Steven Hofman: Politics gets in way
April 30, 2011
Steamboat Springs — Buy local, buy local, buy local. Jobs, jobs, jobs. Affordable housing, affordable housing, affordable housing. Hollow words and sentiments in light of the actions that occur in our community.
Ryan Wood has a plan for a business. He is not suggesting something controversial, like more pot dispensaries, a casino, or a slew of massage parlors. In the ways of traditional Northwest Colorado commerce, he raises beef. His crime in the minds of some is that he wants to build a business to market his product to wider consumers. If successful, it will mean more local sales, more local revenue and more local opportunity.
But no, it upsets a few people who don't want to see change, progress or anything that might just slightly upset their view of how things should be. So they use a political process to make things difficult for Mr. Wood and his vision of a viable business.
And, of course, the politicians dance to the tune of the people they know better. After all, Mr. Wood is new to our community. So the politicians, most of whom have been in their jobs way too long and have forgotten that the meaning of public service is found in fair and thoughtful representation, find reasons to "just say no." Their language is to "table" Mr. Wood's plan for future consideration. But we don't need a dictionary to get the message; even after a unanimous recommendation of support for Mr. Wood's plan from the non-political Routt County Planning Commission.
I don't know Mr. Wood. Never met him. But I do know hypocrisy and narrow self-interest when I see it. Buy local doesn't mean competitive prices, choice and quality. It means just support the folks who have had a business for some time and deserve to get our money. But when someone comes along with an idea to do something different that may mean competition, lower prices, greater choices and more opportunity, there are always reasons to slow them down, prevent change and preserve the status quo. In the days of the booming construction and real estate markets, that approach, even as wrong headed as it was then, could be afforded. No longer. How many empty storefronts and lost jobs do we need to see to get the message that the future is about deeds, not words.
The reputation of our community as a less than hospitable place to bring jobs, income and opportunity is growing among people who would consider taking such steps. I know, because I speak with many of them. It says a lot about the commitment to our community that people like Mr. Wood and others stay patient with a decision-making process that puts politics ahead of economic opportunity. But as the patience of sensible people wears thin, and as we see other communities race ahead of our own, let the record show when it happened and who led the way.