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RANGELY | Last Thursday Craig Mayor John Ponikvar asked the question that’s been on everyone’s mind, “What are you going to do here in Rangely when the oil and gas doesn’t come back?”
The question was asked as part of Ponikvar’s presentation to a small group of interested citizens on the book “13 Ways to Kill Your Community” by Doug Griffiths and Kelly Clemmer.
Ponikvar began his presentation by complimenting Rangely, specifically calling out the county wide broadband project, The TANK and Rangely Automotive Museum as real assets to the community. He drew parallels between Rangely and Craig as communities that both struggle with economic resiliency due to economies that are based primarily on fossil fuels.
Ponikvar also addressed the large number of studies that many communities, including Craig, undertake, drawing laughter when he mentioned a 2015 Craig study which was conducted to study the previous studies. However, he said that both Craig and Moffat County have experienced various successes in recent years, which he attributes to a change in culture.
Ponikvar was first introduced to “13 Ways” when he heard it discussed on an NPR radio program. The book uses what he described as “reverse psychology,” calling to mind all of the things a community shouldn’t do if they want to achieve sustainability.
Point one was “Don’t Have Quality Water.” Ponikvar pointed out local issues with the shrinking size of Kenney Reservoir and concerns with the White River algae bloom. However, he mentioned the potential benefits of Wolf Creek Reservoir, should the damn be completed.
“Don’t Attract Business” was point two. “You don’t need a grocery store, you need two grocery stores,” said Ponikvar, who discussed the importance of competition. He also talked about the impact of rules and regulations on business. “The city must be flexible,” he said.
Point three was “Ignore Your Youth,” followed by “Deceive Yourself About Your Real Needs and Values.” Here Ponikvar urged the community to ask “who are we and who do we want to be?” Point five was familiar, “Shop Elsewhere.” According to Ponikvar, $1 will turn over six to seven times in a small community. He also mentioned the importance of sales tax, stating that 80 percent of Grand Junction sales tax revenue comes from those living outside Grand Junction.
Point six was “Don’t Paint,” where the importance of community-wide beautification was discussed. This was followed by “Don’t Cooperate,” which encouraged local taxing entities to be on the same page rather than view each other as competitors. “Live in the Past” and “Ignore Your Seniors” were listed as potential community killers. Ponikvar referred to seniors as the foundation of the community who have time to volunteer and money to contribute.
Ponikvar summarized point 10—“Reject Everything New”—with the warning, “You’ll always get what you’ve always had.” “Ignore Outsiders” followed. Ponikvar suggested that locals who grew up within the community should make themselves tourists for a day to develop a new appreciation for what is here already. He also proposed that the new broadband internet program could bring in new people who want the quiet, rural lifestyle and would be able to work remotely. “Welcome their ideas,” he said.
“Become Complacent” was followed by the last way to kill your community, which Ponikvar said was vital, “Don’t Take Responsibility.”
“In any community you’re going to find out some people just like drama,” he said. But Ponikvar also said that opportunity can come from crisis.
The 13 Ways to Kill Your Community were followed up by four questions that Ponikvar said every community must answer; who are we and why do we matter, what do we want to be known for, what are we willing to struggle for and what is our story?
Ponikvar ended his presentation telling the audience, “It’s all about attitude.”
Ponikvar grew up in Leadville and is currently the Mayor of Craig and president of T & H Parts, also in Craig. His enthusiasm for the subject was apparent. “When I found the book I realized it was a message every small community needs to hear,” he said. “The western slope is losing fossil fuels. We need to reinvent ourselves in a new world economy.”
The book “13 Ways to Kill Your Community” is available online as well as at the Rangely Chamber of Commerce office.