Rob Douglas' column appears Fridays in the Steamboat Today. He can be reached at rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs On Tuesday evening, the Steamboat Springs City Council members born with Y chromosomes outvoted the council's sisters of fiscal sanity and passed a 2009 budget with numbers even Miss Whittier would decry as excessively Pollyannaish.
Before the vote, we learned that Santa should put a map of Colorado in city Finance Director Lisa Rolan's Christmas stocking, because Rolan seems unaware that Steamboat Springs is located within Routt County. While defending next year's revenue projections to the council, Rolan rattled off income forecasts from communities across the state - with the curious exception of the county she resides in. Perhaps the county's projected numbers were unavailable for the same reason e-mail from several citizens to the council detailing their concerns about the budget disappeared.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the Finance Director's yes men on the council that evening, the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. began layoffs that very day because of business conditions "unlike anything we have experienced in recent years," as confessed by Ski Corp. President Chris Diamond on Wednesday - too late for the council to consider Tuesday.
When originally asked by the Steamboat Pilot & Today how many employees had been affected, a spokeswoman for Ski Corp. said, "We won't release numbers; that's not something we do as a company." This is a curious comment from a corporation that tracks and reports the number of snowflakes that fall on any given day. On Thursday, Ski Corp. put the affected number of employees at 16.
But, although it's tempting to write about the machinations of the City Council and Ski Corp. when it comes to how they deal with numbers, I'd rather focus this week before Thanksgiving on the only numbers that really matter.
And they're not numbers at all; they're people.
They are our friends and neighbors who - through no fault of their own - find themselves unemployed or underemployed and facing economic challenges this winter.
As inconceivable as it is in this valley of plenty, there are individuals and families struggling to make ends meet. And, given the mounting number of layoffs from a range of businesses across the county, there will be more of our neighbors in need than ever before. For far more than any of us want to admit, the necessities of life will be a struggle for the foreseeable future.
While some of us worry about the latest gadget or self-gratifying pleasure on our list of desires, others are faced with a lack of food, warm clothing and the ability to pay for housing. So, with all of the wealth in Routt County, we should make it our collective priority to be sure that none of our neighbors goes hungry or cold or fears losing the roof over their head.
Just as families should always first take care of themselves, we as the combined family of Routt County should reach out first to assist our neighbors in need. And, the best way for us as a community to directly help those in immediate need of food, clothing and financial assistance for housing is through LIFT-UP of Routt County.
As reported last week by Margaret Hair in the Steamboat Today, LIFT-UP is faced with larger-than-ever requests from an increasing number of folks needing a helping hand during these difficult times. In speaking Thursday with Pam Graham, LIFT-UP Food Bank and case manager, I learned that donations to the food bank and money for emergency financial assistance continue to be the greatest needs.
Graham also asked that I express to the community LIFT-UP's gratitude for all the support that has been provided throughout the years and a reminder that the need for donations continues long after the holiday food drives and bell ringers subside. And, if at any time you'd like to check with LIFT-UP about what they need the most, call 970-870-8804.
Personally, I think we owe Graham, Executive Director David Freseman and all the great LIFT-UP folks our deepest gratitude for being there for those in need.
So, how 'bout it, Routt County? Let's all dig deep this winter - including after the holidays - and give as much as we can to assist our friends and neighbors by donating to LIFT-UP.