A sampling of recent editorials from Colorado newspapers:
The Denver Post, Nov. 19, on heroism and the Ouray mining accident:
Most of us work at jobs in which the risk of occupational death is roughly equivalent to being hit by lightning. But every now and then we hear news that makes us realize others aren't so lucky and that they work in critical jobs where danger can be all too real.
One such career is mining.
Mining has always been risky, although safety has improved dramatically in recent decades due to better technology and regulation — to the point, indeed, that most recent mining fatalities in Colorado are the sort you might have at any construction or industrial site.
Still, the deaths of two miners in Ouray over the weekend by carbon monoxide poisoning is a sharp reminder of the special risks that miners are sometimes up against even today.
The other notable feature of the weekend tragedy is that 59-year-old Rick Williams died because he went into the mine to find the other victim, Nicholas Cappanno, 34. Williams was a hero who gave his life trying to save a colleague. His loss diminishes the community even as his bravery inspires it.
The Gazette, Nov. 19, on elections and fracking:
They can hold all the elections they want, but one fact remains. Voters lack authority to ban fracking.
Voters soundly approved fracking bans Nov. 5 in Fort Collins, Boulder and neighboring Lafayette. Broomfield, another Boulder/Denver suburb, approved a ban by 17 votes at last tally. If courts uphold civil rights, these "victories" against oil and gas will have no more tangible effect than six successful countywide elections to secede from Colorado.
In the United States, voters have limited authority by design. They can elect politicians and remove them from office. They can raise or lower taxes and impose regulations that don't conflict with freedoms protected for individuals by the Constitution and 50 state constitutions. Though public schools use the word "democracy" as if it means "freedom," this country is nothing approaching a genuine democracy. Majority sentiment is not inherently virtuous.
Opponents of oil and gas production express fear that something might go horribly wrong, harming humans and their environment. Their concerns aren't entirely unfounded, but they have nothing substantial to support all the hype. Colorado's environmental regulations of the industry are so intense a lot of producers avoid the state. If fear of what might go wrong controlled public policy, we wouldn't have electricity - or tall buildings that can be knocked down by airplanes. We wouldn't have communities in forests, tornado alley or coasts prone to hurricanes. We would cower, sacrificing progress to minimize risk.
Theories and concerns about potential dangers do not authorize majorities to violate fundamental protections of civil rights. If so, we'd live with mob rule and none would be free. We'd empower voters to restrict the practice of Islam in communities ravaged by Islamic-related terrorism.
The Daily Sentinel, Nov. 17, on ski area water rights:
Good news from the U.S. Forest Service last week: The agency announced it no longer plans to demand that ski areas give up a portion of their water rights in exchange for the renewal of their permits to operate on federal lands.
Better news out of Congress last week: A bill by two Colorado congressmen that would prohibit the Forest Service or other federal agencies from trying to implement such a policy against ski areas or other water-rights holders in the future passed out of committee. The Water Rights Protection Act, sponsored by Republican Scott Tipton and Democrat Jared Polis, now goes to the House floor for a vote.
We have joined many others in arguing that the Forest Service policy on ski area water was inappropriate and an unnecessary intrusion of federal authority into what has historically been a state purview in managing water rights.
The fact that the Forest Service claimed it was demanding the rights to ski area water because it feared the water might be sold off was always a nonsensical argument. Ski areas that need water to make snow and enhance their business aren't likely to sell off the water necessary for snow making. But even if they chose to do so, it is their right under Colorado law, and the water would be available for some other individual.
The water does not belong to the federal government, much to the chagrin of some folks in Washington who have long believed it should.
That's why the Forest Service announcement last week was welcome. But, as the National Ski Areas Association noted, this marks the fourth change in the agency's policy on ski area water in 10 years. And that's why the Tipton-Polis bill needs to be passed.
The Steamboat Pilot & Today, Nov. 20, on shopping locally this holiday season:
The National Retail Foundation predicts the average American shopper will spend $737.95 this Christmas, which translates to total forecasted holiday sales of $602.1 billion nationwide during the 2013 holiday shopping season. Keeping those staggering totals in mind, the Steamboat Pilot & Today encourages area residents to consider spending those dollars locally rather than shopping online or traveling to the malls and big-box stores in Denver.
Many communities across the country, including Steamboat Springs, have launched "shop local" campaigns in advance of the Black Friday kickoff to holiday shopping.
These efforts are aimed at reminding shoppers of the positive economic, community and environmental impacts they can have if they choose to fill their holiday wish lists with purchases from neighborhood businesses.
Why shop local?
The reasons are compelling.
Instead of sending your shopping dollars out of town, keep your hard-earned bucks right here in Routt County. Dollars spent locally support businesses that are owned and operated by people who live here and have made an investment in the Steamboat Springs community. These businesses support local schools, organizations and charities through generous giving and volunteer support.
When people buy locally, they trigger what has been termed the "local economic multiplier effect." Multiple studies, conducted by groups across the U.S., have verified this effect, and according to organizations like the American Independent Business Alliance, study results show local independent businesses spend business revenue within the region where they are located. In other words, local businesses tend to purchase goods and services from other locally owned businesses, which keeps money circulating closer to home.
More specifically, it is estimated that for every $1 spent at a locally-owned business, 45 cents is reinvested locally, which produces big dividends for the local economy not to mention increases in local sales tax revenue, which supports vital community services and infrastructure. By contrast, only 15 cents of every $1 spent at a corporate chain store is reinvested in the local economy.
Shopping locally also ensures that the retail segment of the local economy remains strong and downtown shopping districts stay vibrant.