Update Sept 2015 – Budget, Homeless, and More!

I am five months into my four-year term of serving you as Councilor-at-large on Glenwood Springs City Council. It is a privilege to be a part of such a great city and I am honored to work with other city council members, city staff, local business and citizens to help guide Glenwood through the next three and a half years.  It is likely to be some of the best times that Glenwood has seen, as well as some of the most difficult. 

One of my election promises was better communication and I have not been as good at that as I had hoped.  So, to that end, as a start I plan to provide a monthly update that will include a brief description of meetings and events I have attended as well as a bit about one or more city departments.  Sometimes it may seem like nothing is happening and things do move more slowly than we all would like. But picture a duck on the Colorado River.  On the top, the duck looks calm and seems to be floating along, but below the surface, that duck’s feet are paddling like crazy.  So goes it with city hall.

Finance Department

Charles KeltySince we are deep into budget season, the first department I would like to highlight is the Finance Department, headed by Charles Kelty. Charles took over the reins from Mike Harman who retired earlier this year after 24 years as the Finance Director. Charles spent nine years as the finance director in Rifle and had a Master’s Degree in Accounting. Finance handles all of the city’s payroll, utility billing, tax administration, purchasing and building maintenance as well as making sure the city’s bills are paid and collecting funds owed to the city.

Staff includes Yvette Gustad, Assistant Finance Director; Ricky Smith, Purchasing Agent; Karen Bender, Janice Palacio, Linda Millyard and Candie Vandermark, all Senior Accounting Techs and Martha Gonzales and Elida Trujillo Solano the ladies who keep city hall sparkling clean. When you come to pay your utility bills or pick up a bus pass, these are the staff you see and are often the main contact for people dealing with city hall.

Taking the city through the budget process is no easy task and involves hours of the finance department’s time as well as a great deal of time from City Manager Jeff Hecksel and all department supervisors. Beginning Sept 29, the city will begin holding meetings with City Council, the Financial Advisory Board, and department heads to review the proposed budget, line by line. A schedule of these meetings is provided below. These are public meetings and the public is encouraged to attend.  A preliminary draft budget should be available on the City’s website when the budget work sessions begin.

Budget Work Session Schedule:

Sept 29 – 5pm -7 pm

Oct 8Special Meeting, DDA & Budget 6pm-9pm

Oct 154pm – 6pm

Oct 20Special Meeting 6pm-9pm

Oct 29Special Meeting 6pm-9pm

Nov 5if needed

All budget work sessions will be held in council chambers at city hall.

Monthly Update – meetings and events I attended

Grand Ave Bridge:  Met with representatives from Glenwood Springs Chamber, CDOT, DDA and city staff to discuss public information plans for the Grand Avenue Bridge Project August 27 2015.

Transportation Commission Sept 1, 2015:  I serve as the alternate council liaison to this commission.  Mayor Mike Gamba is the liaison.  Discussion items included the Blake Avenue Gate between Walmart and the RFTA BRT station on 27th as well as traffic calming measures on the residential streets in the downtown area.  Terri Partch, City Engineer and Geoff Guthrie, City Transportation Manager discussed the proposed multi-use path along Midland, from Lowes to Interchange 114, 27th Street Bridge and touched on RFTA’s Access Control Plan.  They updated on the Grand Avenue Bridge and 8th Street extension projects as well as discussing who will represent this commission on the Acquisitions and Improvement (A&I) tax working group.  The Transportation Commission is finalizing the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) and determining next steps.  This commission always has a great deal to discuss and it seems like never enough time!

Ride-along with GSPD Sept 4, 2015:  I was privileged to be able to ride and walk with several officers from the police department  from 6 p.m. to about 2:30 a.m. It was a great experience, one I hope to do again. You can read more about my thoughts here.  My thanks to Officers Noel, Crawford, Cole, Gobbo, Miller, Dietrich, Yorty,  and Lawson as well as Code Enforcement Officer Springer, Detective Sergeant Hassell, and Patrol Sergeant Prough for putting up with all of my questions and taking the time to talk with me.

Colorado Municipal League (CML) District 11 Meeting in Silt Sept 9, 2015:  CML provides  training and information on issues of concern to counties and municipalities.  It is also a great chance to talk with other staff and elected officials from other communities in our area. Mayor Rick Aluise presented a wonderful powerpoint on the accomplishments that have taken place in Silt in the recent year.

Roaring Fork Transit Authority Board Meeting (RFTA) Sept 10, 2015:  I serve as the alternate council liaison to this board.  Mayor Mike Gamba is the liaison.  Discussion items included a presentation of the first draft of RFTA’s 2016 budget and an update of the Rio Grande Corridor Access Control Plan.  License for access to the Rio Grande Trail was granted to ACES Rock Bottom Ranch

Take Back Your Power Sept 10, 2015:  At the invitation of Marilyn Shettel, I attended a screening of a documentary “Take Back Your Power.”  It raised some interesting questions and I will be talking more with Ms. Shuttle in the near future.

We’ve Got Your Back!  Sept. 11, 2015:  This was a hastily thrown together “thank you” to area law enforcement and first responders in our region from Aspen to Parachute.  For being planned in less than 36 hours, it was well attended.  I have received requests from community members to turn this into an annual event and make it bigger. We’ll work on that!

Club 20 Fall Meeting Sept. 12, 2015:  This was my first Club 20 meeting and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing U.S. Congressman Scott Tipton and U.S. Senator Michael Bennet on things happening statewide and nationally. I also received lessons from Henry Sobanet, Governor Hickenlooper’s Budget Director on Colorado’s fiscal challenges and from Mark Hermundstad on water regulations and impacts on Colorado’s Western Slope. The networking was also wonderful!

Garfield County Economic Development Partners Sept 16, 2015:  This is a group of staff and elected officials from various entities throughout Garfield County that meet quarterly to review what is happening in Garfield County. RFTA presented their 2015 Travel Plan Study.  The roundtable is particularly useful to know what other communities are working on and to provide opportunities for partnership and coordination.

In addition we have had two City Council meetings which included a work session on the Confluence Area and a work session with the Planning and Zoning Commission.

***MARK YOUR CALENDARS***

Community Discussion: The Effect of the Growing Homeless & Vagrant Population in Glenwood Springs

Monday, October 5, 2015

6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Glenwood Springs Community Center

Coming up this week: 

Planning & Zoning Commission Meeting Tuesday, Sept. 22

City Staff Employee Picnic Friday, Sept 25 – City Hall closed from Noon to 2 p.m.

Fire Department’s Open House Saturday Sept 26!  The Fire Department’s Open House is always fun for all ages so come on down from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the downtown fire station at 8th & Cooper.

Board and Commission Openings:  apply here!

Planning and Zoning:  1 Alternate

River Commission: 1 Alternate

Victims and Witness Assistance & Law Enforcement Board (VALE): 1 Alternate

Board of Appeals: 1 Alternate

Parks and Recreation: 1 Alternate

Glenwood’s Police Deserve Our Respect

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” — Matthew 5:9

Shield

Glenwood Springs is a special place. We have it all: natural beauty, great amenities, wonderful people. We are truly blessed to be able to call this town home.

Yes, we have it all. And we also have a dedicated group of professionals helping to make Glenwood Springs one of the most desirable places to live in the United States — the Glenwood Springs Police Department.

I had the privilege of being allowed to do a “ride-along” with Glenwood’s officers last weekend. Although it was a relatively quiet night, it gave me a glimpse into a side of Glenwood that I knew, intellectually, existed, but I minimize. It allowed me the opportunity to watch them in action, watch other’s reactions to them, and most importantly, talk with them and begin to get to know them.

As I told Chief Terry Wilson — I am in awe.

First, a disclaimer; I have law enforcement officers and first responders in my family. Perhaps I have a bias because of close relationships to these people. However, after this, I will never look at their jobs in the same light.

For about the same wage as the average skilled office worker, these individuals leave their homes and families, put on their Kevlar vests and utility belts, and hit our streets to protect and serve, not knowing if they will see their families again. Am I being melodramatic? Absolutely not.

In Glenwood, almost every category of criminal activity, from petty offenses to felonies, have seen an increase through July over the entire year of 2014. Felony cases are up 37 percent.

Glenwood Springs Police Department is a finely coordinated team that protects us from the frightful and disagreeable elements that find their way to our Mayberryesque town. They do so with such finesse that we see little of the sordid underside, allowing Glenwood to remain a great place to raise a family or to vacation.

Recently, two disturbing nationwide trends are having an impact in our community. The first is the increasing number, changing demeanor and level of drug use among the homeless, vagrant population. The second is the increasing threats and disdain toward our police.

The entire community is attempting to grapple the vagrant issue, and more information will be forthcoming regarding a community meeting in the next few weeks.

The negativity and threats toward our police is heartbreaking to me. The reality is that the public never hears about the thousands or millions of times these peace officers make the right decision under incredibly stressful conditions. Is that gun a pellet gun or a rifle? Is the driver of the vehicle reaching for insurance information or a gun?

police 1You say these things only happen in Denver or Los Angeles or Ferguson? Hardly. Just ask Colorado State Trooper Eugene Hofacker. Or for that matter, ask our own officers. The media, both social and traditional, focus on the one in 100,000 as Kenneth Berkowitz, chief of police of Canton, Massachusetts, so aptly describes in a recent article. Often, the good is overlooked.

Believe me, there is plenty of good. During a traffic stop an officer encountered a lost and distraught driver pulling a trailer in an unfamiliar town at rush hour trying to get to a gas station on the other side of the highway. He gently eased into traffic behind and allowed the driver to make the lane switch to get where they needed to be.

On two occasions on foot patrol, two separate officers encountered someone well-known. In one case, the officer talked with and comforted someone who was distraught over the loss of a wallet and offered additional assistance if the person was not able to locate the wallet by the next day. The other officer was sought out for counsel and advice because he was considered a trusted friend. I am also aware of an officer in a nearby community who promised to buy a 25-cent glass of lemonade from a neighborhood lemonade stand, only to realize all he had was a $20 bill — but a promise is a promise. Imagine the image that young person has of their community police.

On many occasions the officers are greeted cordially or at least respectfully. That is not always the case and many tire of hearing expletives or seeing obscene gestures as they walk or drive through town. They are often punched, kicked or spat upon. They work long shifts, holidays and weekends, when most of us are sleeping or enjoying festivities. And they do so without complaint.

Why do they do this? Why do they put their lives at risk, see little of their family and stay in one of the most stressful jobs in the world for a nominal salary? Most would say it is because they love their job and want to make a difference. In my opinion, they do make a difference — a huge difference. We owe them our respect and admiration. Glenwood Springs’ finest certainly have mine.

Celebrating July 4th – Let’s Do This Glenwood!

1403209861july_4_fireworksWhat’s more American than mother, apple pie and fireworks on the 4th of July?  To many it seems unpatriotic to forego fireworks on Independence Day. There is a certain adrenalin rush with the first boom reminiscent of the “bombs bursting in air.”  No doubt, it can be an awe inspiring 15 minutes.  The City of Glenwood Springs has recently received sharp criticism for shifting fireworks to Ski Spree in February. So, what is the solution?

For many fireworks on July 4th is a tradition that is hard to break.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am absolutely for a big celebration on Independence Day. We need to  celebrate our freedom, and be thankful for the freedom we still have! We need to honor those who have fought for that freedom.  I simply think there are other options than thousands of dollars going up in smoke in 15 minutes. kids-fourth-of-july Stay with me for a minute and see if that money might be better spent in others ways that bring the community together, actually honoring those who have served,  and coming together as a community rather than staring at the sky.

First let me start with some suggestions for things the city could work on for next year, because Glenwood cannot simply ignore this holiday any longer  These have been suggested by residents, business owners, friends, neighbors and family as a way that we could observe this great holiday.  I know there are many more possibilities, too! 

We could have an Old-Time Theme Fourth of July complete with pancake breakfast, parade, old time games and crafts for adults and kids, old-time baseball game, BBQ, marching bands, band or orchestra concert, ice cream social.Old_Time_Base_ball Period costumes could be encouraged with willing volunteers playing roles (Teddy Roosevelt, Doc Holliday, Carrie Nation, etc.) and wandering through town interacting with guests and creating photo ops. costume_1How about a vintage swim suit show at the Hot Springs or Iron Mountain Hot Springs? Would the Hotel Colorado be willing to give tours or “ghost tours”? Could the Frontier Historical Museum haul out its Linwood Cemetery Ghost Walk for a couple evenings?  Maybe even bring the Vaudeville players on stage at 2 Rivers or show old movies in the band shell;  how about Tom Mix and the Great Train Robbery?

2015-07-07_1233Or we could have something like a “Taste of the Valleys”   Everything from locally produced fruits and veggies, wine, honey etc., as well as local restaurants at Two Rivers. Maybe we could have a giant yard sale or craft fair featuring items made by people from Aspen to Vail to Parachute.  Perhaps we could include a laser light show, rather than fireworks. How about a giant slip and slide to cool off on a hot July 4th. What about an old fashioned street dance and bring back the classic car show!  In years past the downtown merchants had gigantic sidewalk sales that seemed to draw people along Grand Avenue.

military_band

Another idea would be to make it truly a patriotic celebration to honor our current military, veterans, firefighters, hot shots, State Troopers and police officers, including those that lost their lives defending Glenwood Springs on Storm King.

We could do any assortment of these things and more!  Yes, we would need to budget for it and yes, we would need assistance, both monetary and volunteers.  The Chamber is just recovering from Strawberry Days, so to put this burden on them is not feasible. The city cannot do this on its own, but it sounds like there might be enough interest in having something that we could get some willing volunteers.laser_light_show

With or without fireworks, Glenwood is in a unique position to put together a wonderful way to celebrate July 4th, honor those who have served and who continue to serve our nation and provide a great experience for residents and visitors alike. Again, Glenwood cannot simply ignore this important holiday.

The current City Council has been raked over the coals in social media for not having fireworks.  Some have argued that we had a much wetter spring than normal and therefore should have had fireworks now.  However, this decision was made during the last budgeting and grant cycle and the budget was approved in late 2014.   Additionally, although I am new to Council, having been elected in April,  I understand it takes lead time of longer than a few weeks to find a purveyor of fireworks that can put something together on the magnitude that Glenwood would like to see.

firefighter_memorialHaving been a Glenwood resident through both the Storm King and Coal Seam fires, I will admit that I don’t want to do anything that could possibly cause something like that devastation again.

Yes, fireworks is the go-to tradition.  But lets give folks more reasons to celebrate our nation’s independence in Glenwood Springs. Next year, July 4th is on a Monday – lets begin now to make a new tradition in Glenwood.

Interested?  Let me know. The city will be starting the budget process for next year soon!  And if you absolutely cannot do without your fireworks on July 4th in spite of some different possibilities — let me know that too. I am listening – really. Comments welcome on this blog or  email me at kathryn.trauger@cogs.us or call me at 379-4849. 

Come Together!

Well tomorrow’s a big day for me and I am very excited!!  Election Day!

I am not sure I will ever look at another election or Election Day in the same way again – whether I am involved or not.2015-04-06_1742

First, I would like to thank all those who have supported my campaign. I am truly honored by the support of the citizens and business community of Glenwood Springs. Your support, whether time or financial support or both have enabled me to reach hundreds of citizens with my vision of a strong, connected community. For that I am truly thankful!

Our community will have a new bridge in a few years that will bring countless opportunities and last long beyond my time on this planet.  Now it is time to work on building bridges of a different nature.

In recent months various issues have caused some polarization and division between citizens within our community, between local governments, and even within our own city hall. With such great opportunities ahead of us it is more important than ever that we come together and work together to make Glenwood the best place to raise a family, start a business or just enjoy life.

What are the differences . . . really?

Aiguille_du_Midi_passerelle

photo by Rémih, from wikipedia

For several months you have been trying to determine what the big differences are between the candidates.  While it is a bit of the eleventh hour there may be some of you still trying to make a final decision. Let me help by repeating:

We must come together.

Let me explain.  Council is divided from each other and from city staff. City staff is in departmental silos as are the boards and commissions.  The city and the county are still finding it difficult to work together.  There appears to be little interaction or cooperation with neighboring jurisdictions.  Citizens feel disenfranchised.  We need a bridge builder – that can bring people together.

    I am that bridge builder.

I am excited and have worked very hard to win this election.  I am the person to help Glenwood come together and work together to get things done.

A more effective government and better relationships starts by council, in spite of some philosophical differences, working together to define a vision, goals, and expectations of themselves and city staff.   It’s a small bridge to start with, but no less scary to cross. I am convinced we can build it and cross it safely and be a better, stronger, more effective town government for it!

Let’s build a few bridges together.  We all want what is best for Glenwood.  Join me in making Glenwood a

Strong Connected Community.

I would greatly appreciate your vote!   If you have not voted, there is still time. If you did not get a ballot, please contact the City Clerk, Catherine Mythen.  You can vote until 7 p.m. Tuesday!

“Pet” Projects – Dog Park

We love our pets! While I have been out knocking on doors and visiting with people throughout Glenwood, one thing is clear . . . folks in Glenwood love our critters.   That was abundantly clear to me this morning as I took a stroll along the Rio Grand Trail.  Lots of pooches and their two-legged pals were enjoying the beautiful spring weather.

I am no exception to the critter craze.  My household currently consists of two dogs, a Goldendoodle (a stray that found us)  and a Cairn Terrier mix (a rescue) , three cockatiels and a green-cheek Amazon parrot. Not too long ago it also included two cats and an African Grey parrot.  Sadly my two cats departed for the rainbow bridge at the ages of 15 & 17.  My African Grey was a victim of the listeria outbreak a few years ago.  He loved fruit and cantaloupe was a wonderful treat.

In most households, my knock on the door is met with at least one “dog alarm” letting their owner know someone is there.  One of my opponents has said he will advocate for a dog park for our furry friends – a noble cause. From a photo I have seen, it looks like he may have a Cairn Terrier as well. I am sure he realizes that Glenwood has a dog park and dog run along the Rio Grand Trail, just south of the high school. Playing in the park

Is this ideal? No – for a number of reasons but three that are important. 

Access: To get to this park you must walk along the Rio Grande trail. There is limited parking across from the High School football field and the access is not great. This could be a problem if you are disabled.

Services: Apparently there is no water and no shade.  According to Tom Barnes, Glenwood Springs’ Parks and Recreation Director, the soil is very poor in that  area, making growing trees or grass difficult.  I only saw one lonely park bench for pet parents, in the middle of the play area for the larger dogs.Human amenities

Security:  Because it is along the trail there is no one nearby to monitor the activity in this area. In some areas the fence appears to have holes or gaps that could allow escape.

According to Mr. Barnes, the park site was based on citizen advocates and funded by the city in conjunction with donation of time and materials. He mentioned, and I agree that there are probably better options. He noted health concerns with pets that are not properly vaccinated and cared for.   

Dogs saying goodbyeSo what part does the city have in fixing this problem, particularly when the budget is tight and  needs are high?  Should this be a priority? Mr. Barnes indicated a willingness to work with community members to find better options. This is not an ideal place for this park and we and our fuzzy companions would probably be better served if this park were in another location that was more accessible and could be better monitored. But, again, the city is under very tight budget constraints and where does this fit in?

Mr. Barnes stated “Change does not take time, it takes commitment”.  It is going to take commitment from pet advocates, dog owners, and businesses to make such a change happen. 

My suggestion is that the Parks and Recreation Commission, along with the Parks and Rec Department and a representative local veterinarian and three interested citizens/businesses determine three viable alternatives for this park.  The fourth alternative is to leave it where it is and do nothing at this time. From that, Council will make a decision after hearing public input.

The criteria for selection and final determination should include a brief SWOT analysis, resource requirements from the city (money, personnel and equipment), availability to water and electric, potential for shade, access to the site and access and location within the city, security and a committed volunteer group or sponsor to not only help build, but maintain and monitor this park. This is not an outside study. This is a brief 2-3 hour exercise.

I would recommend looking for sponsorships for ongoing funding for this park.  Those could come from national organization such as Purina, Petco, or local businesses such as veterinarian offices, Colorado Animal Rescue (CARE), HighTails or Shaggy Dog. This is a unique opportunity for a truly public/private partnership.  Perhaps some budding or existing entrepreneur or group would be willing to partner with the City for an adjacent doggie daycare facility and could serve as monitoring agent.

The possibilities are endless and from my wanderings around town, it is apparent that we in Glenwood Springs  love our dogs. You may have other suggestions on our dog park and if so, I would love to hear them.  The bottom line is that the City cannot do this alone particularly when there are so many other pressing needs.  It seems there are enough dog lovers that truly want this.  If so, then it will take some creative thought and commitment. With that commitment and a public/private partnership, we could have a world-class dog park. It is all about creating places that people (and their pets) want to be!

Tough Times Make Us Brighter and Better!

I saw a quote the other day that made me smile.

 

Hard times are like a washing machine.

They twist, turn and knock us around.

But in the end, we come out cleaner,

brighter and better than before!

                                   – Anonymous

 

 Tough Times Ahead

Many people agree that these next four years are critical for Glenwood Springs. But not only will they be critical — lets face it — they are going to be downright tough!   But that is what I love about the quote above. Once we get through the wringer,  Glenwood will emerge brighter and better than before.

The Glenwood Post Independent ran an “Our View” column yesterday that illustrated many reasons Glenwood is going to face some tough times and why this election is crucial. I am running for the At-Large seat for City Council and I absolutely agree!  GPI stated, traffic and transportation are at the top of the list. Traffic and transportation are huge, but we can’t address it as a singular issue.

 It’s Complicated . . .

Glenwood Springs is like a fine tapestry, with many things woven together to make a wonderful design. It is complex and beautiful. But it is all interconnected.  For example, changes in transportation can impact land use.  Changes in land use impact potential development.  Development impacts the economy. The economy impacts sales tax revenue . . . and on and on and on.

It is for this reason that the issues that Glenwood faces are so critical . . . and so complex.

Looking forward to the discussions

As a candidate, I look forward to exploring and discussing these issues over then next few weeks.  Top among the issues will be the Grand Avenue Bridge and the never-ending bypass/alternate route debate.   However, I hope that we can also delve into some other issues that impact our economy, our businesses and our ability to move forward including:

  •             Encouraging economic growth and supporting our businesses
  •             Cultivating local and regional partnerships
  •             Creating exceptional community places
  •             Honoring and preserving our history while moving toward a better future
  •             Connecting people, transportation, businesses and government to get things done.

 Glenwood Needs Decision Makers

The column in the GPI also illustrated, even if it did not come out and say it . . . that Glenwood needs decision makers.  It needs leaders that are not afraid to be innovative, and make those tough choices. Government gets bogged down too often in paralysis by analysis at a huge cost to citizens in the form of tax dollars and other resources wasted.  Lets end that now. I have worked in government and participated enough that I understand what it takes to get things done.  It also makes it perfectly clear what must change, and that  change is needed.

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If you want more information about my position on the issues, my personal web site www.kathryntrauger.com  will be up and running next week.   I will also be at the Bluebird Cafe in downtown Glenwood from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday mornings beginning Feb. 11th and I invite you to join me for tea or coffee and conversation. I also encourage you to look through the archives at Our Town – Glenwood Springs. Glenwood is facing both tough and exciting times.  I am the leader Glenwood needs at this time

I need your support now and your vote when ballots are mailed March 16th. 

Here are five ways you can help:

  1. VOTE for Kathryn Trauger when the ballots are mailed.
  2. DONATE to Committee to Elect Trauger.
  3. WRITE letters to the editor in support of my election
  4. TELL your friends and neighbors that you support me and why
  5. POST a yard sign in your yard

Please call 970-945-6493 if you want a yard sign and we will deliver it to your door!

Donations can be mailed to:

Committee to Elect Trauger

c/o Suzanne Stewart

343 Sunny Acres Rd.

Glenwood Springs, CO 81601

Due to campaign finance regulations please include a telephone number where you may be reached should we need additional information from you.

Please give me a call or send me an email.  I want to know what concerns you have and ideas of how we can make this an even better place!

 

Kathryn Trauger Contact Information:

Phone:  970-379-4849

Email:  ktrauger@rof.net

Lets get things done!

 

 

A Hard Loss for our Community

2015 is starting out on a rough note. The start of a new year should bring an end to the difficulties of the previous year and renewed optimism for the future.  So it is hard when the year begins with a series of events including sickness, death, roadblocks, and obstacles.  It just doesn’t seem right.

You may not agree with me, but I firmly believe that we learn and gain from  everything we go through in this life. I am not saying I like it, that I don’t get angry with it, that I don’t question why.  I am not saying it hurts any less. But it is part of this precious thing we call life.

Buzz 1Loss of a Community Leader

This year our community has lost a wonderful, very powerful, but quiet leader.  Lawrence “Buzz” Zancanella was Glenwood’s Fire Chief, but he never held an elected office.  He quietly reminded us of our history, but was not one to write letters to the editor. He created bubbles on the corner, but never climbed a soapbox. Yet, at his passing, a community mourned.  And I mean that.  For days, my Facebook account was filled with concern after learning of his heart attack. When news came that he had died, the memories of what he did for this community and what an impact this one man had on so many lives filled my inbox.

Buzz and big sis Ellie

Buzz and big sis Ellie

He cared for his family, for his nation, for his God and for his community.  He was a man of action; just not the kind of action that makes headlines.  Here are three items plucked from hundreds of comments on Facebook:

Chris Chambers: I was playing with matches near the school bus barn, I think I was around 9 at the time, and caught the dry grass on fire all along the outside wall. I did what any responsible child would do and ran as fast as I could back home. Of course everyone knew everyone in those days so I was caught having been seen fleeing the area. Buzz had my mother bring me down to the fire station and held a mock trial that scared me straight. I never played with matches again.

Kevin White: Not too long ago, Buzz invited me into his home so I could help him scan some larger images for his posts, I had known Buzz all my life, yet had never really spent any time with him. What an awesome treat it was to talk Glenwood Springs history with him that afternoon. He proudly showed me all of his GWS treasures, from bottles of hot springs water to commemorative spoons to beautifully framed pictures of the pool and Hotel Colorado. It was a true honor to share his space for even those few minutes. They will be with me forever.

Roz Eberle :The last time I saw Buzz was a couple of years ago when we were in town. I told him how much we all loved his postings. While he was pleased, he quickly asked about my mom. He was a man of great kindness, a man of generous spirit, and a man of great faith. Go well, Buzz. We will never forget you.Buzz 3

My eldest son and his friends spent many hours at Buzz and Gracie’s home, partly because of Gracie’s wonderful cooking and partly because Buzz and Gracie valued their company.  The feeling was completely mutual. They have my unending gratitude.

Buzz epitomized the word community. He raised the bar for us all in Glenwood. And while he loved Glenwood’s history and the way it was when  he was growing up, he knew that change was inevitable.  Let’s honor Buzz by looking out for each other and looking  forward to a new year, complete with its challenges.  Let’s work on making Glenwood Springs the best community ever . . . in every sense of the word.

Rest in peace Buzz.  Your community thanks you for all you have done.

Five lessons from a difficult week

A consensus means that everyone agrees to say collectively what no one believes individually.

-Abba Eban

It has been an interesting  and somewhat difficult couple of weeks.  Patience does not come easy for me. Sometimes things progress much too slow to suit me.  Trying to come to consensus, within various groups, in order to act can be a bit agonizing.  I generally work pretty well in teams and committees.  Give me patienceHowever I think I must learn to have more patience and tolerance with the process.  You’ve probably seen the tee-shirt or posters, “Lord, grant me patience, but PLEASE HURRY!”  I need that.  The more I work with governments, public policy and yes, politics, the more I find I need patience and endurance and maybe a touch of fortitude.  I have always been told that the “Devil is in the details.”  Yet it is important to look at the overall, broader picture.  It can be a difficult balancing act to look at both the details and the  thirty-thousand foot level and see them both with equal clarity. 

Admittedly,  a good part of the difficulty lately was of my own making. I am an information junkie. I love digging into things, and trying to ask questions – although sometimes I am afraid I am not asking the right questions at the right time. Not long ago I did ask a question, which I believe was the right question.   I received an answer from a trusted professional and I accepted it at face value.  Consensus within our group was reached, based on the information at hand.

Later, I received some additional information that made me reconsider the consensus I acquiesced to earlier.  Unfortunately, it came too late to be of much use, although I lobbied for a 11th hour change, it simply was not to be.  Will it be important in the long run?  I have no idea.  However, it has fortified five lessons learned.

 Lesson one is that I should trust my intuition. If it doesn’t feel right, it isn’t right . . . at least for me.

Lesson two is that information and advice given is colored by ones perspective, in spite of every effort to be objective.  That perspective must be taken into consideration when evaluating the information. In my case, those presenting information and opinion on the best course of action were coming from vastly different sides of the issue.  Yet to make the best decision, both of those viewpoints needed to be heard and weighed. Often it seems, when making group decisions, divergent opinions are not always present, not voiced or not heeded.

The third lesson is to continue asking and asking and ASKING  clarifying questions to try to develop understanding –  not only of the issue but of the people involved.

The fourth is that it is ok to not go along with group think.  This fits a bit with lesson one.  As Dr. Martin Luther King said,

Cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency ask the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience ask the question, is it right? And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.”

Mike Myatt, a columnist for Forbes and a trusted advisor to Fortune 500 CEO’s put it another way,

“Groupthink is a very dangerous practice. It stifles innovation, discourages candor, disdains dissenting opinions, and mutes the truth. If what you seek is to neutralize your advantage by dumbing down the insights, observations and contributions of your team, then by all means default to consensus thinking.”

The fifth lesson is simply never quit trying.  Thomas Edison said it best,

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

I will keep asking questions – hopefully the right ones at the right time and, if necessary,  slow the process down in order to seek viewpoints from all sides of the issues. I will keep trying to find the best solutions for issues within our town. I won’t always succeed but I won’t quit.

 While I generally do try to stay neutral and present the facts – albeit from my perspective – I am learning that at times I will need to take a stance, and it may not be the popular one – but it will be the right one for me.

Thankful for Glenwood Springs!

I had the opportunity to spend the day in Denver not long ago. Not in the suburbs, but in downtown Denver. I don’t have that opportunity often, but when I do, it makes me so thankful to live in Glenwood!

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy going to Denver on occasion with my family to take in a game, a museum or the zoo.  Two sons used to live in the ‘burbs and I spent much more time in the Denver area at that time. Now my time in the mile-high city is rare – and that is just fine with me.

My occasional visits to Denver and other cities reinforce my love of Glenwood and here is why.

People

Noemi Kosmowski painting a utility box 4-5-13I love walking down Grand Avenue or going to the grocery store and seeing familiar faces and talking with people I know.

I love shopping in the local stores and being greeted by the owners.  I love that people care enough to stop me on the street to tell me about something going on in the city that bothers them.  I love that the people in Glenwood seem to have a real connection with each other.

People in Glenwood walk down the street looking up . . . at each other, at the mountains at what is going on, People in downtown Denver walk looking at the sidewalk, looking at their smart phone or just looking vacant.  In Glenwood, it seems you see smiles and hear laughter . . . yes even over the traffic noise on Grand Avenue. In Denver there are very few smiles while walking the streets.

Color   

800 Block - West side -  of Grand Avenue

800 Block – West side – of Grand Avenue

We have emerged from the dregs of winter — my least favorite time of year — the grey season. It is the time between all the beautiful, white snow and the chartreuse of the emerging leaves on the trees in Spring.

Downtown Denver seems perennially devoid of color. I know that there are beautiful, lush green spots in Denver – the Botanical Gardens for one.  But in Glenwood, the signs of spring morphing into summer are everywhere.

It is in the trees, the tulips and lilacs and even in the storefronts. Here there are evergreens and red mountains providing stunning vistas, even in winter. There is color and vibrancy. In Denver, I was struck by the color grey . . . grey parking lots, steel and glass buildings and concrete.

Nature

Glenwood Springs Golf Course

Glenwood Springs Golf Course

Walking out the door to work in the morning I am greeted with the cheerful calls of the robins and the meadowlarks.  I hear the zing of a hummingbird fly by. I walk a block or so from my work in downtown Glenwood and I can sit and watch rafters coming down the river.  In a  few more blocks I can be climbing up a mountain that overlooks Glenwood.  In downtown Denver I am met with the sounds of cars.  Granted, Glenwood has its issues with cars and traffic – but it is nothing compared to downtown Denver.  The area I was visiting had nary a tree. Quite honestly, I didn’t even see a pigeon.

Community

I know I don’t “get” city life.  I am sure I could adjust if I had to – reluctantly. 

Chatting at the corner of 8th and Grand

Chatting at the corner of 8th and Grand

But given a choice, I choose life in the small town of Glenwood Springs.  I know Denver is filled with action and excitement, theater, restaurants and shopping.  Glenwood is as well.  

We have all of that –  everything that Denver has and SO MUCH MORE!  We are connected to this place and to each other.  We are a community. 

Conversations About Mental Health

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Photo courtesy WikiMedia Commons

In 2012 1,053 people committed suicide in Colorado.

 

That is 4.4 times the number of people who presumably died when the Malaysian airliner disappeared in March.  And that is only in Colorado!

 

Serious mental illness has touched almost everyone at one time or another, either through their own struggle or through the struggle of a friend or loved one.  The Roaring Fork Valley lost a talented and well know member of the community when Stewart Oksenhorn chose to take his life last February.  Sadly enough, instances like this are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

 

According to  the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Mental Illness is defined as “collectively all diagnosable mental disorders” or “health conditions that are characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior (or some combination thereof) associated with distress and/or impaired functioning.”  Contributing factors include life experiences, biological factors and family history.

 

Getting Help

Getting help, and taking care of one’s mental health is as critical as taking care of one’s physical health.  But there is a problem.  Like the social stigma of cancer in the 20th century and even still today in some cultures, there remains a certain stigma attached to mental illness.   According to an article in Psychology Today, August 20, 2013, Graham C.L. Davey, Ph.D. categorizes this stigma in two ways. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/why-we-worry/201308/mental-health-stigma  First is the social stigma, characterized by “prejudicial attitudes and discriminatory behavior directed toward individuals with mental health problems.”  The other, he states is a perceived stigma or self-stigmastigma, which can affects “feelings of shame and lead to poorer treatment outcome.”

 

Dr. Davey noted that the media plays a role in the continuation of the stereotypes of those with mental health issues.  This stigma can lead to poor social support, exclusion and low self-esteem.  It also may prevent those needing help from seeking help.

 Join the Conversation

This Saturday, from 2 p.m.to 4:30 p.m. a discussion will take place at the Glenwood Springs Branch Library. Titled a Community Conversation About Mental Health, the dialog will focus on mental health, mental illness,  recover and the impact of mental illness.   Co-sponsored by Creating Community Solutions Colorado and Mind Springs Health,  the program will is slated to include discussions about the basics, attitudes and mental health in our community.

 

Another local group, Roaring Fork affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)  has also been ramping up efforts to reach out to families and friends of those with mental illness as well as first responders, to provide training and support.

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I urge everyone to join in this effort to educate those living in our area about mental health, mental illness and the options available.  It is time to eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness and learn to support and care for those whose lives are affected by this disease, just as we would support and aid someone with diabetes, cancer or kidney disease.

 Resources

If you cannot come to the discussion on Saturday, or if you would like more information, or if you need help, please contact:

 

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Aspen Hope Center: 970-925-5858 (24 hour Hopeline)

 

 

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Mind Springs: 888- 207-4004 (toll free) 24 hour crisis line  and   Office 970-945-2583

 

 

Roaring Fork NAMI: 970-618-7770  namirfv@gmail.com

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NAMI Colorado: www.namicolorado.org