Montezuma County’s budget is increasing by approximately $1.6 million, or somewhere around $60 per resident. County employees will get a cost-of-living raise.
The City of Cortez plans to spend less in 2012 than it did in 2011 but will raise fees for water, refuse collection and recreation. The Sanitation District will raise its rates as well.
Electric bills will be going up, natural gas prices are dropping slightly, and gasoline prices have fallen markedly in recent weeks, even as oil prices have risen. Don’t expect the reductions to be permanent.
Wages are flat, well-paying jobs are scarce. Even Mesa Verde Pottery, long run by now-U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, is closed for the season. Two work weeks before Jan. 1, employers and employees alike still didn’t know what 2012 payroll taxes would be.
Congress threatens to shut down the federal government every few months, so often that many Americans have quit paying attention. In a bizarre series of events, one GOP presidential candidate has made a $10,000 bet with another, irritating citizens who wonder how they’re going to afford Christmas, food, heat and medication in the same month. A third candidate, who also claims to be a conservative, apparently has aligned himself with the Occupy Wall Street protesters by criticizing the first for slashing private payrolls and issuing pink slips.
Where is the progress? Where is the comprehensive plan to energize the economy?
The answer to that is easy: There’s not one. There’s also no hint that the 2012 presidential election will provide clarity, especially since Southwest Colorado does not loom large on the national economic radar.
That means that local actions are crucial. Decisions must based on two slightly contradictory ideas, both of which, fortunately, require the same focus.
First, what we have may be all we get. Times will get better, a little bit at a time, and they’ll get better faster if locals promote the resources available here. But development here may lag, for any of a variety of reasons, including our inability to capitalize on opportunities.
Second, we must be ready for change. For example, an energy boom would be a very mixed blessing, bring jobs and tax revenue, and also bringing social and environmental issues that, if history is an indication, linger longer than the benefits. With solid planning and community support, the region could capitalize on the positives and regulate the negatives. That can’t happen if locals are willing to sacrifice nearly anything for “good jobs.”
In both cases, the best preparation is for locals — residents, businesses, organizations and governmental entities — to reach some consensus on a vision for the future and work steadily toward it. Flexibility is essential, because unexpected opportunities do arise. But if citizens don’t know what they want, they have little hope of achieving it. If they have a clear understanding of both the positives and the pitfalls of growth and change, they aren’t as likely to be persuaded to accept too little good at a cost that’s too high.
This is a good time of year for a strong local focus, while the feds flail and the state government focuses on education finance and an Olympic bid. Who do we want to be? What do we want to do? How can we accomplish that?
That’s what really matters.