A challenge for Tipton
Congressman Scott Tipton has steadfastly maintained that there wasn’t enough community support for him to introduce a bill to change Colorado National Monument to a national park.
We were deeply disappointed that Tipton arrived at such a conclusion for two reasons. First, there was no attempt to quantify the opposition. Clearly some people were adamantly (and vocally) against park status. But did their views represent 5 percent of the population or 50?
Tipton said the majority of Mesa County residents who participated in a 90-day comment period were opposed to park status. We’ve heard the opposite is true, but we were denied access to the comments. Even if true, the anti-park comments were simply a majority of people who bothered to submit an opinion.
Without statistical context, self-selecting responses can be anything from misleading to meaningless. Again, the idea here is that a few dissenting opinions do not a majority make.
Second, we think much of the opposition stemmed from a profound misunderstanding of what a change in status would mean. Tipton fanned the flames of uncertainty, suggesting that park status could invite regulatory overreach, which could adversely impact the local economy. Though this claim is empty, we felt it was disingenuous for Tipton to say he would carry the legislation if it was the people’s will and simultaneously warn against the problems it could create.
Nevertheless, Tipton is up for re-election, providing an opportunity to revisit the issue. So, we asked the two-term congressman plainly during a recent editorial board meeting: “If we can show through a statistically relevant scientific survey that a majority of Mesa County residents support a change for park status, will you carry the legislation?”
Tipton said he doesn’t enjoy responding to hypotheticals (interesting in that he poses plenty of them), but when pressed, said he would consider it so long as a “‘bottom-up” process drove the exploration.
We can’t think of a more bottom-up process than gauging the true sentiments of the community with random sampling. Unfortunately Tipton has always feathered his stance with an additional caveat: The change has to be done in a way that would have no adverse impact to existing industries or economic development.
And here is where things get sticky. As long as Tipton remains under a false impression that park status poses a regulatory threat, it’s very unlikely to matter what the rest of us think.