2009

25 March 2009: Character may dictate county’s future

Character may dictate county’s future

In my last three columns, I focused on the big challenges, aside from economic development, confronting Clear Creek: transportation, renewable energy, and education, or TREE, as I prefer to call them collectively.

It has been stimulating to be part of the conversation in a variety of venues. At one of them, I asked Commissioner Kevin O’Malley to share his thoughts on moving Clear Creek into the 21st century with regard to TREE.

“First,” O’Malley says, “the answer lies in the people of Clear Creek County continuing to embrace the responsibility for determining our own future as much as we can. If you look back at our history, our geography and geology have determined much of what has occurred in the County and will continue to be the most important factors in determining our future.”

He reminds us CCC sits between two major population regions—the Front Range and Western Slope—so it would be best if “we take better advantage of the opportunities it offers so we can protect ourselves, at least in part, from the problems it causes.”

O’Malley is hopeful, given the new leadership at the state, for progress on the I-70 Corridor.

“Whether it is built 5 or 10 or even 20 years from now, there must be a high speed, electrically powered, Advanced Guideway System connecting the Front Range and the West Slope that serves the people of Clear Creek.”

Locally, he points to the 2007 passage of the road improvement initiative as an indicator of the forward thinking of CCC voters.

“Those improvements will make our lives better and will encourage private investment in properties located along those roads.”

With regard to renewable energy, O’Malley says, “The shock of $4.00 a gallon gasoline last summer made it apparent that America could no longer depend on cheap, imported energy. It was the primary factor in tipping the balance of our state and national policies toward more aggressive development of renewable energy.”

As he points out, that which determined our history—geography and geology—will also help dictate our future.

“It appears that Clear Creek’s geography and geology may make us a prime location for renewable energy generation. Geography is important because our location close to the metro area and along existing power transmission lines that would make any energy produced here easily marketable. Geology is important because we have an abundance of both wind and sun.”

There will be impacts, of course, but O’Malley is confident the County’s permitting process will help lead to positive resolution of potential conflicts.

“As a community we need to understand the benefits; we need to understand the impacts; we need to understand how those impacts can be mitigated; and then we have to decide what is in the best long-term interest of the community. It is an extremely important decision, and I look forward to the discussion.

In his prior political life, O’Malley was a member of the CCSD BOE, so is well versed in the issues confronting the community’s schools.

“If the District is falling short, I believe it is in the area of adapting to a much more competitive education environment” than we experienced in the past.

“Parents have a lot of choices today. A school district can’t be satisfied with just doing a good job educating kids. It also has to convince parents that its schools offer the best combination of education, activities, social interaction and access to higher education”

I go one step farther than O’Malley: Unless and until we restructure our system of education, adapting to the realities of this 21st-century world by abandoning the practices and model of the industrial period, we will not be able to measure up to the task.

That is true in the other two areas as well.

So, the question before us: How do we move Clear Creek into the 21st Century?

O’Malley goes back to his original thesis about the community accepting responsibility for what happens here.

“We have difficult conversations about what kind of future we want; make decisions, implement those decisions, and move on to the next challenge.

“We can’t just let the future happen to us. We need to determine, as much as possible, what that future will be. We embrace good ideas no matter where they come from. We understand that we will not always agree, but we don’t allow those disagreements to tear our community apart.

“And finally, here is the hardest part: When it comes to the important decisions, we must be willing to put the community’s interests ahead of our own.”

A study of history, cultural and social geography, and anthropology demonstrates one aspect of a people determines their character: the land on which they live.

That is, perhaps, even more true up here.

For us then, this question: Are we as rugged as the terrain on which we live and as our ancestors who blazed the trail up here, or have we grown soft and become averse to taking on challenges that confront us?

To be continued.

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