‘Inside (editorial page) baseball’ on Presidents Day
To: Jay Seaton, publisher
Andy Smith, editorial page editor
From: Jim Spehar
Date: February 20, 2017
Today (as I write this) is Presidents Day. Just wanted to let you know the annual holiday is proving to be a source of frustration on my end, perhaps also, upon receipt of this memo/potential column, on yours.
We’ve had occasional conversations, sometimes serious and sometimes lighter, about suitable topics for a local Daily Sentinel columnist. I’m reminded that you have national columnists to provide commentary on larger concerns of the day and that your expectations of those of us who write locally is that we’ll focus on our own backyard, the geography where we’re expected to have some knowledge about “flyover country” subjects inconsequential to national writers.
I don’t disagree. There’s plenty going on hereabouts that deserves comment.
But it’s Presidents Day. We’re in the initial tumultuous days of the presidency of a most unconventional leader, one whose erratic actions and pronouncements might provoke consequences, intended and unintended, just as likely to compromise our standing in the world as they are to “Make America Great Again.” And, not incidentally, a presidency that will certainly impact everyday lives of Sentinel readers.
Presidential elections have certainly had consequences during my lifetime. Some presidents (Nixon on foreign policy, Clinton on the budget and economy) have demonstrated both brilliance and moral bankruptcy. Bush II reacted to the killing of 3,000 of us on 9/11 by getting another 5,000 or so of us killed in the Middle East and we’re still mired in conflicts there. Kennedy and Johnson left some high school classmates dead in Vietnamese jungles or physically and mentally damaged. Barack Obama’s election celebrated our diversity but exacerbated our divisions.
Donald Trump’s place in history is now being written.
As I wrote a few weeks ago, his so-far stillborn “repeal and replace” promise has rural hospital administrators worried about negative impacts to their bottom lines potentially eliminating local programs. Even in places like Delta County, where 70 percent of voters favored Trump. Right here in Mesa County, the two-thirds of us who voted to “drain the swamp” might not have realized state figures show 25,000 of their friends and neighbors were added to now-threatened expanded Medicaid rolls. Cutting that federal funding might force them back to seeking uncompensated care in overstressed emergency rooms that the rest of us will end up paying for one way or another.
Executive orders and congressional resolutions “trumping” clean water and clean air protections and scaling back royalty payments raise false hopes that our mining jobs and oil and gas drilling will automatically rebound. That ignores the fact that market forces, not over-regulation, were responsible for the bust that followed recent booms. Making western Colorado air and water dirtier isn’t likely to bring back declining foreign markets or reverse trends toward energy conservation and alternatives.
Raising false hopes, creating the mistaken impression that problems have been resolved, only delays harder work toward creating new opportunities and diversified economies in the North Fork Valley, up in northwestern Colorado, even here in Happy Valley.
This week, my first choice of topics might have been Jay’s “fake news” dustup with Ray Scott from the perspective of a local guy who’s spent a little time in both journalistic and political trenches. But CMU professor Eric Sandstrom’s op-ed in Sunday’s paper left little unsaid and, to again steal a phrase, there’ll be “the rest of the story” to write about as the Seaton/Scott conflict plays out locally and, as word has spread, in the national and international media.
Local topics should demand most of my attention. I will write more about the events center and Grand Junction City Council races. Dan Thurlow’s initiative to tweak TABOR (likely to pass the House but perhaps end up in Ray Scott’s Senate “kill committee”) is overdue for consideration as the legislative session nears the halfway point. So is frustrating partisan wrangling over funding a highway system that’s a crumbling lifeline out here in the hinterlands. Scott Tipton’s “have it both ways” public lands stances cry out for examination, as do Colorado Parks and Wildlife budget issues that threaten an important part of our western Colorado economy.
But today (Monday) is Presidents Day. My thoughts are elsewhere.