Rob Douglas' column appears Fridays in the Steamboat Today. He can be reached at rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs The other day while caffeinating downtown with Mike and Roger, I expressed my astonishment that apparently two people named Towny Anderson live in Steamboat. Then, veering onto another subject, I began questioning the actions of Steamboat Springs city government.
"How can it be," I questioned, "the city can afford to send crews to individually assess properties for pine bark beetles, but following David Engle's death from smoke inhalation in an illegal apartment claimed it can't afford to look for illegal residences?"
"How can it be," I asked, "the issues raised by Mr. Engle's death were not on the City Council's agenda last Tuesday? How can it be the council had not a single word to say about Mr. Engle's death at their first official meeting following the fire? Why has the council abdicated responsibility and authority on this and so many other issues to the unelected city manager?"
I decried how few care enough about how our elected representatives perform their jobs to actually attend their meetings. I observed that a thousand locals will come out for free concerts, but less than a dozen will show up to City Council, county commissioner and school board meetings during which decisions impacting this valley for generations to come are made with nary a peep of public comment.
I observed that no one seems to go to public meetings unless they're there looking for money or to complain about a decision they never bothered to provide input about when the input would have counted.
And, as we all know, it's always the same small number of truly dedicated citizens who volunteer time and again to perform many of the thankless tasks of serving on committees and boards while many of us sit at home in the evening watching the latest drivel on TV.
In fact, at Tuesday's council meeting the mechanism for distributing taxpayer funds to community groups started on the path to statutory change because three of four committees currently needed to assess funding requests can't find enough volunteers to be viable. In other words, Steamboat literally can't find people to help give money away.
Roger, sensing more was brewing than just the coffee at Steaming Bean, proffered some advice. "Rob," he said, "you can write about the council or developers any week. Friday's the Fourth. You should write about citizenship in our community."
And if anyone has their finger on the pulse of our community, it's Roger Good.
Roger was the project coordinator for the recently released Routt County Livability Index. Roger and his team of volunteers spent hundreds of hours compiling and analyzing a mountain of information about our county.
From the data they were able to gauge where we stand in regard to nine comparable Colorado counties - Chaffee, Eagle, Garfield, Grand, Gunnison, La Plata, Pitkin, San Miguel and Summit. And while we rank smack dab in the middle overall when four major categories are combined, we lag our Rocky Mountain neighbors significantly in two components within the category of civic involvement.
Routt County ranks third to last in voting, with only six out of 10 registered voters casting ballots. Considering the number of folks who don't register, I suspect the reality is less than 50 percent of us use the precious gift millions of our fellow citizens fought and died for. Sadly, when it comes to philanthropy we're even less involved. County residents donate just 1.85 percent of their adjusted gross income to charity - second to last compared to similar mountain counties.
Although it can be argued these statistics place us in the mainstream overall nationally, the real question is whether most of us - myself included - are truly shouldering our fair share as citizens.
Are we giving back to our community and our country as much as we owe given the sacrifices previous generations made throughtout the course of this nation's history?
Are we participating fully as citizens to better our city, county, state and country - even if all that requires is showing up at public forums to express our opinion when it counts instead of whining about it later?
Tonight, we'll gather as a community to enjoy fireworks at Howelsen Hill as we celebrate our nation's 232nd birthday. As we do so, I hope we'll all take a moment to pause and reflect on the millions of our fellow Americans who sacrificed blood and treasure so we might enjoy the gifts of this valley and this country.
And, as benefactors of those gifts, I hope we'll all rededicate ourselves to jealously guarding the valley's heritage and its future by being constructively involved as citizens.
Rob Douglas can be e-mailed at Douglas@privacytoday.com