It’s hard to reach agreement 
while one is throwing a punch

“Just because it’s common sense doesn’t mean it’s common practice.” — Will Rogers

I’ve been wondering, while viewing political arguments at the local, state and national levels, how it is that many supposedly smart people we select to make decisions on our behalf seem to think they’ll sell their ideas while picking a fight before the discussion begins.

There’s no shortage of recent examples — plenty of the pawing and snorting that just might indicate a propensity for political argument rather than a desire to provide solutions. 

A prime example is the short-lived secessionist movement, the purely political swipe at the governor and a Legislature controlled by Democrats that failed in six of the 11 Republican-leaning counties where it was on the November ballot.

Nowhere is the tendency to lead with the chin more apparent than in discussions of water, where it’s de rigueur here on the Western Slope to paint fellow Coloradans on the other side of the mountains, especially those in the dreaded Denver zip codes, as villains.

Commissioner Steve Acquafresca perpetuated that tendency again Friday, prefacing a question to Gov. John Hickenlooper regarding the statewide water planning effort his administration has begun with the obligatory swipe at the Front Range and transmountain diversions past and potential.

Certainly there’s a case to be made for protecting western Colorado water rights and ensuring continued growth over here. Those are issues I’ve raised myself over the years as a local elected official, as an eight-year member of the Colorado Water Congress board of directors representing western Colorado municipalities and as a member of the steering committee successfully opposing ill-planned water project bonding a decade ago.

But ignoring the reality of Western Slope rights obtained legally by eastern Colorado entities and questioning planning in the context of overall statewide water needs seems silly. If we were discussing transportation planning, for instance, Acquafresca and others would be scurrying to the table eager to get “our share” of funding for projects rather than questioning the need for discussion.

The opening of the 2014 session of the Colorado Legislature also provides opportunity for demagoguery. (A demagogue, someone smarter than I am once opined, is “a man who can rock the boat himself and persuade everybody there’s a terrible storm at sea.”)

Rep. Ray Scott can’t find a way to engage in a discussion of Western Slope job creation without a few public jabs at Hickenlooper’s supposed failure to recognize the needs of rural Colorado. Never mind, as the governor pointed out during an economic development discussion at Colorado Mesa University Friday, that his administration coordinated a recent effort that will add hundreds of jobs, originally off the radar screen, on the Eastern Plains.

Sen. Steve King, an avowed fiscal conservative, faults the Hickenlooper administration for its supposed failure to fund King’s multimillion-dollar firefighting air force, conveniently ignoring the fact that it’s the responsibility of the Legislature to adequately fund programs it adds to Colorado’s budget.

I’d also like to know if King is as interested in preventive steps, such as limiting construction in fire-prone areas or increasing responsibilities of homeowners to mitigate dangers and assure themselves of adequate local fire services.

At least Scott and King are picking fights over real issues. Not so much our third local legislator, Jared Wright, who talks the jobs talk but walks more political paths.

Wright’s contribution in the opening days of the session is legislation to allow concealed carry by everyone not prohibited from owning a gun, an idea he knows is DOA but is sure to garner statewide contributions to make up for what’s likely to be less successful local campaign fundraising.

He’s also signed on to a bill outlawing the use of Electronic Benefit Transfer cards in Colorado’s newly legal retail marijuana outlets, something already prohibited by federal regulations.

A look at Sentinel stories (topics like sage-grouse, energy development and air quality are examples) reveals that no issue is immune from efforts to argue first over the politics surrounding them before ever getting around to solutions. 

“Partisanship is what someone else does,” Roger L. Shinn said. “When I do it, it is called taking a stand.”


Jim Spehar is, or course, immune from politics and pure as the driven snow. Your comments are welcome at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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