Editor’s Column: Squirrel!

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We’ve got a squirrel (or two) living in the willow tree in our yard. Our upstairs window gives me a bird’s-eye view of squirrel world. Last week I watched Mr. or Mrs. Squirrel stuffing mouthfuls of willow leaves into his or her tree dwelling, insulating the nest, I assume. Like most squirrels, this one was in a perpetual state of “hurry up and get ready for winter.” And then I realized I feel just like that squirrel. Compelled to get everything done. Right now. Clean the gutters, rake the yard, winterize the windows, change the tires… it’s some kind of primal urge to prepare for winter. This year it’s unusually intense. Either we’re going to have a whopper of a winter or the added distress and uncertainty of what will happen to our country on Nov. 9 is magnifying that squirrelly instinct to prepare for a potentially difficult season ahead, no matter who wins.

The paper is unusually fat this week. That’s due to six extra pages of statewide ballot measures. This is your opportunity to read what’s going to be on the ballot so you’re prepared when it shows up in your mailbox or when you step into that voting booth on Nov. 8. If you aren’t registered to vote, you have until Oct. 31 to do so if you want to receive a mail ballot. You can register to vote in person up to Nov. 8. Speaking of voting, residents of Dinosaur and Parachute, and folks in Jackson County (Walden) will be deciding whether legal marijuana has a place in their community landscape this election. Parachute already has three recreational marijuana shops thanks to a hotly-contested decision made by their town trustees a couple years ago. The decision resulted in an attempt at a recall election for the mayor and trustees who voted in favor, but the recall didn’t pass. This year the citizens will finally have an opportunity to cast their own individual votes on the subject, which seems fair. The marijuana topic has come before the Meeker board of trustees more than once since legalization took effect, and it’s still a hot button topic for a lot of locals, for or against. Now before anyone starts hollering about the potential consequences of approving a “pot shop,” maybe we need to ask around and see what effects (both negative and positive) recreational marijuana operations have had on neighboring communities of similar size and background. Have their crime rates increased? Are kids dropping out of school at higher rates? How much money has actually come in to their communities directly as a result of sales taxes on marijuana, and where has that additional revenue been spent? The problem is that it’s hard to track that information down. It takes time and effort on our part, and half the time the “studies” and “reports” and “statistics” we see were funded by some organization for their own benefit. But that’s another subject for another day. What’s the point? Whether it’s a local marijuana referendum or who we vote for as our next president, we need to do our own digging. Read the ballot, read the little blue book. And then start asking questions. Don’t be led around on a short leash by someone else’s biased rhetoric. Do your own research and make your own informed and educated decision.

You may have ­noticed more guest editorials here in the last few weeks. The op-ed (opinion-editorial) section is where you, as a resident, have a platform to speak. Why allow such a thing? Because it opens lines of communication, creates an opportunity for honest dialogue and provides transparency between the government and the public. ­ In my opinion, this is what makes the freedom of the press so powerful. Within some fairly broad guidelines, we as Americans have the right to express our opinions in a public forum without fear of reprisal from our government (barring slander or libel). We can ask questions, point out discrepancies or declare our personal position on a topic without worrying about being arrested, jailed or run over by a tank in the town square. The first amendment prohibits the infringement of free speech and the press (among other things). It’s a freedom we need to protect, even when we don’t like what’s being said. When the press is threatened or restricted, repression of the citizens-at-large is not far behind. In the same way we hold fast to our right to fly the flag, say the pledge of allegiance, or sing the national anthem, we need to hold fast to our commitment to freedom of the press.

I attended Emily Tracy’s meet and greet last Friday at Wendll’s in Meeker. Tracy is running for a state senate seat against Republican incumbent Randy Baumgardner. It’s nice to see these folks who want to represent us actually coming out to meet the people who may become their constituents. Baumgardner will be in Rangely next week.

It doesn’t matter where you grew up or went to school, Homecoming is always a fun celebration. Good luck to the Meeker Cowboys this weekend! Have fun, be safe and make wise choices!