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Although I remain a grateful pessimist (I still need to read the book about optimism the nice Australian author sent me as a gift after that column and see if it changes my mind), I am exercising cautious optimism about the new county attorney, Todd Starr. His first “lunch with a lawyer” event this Tuesday provided an overview of the Colorado Open Meetings Act (aka Sunshine Law) for the commissioners, county staff and various appointed boards, and left us hopeful. His advice to the commissioners, and the board directors in attendance, to “do the next right thing” and to own up to mistakes when made, “it’s never the act, it’s always the cover up that causes trouble” is sound, rational advice not just for elected officials, but for all of us on a daily basis.
I also appreciated the wisdom imparted by attorney Tom Lyons, who participated via telephone. Lyons advised the BOCC to examine their decision-making process as if they were citizens. “How would I feel about this [decision] if I was a citizen?” That seems like sound advice.
As a follow-up, we have received a response to our recent CORA request. The results answered some of our questions regarding the commissioners’ recent decision-making processes. In a nutshell, we look forward to a more open and communicative process in the days ahead, and are assured the current board understands the importance of compliance with the Sunshine Laws.
On that note: In the interest of public information and service, to every board that is subject to the Colorado Open Meetings Act requirements, (special districts, appointed boards, etc.) we do not charge for the publication of your meeting agendas. Email your agenda to firstname.lastname@example.org by Tuesday at 3 p.m. (the classified deadline) for that Thursday’s edition. We would love to see full participation from all our county boards and special districts by the end of the year. Why? Because it’s the right thing to do.
I feel like my meeting are having meetings. I spent nine hours in meetings on Monday. Why, you ask? Because we’re painfully short-staffed right now, as is almost everyone, based on casual conversations and things said during the county’s inter-agency meeting Monday. When everyone is short-staffed, that indicates a larger problem, in my mind. The results of a recent market analysis done for Meeker’s Main Street:Project 45 group indicate staffing is a tremendous concern for local employers. How do we remedy that? How do we make our communities appealing to new employees in a market where there’s lots of competition for jobs? As for the newspaper, we’re looking for a unicorn… someone with sales and journalism skills.
A subscriber sent a clipping from the Feb. 15 edition of “The Week” magazine I’m sharing here because I think it raises an excellent point: “Google and Facebook are killing local newspapers—and badly damaging American public life, said Eric Johnson. The internet giants ‘vacuumed out’ more than $60 billion in advertising revenue in 2018—dollars that once went to newspapers and ‘sustained local reporters all over the country.” Those reporters covered town council meetings, tax increases, zoning changes, and state capitals. But as local newspapers die by the hundreds, those reporters are no longer on the beat—and decisions get made in the dark. The loss of engagement with local civics and decision-making, I think, ‘is contributing mightily to the sense of frustration so many of us feel with politics and public life.’ On the local level, there are ‘problems you can actually fix,’ and political participation by ordinary people can make a big different. Not so on the national level, where divisive problems like immigration and the Mueller investigation are ‘endlessly repackaged as cheap entertainment’ by the national media, to the exhaustion of everyone. Your community is not your Facebook contacts; it’s ‘where you live.’ We’d all be happier if we paid more attention to local politics and less to Facebook.” Johnson is a columnist for The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C.
Lest we forget, today is Valentine’s Day, the holiday you love or love to hate. To all y’ll for whom this is the most romantic day of the year, congratulations, enjoy yourselves. For the rest of us, here’s written permission to be set free from the unspoken obligations that come with this particular holiday. Disclaimer: You must be in a state of mutual agreement with your significant other before that written permission takes effect.