Washington’s not the only setting for the “blame game”
We may or may not be “sequestered” by the end of the week, something most of us will be shaking our heads about as partisans in Congress and the president lob volleys back and forth in the latest round of brinksmanship in Washington.
But, after participating in and/or seeing the stories about local meetings last week, I’m not so sure we shouldn’t take a look in the mirror before disparaging the behavior of politicians in our nation’s capital.
We do plenty of pawing and snorting of our own around here, often finding it necessary to point fingers (or something more powerful) and assign fault before getting down to the nitty gritty of working out issues.
Don’t think so? Consider just some of what went on here in Happy Valley in the past week.
Saturday, the Colorado Mule Deer Association gathered 40 to 50 folks in the City Hall auditorium to discuss travel management alternatives contained in the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s draft plan for managing more than a million acres of public land in our immediate area. It was a discussion flawed from the git-go in that only one side of the issue was to be presented by off-road advocates, with no one from the BLM on hand to explain either the planning process or four management alternatives up for public comment through April.
But before even the one-sided discussion could begin, we had to sit through a “sovereignty” rant reminiscent of the Sagebrush Rebellion days and complaints about the fact any regulations at all were enforced on “our” lands. Moderator Denny Behrens did a heroic job of attempting to keep the meeting on topic, and former Mayor Tom Kenyon, an association vice president, did attempt to offer a modicum of balance regarding sometimes competing issues of motorized access and habitat preservation.
A few hours earlier, and a “gimme” shot to the east, firearms advocates gathered in front of the Mesa County courthouse.
If there were any supporters of the Second Amendment present who also acknowledge that the law of our land, as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court based upon the Constitution, allows for some regulation of guns, they might have been intimidated by those who found it necessary to either pack openly or, presumably with the necessary permit, carry concealed.
Speakers at the annual Energy Expo on Friday couldn’t resist a few digs at environmentalists or wind, solar and other alternative energy forms rather than just being persuasive advocates for oil shale, coal, natural gas, oil and traditional energy production.
I hope the students studying energy policy at the John McConnell Math & Science Center thought they heard a more balanced and reasonable discussion about oil shale issues Thursday evening from Glenn Vawter of the National Oil Shale Association and yours truly.
Lord knows what went on during Club 20’s committee sessions here in Grand Junction last week. Most people seeking a welcoming atmosphere for discussions have long absented themselves from those forums due to the hard right turn that once-balanced organization has taken over the past several years.
Even during the Regional Sportsmen’s Roundtable convened by the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife earlier last week, there were those among the 40 or so who brought a battleground mentality into the room. Targets included outfitters, the BLM, other regulators, landowners, out-of-state hunters and the like.
It seems we have evolved, more and more, into a pattern of public discourse where it’s necessary to tear the other side down in order to build our side up.
Former U.S. Sen. Al Simpson, a Wyoming Republican and co-author of the bi-partisan Simpson-Bowles plan that might have been one way to avoid the potential sequester (also a bi-partisan effort), put it this way:
“These guys here aren’t interested in winning,” Simpson said last week. “They’re interested in making the other side lose — in fact, rubbing the other side’s nose in it.”
“Middle school behavior” is how one expert characterized current political debate in Washington in an Associated Press article on the front page of The Daily Sentinel Sunday. A middle school mindset might be an improvement sometimes, both in our nation’s capital and hereabouts.