Time to get creative with cultural amenities

The Grand Valley is home to a variety of artistic and cultural organizations, each with its own admirable goals and initiatives. But there is no single group that looks at the broad, valley-wide picture on arts and culture. It may be time to consider such an organization.

“To what end?” some people might ask.

✔ Critically important is consideration of the economic benefits of cultural amenities. While it may not be possible to calculate them precisely, it is important to consider them in marketing for the entire Grand Valley. A single organization that takes a broad look at all of the valley’s cultural amenities could play a key role in that regard.

✔ As an article by Melinda Mawdsley detailed in The Daily Sentinel last week, the Downtown Development Authority has been seeking community input about the future of the Art on the Corner program. As those discussions take place, there is also interest in including sculpture along Horizon Drive and North Avenue as those key corridors are improved.

✔ Could some organization or project tie in artistic and cultural amenities from Palisade to Fruita, and even beyond? As Harry Weiss with the DDA put it, Grand Junction’s downtown “is one of the gems of the Grand Valley, but we recognize that we are part of a larger setting.” The wine country surrounding Palisade, the mountain biking and other outdoor activities near Fruita, Colorado National Monument, North Avenue and Horizon Drive all contribute to the success of downtown, he noted, so it makes sense for all of these to work together regarding their artistic and cultural amenities.

No, we’re not proposing a new attempt to create a tax-collecting cultural and scientific district, although we have supported unsuccessful efforts to create such a district in the past.

Instead, there are several different entities that might be employed to assist here.

Some communities in Colorado have created nonprofit organizations to be umbrella groups to the many individual cultural entities and help give broad direction to those organizations.

Additionally, the state of Colorado has authorized the establishment of what are known as creative districts. These are not taxing districts, but rather coalitions of creative organizations — artistic, scientific and such —- that are eligible for state money to help market the creative work of their communities.

They can be narrowly focused geographically, encompassing just one part of a community, or much broader, to include several neighboring communities.

They could also be involved in examining other potential forms of providing revenue for cultural improvements, such as tax increment financing, which doesn’t require either a tax increase or a TABOR override.

All of these are ideas worth exploring, but they will require some organization that can take a 30,000-foot view of our artistic and cultural situation to make real progress.


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The Daily Sentinel’s thoughtful editorial (“Time to get creative with cultural amenities”) and Mesa County Commissioner John Justman’s predictable op-ed column (“Free-market policies aid county, not green energy subsidies”) aptly illustrate the schizophrenia that pervades what passes for local “conservative” thought.

To paraphrase Justman, free-market conservatism “has become a religion”.  So much of its knee-jerk opposition to sensible “rules, regulations, and mandates” crafted to protect our air, water, and environment “stem from emotional ideologies with little or no basis in reality”.  In fact, the reality is that such governmental initiatives are necessitated by the failure of the profit-driven “free market” to adequately mitigate the problems it causes.

Justman’s example of the Grand Valley Transit Authority – which would not exist without both federal grants and governmental support – illustrates his confusion.  Yes, it “makes sense” to exploit the local availability of cheap natural gas to reduce harmful diesel emissions, but “free market policies” did not “aid Mesa County”, governmental subsidies did.

So, “let’s [NOT] slow down; let’s be rational.  Let’s learn from Europe’s mistakes” and from our own local experience.  Being truly “rational” means harnessing cheap wind and solar energy in areas with fewer clouds and more sun and/or /reliable wind than northern Europe – even if that means redirecting subsidies from oil and gas to cleaner alternatives and mandating that rural electric cooperatives achieve renewable energy standards.

Rationally, that also means un-begrudgingly admitting that much of our local economy depends on non-profit and not-for-profit endeavors which make available both medical care and health insurance that the “free market” would not by itself provide.

Thus, like it or not – as both the Daily Sentinel and Hillary Clinton suggest – “it takes a village” working cooperatively with its government to recognize “the economic benefits of cultural amenities” and/or to incentivize private enterprise to develop them.

Apparently, John Justman’s notion of “Think global. Act local” (“Free-market policies aid county, not green energy subsidies”, Sep. 1, 2013) includes permitting the heavily subsidized oil and gas industry to consume and/or despoil the unique “cultural amenities” (“Time to get creative with cultural amenities”, Sep. 1, 2013) along the pastoral byways of East Orchard Mesa and Palisade.  Thus, readers should wonder whether Justman would be so cavalier about a continuous procession of heavy trucks through his own agricultural property near Fruita. 

Similarly, while Justman is wary of imaginary “unintended consequences” of subsidizing renewable energy sources, he remains blithely unconcerned about the actual and proven “consequences” of over-reliance on fossil fuels.  Impliedly, Justman would have Mesa County return to the “boom and bust” days – when our local economy was dependent on “oil shale” and now languishes when the price of local natural gas is too low to induce the “free-market” to develop it – and dismisses global climate change as a socialist myth.

In effect, Justman religiously endorses the same short-sighted policies responsible for “our national debt zooming toward $17 trillion and ongoing economic malaise”.  Reagan tripled the national debt; George Bush doubled it again—leaving President Obama with two un-budgeted wars and an economic collapse.

One piece of common sense with which Justman should be familiar is that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” – which (because 16 ounces make a pound) means that preventative “rules, regulations, and mandates” are justified when their costs are less than 6.25% of the expense of remediating the anticipated (even if probabilistic) damage.

Thus, readers should ask:  what is it worth to avoid the consequences of the Grand Valley falling into non-compliance with breathable air standards?  And, what is it worth to preserve local orchards’ tourist-attracting beauty and hard-earned reputation for quality?

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