made it clear that due to the Democratic majority in the state legislature, the new process is actually good for Rural counties, giving them an opportunity to make their voice heard. As part of the new redistricting legislation, “commissions shall consider comments from the public that are inline with the constitutional criteria” including preserving “communities of interest.”
Brophy encouraged local government officials to become involved and make their voices heard in the process. “If you wanna have an impact…the western slope is a ‘community of interest,’ use those words,” said Brophy, positing that “historically speaking, people have considered the western slope a community of interest.”
You can learn more about the redistricting process at redistricting.colorado.gov/
CONGRESSIONAL STAFF UPDATES
Staff members from the offices of Senators Michael Bennet, John Hickenlooper as well as congresswoman Lauren Boebert also checked in with AGNC last month. Senators’ offices reported efforts to investigate the moving of space command out of Colorado, and were pushing for the move to be halted until such investigation is complete. They were also supporting the effort to keep BLM headquarters in Grand Junction, and noted they were pushing for farmers & ranchers to be able to access COVID relief funds through the American Rescue Plan. Senators’ staff members also drew attention to available funding applications from the $28.6 billion “restaurant revitalization fund.”
Congresswoman Lauren Boebert’s staff member attended the meeting in person and made a few comments towards the end, focusing first on Boebert’s opposition to President Biden’s 30×30 land conservation plan. He also said “western slope water oughta stay in the western slope,” and pointed out efforts to nullify Biden’s moratorium on federal energy development.
He then pointed out Boebert’s general opposition to federal earmarking, because he said she believes it “creates opportunities for corruption.”
Attendees of the meeting including elected officials and administrative staff expressed a desire for Boebert to reconsider her stance on earmarks, since they have commonly been used in the past to benefit rural districts. AGNC chairman and Garfield County Commissioner Mike Samson noted how an $18 million Anvil Points distribution to Garfield and Rio Blanco Counties was possible because of the federal earmarks process Boebert opposes.
AGNC’s April meeting covered even more topics including an update from the Area Agency on Aging, a presentation by the Colorado Housing and Finance Association and more. You can read the meeting minutes and check on future meeting dates at AGNC.org
AGNC’s next meeting will be on May 19 in Craig.
By LUCAS TURNER | firstname.lastname@example.org