Monday, July 31, 2006

July 31, 2006 Suicide

Consider This for July 31, 2006—Suicide

“Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem”: Phil Donahue

We never chose our life but we can choose our death.

In my more than forty- six years in public service, sometimes as a police officer and coroner, I have never understood why anyone would ever kill himself.

In case I lose any of you as you read this you need to know that if you ever have any thoughts of suicide you should get help immediately. Contact Colorado West Mental Health. They have people on call. Get in touch with your pastor or priest. Call a close friend and tell him what you are thinking. Make a plan to get involved in therapy until the suicidal thoughts go away and you have dealt with the problem.

Call me and I can put you in touch with someone who can help.

Everyone should have to look into the eyes of a grieving parent, sibling or friend and tell her that someone she loved just blew herself away for some stupid selfish reason.

As anyone who has been close to someone that has committed suicide knows, there is no other pain like that felt after the incident”: Peter Green

Suicide is probably the most selfish thing anyone could ever do. Take the easy way out and then expect everyone you love to just get along with their lives. Not.

Suicide is the biggest cop- out that anyone can ever perform. It is the ultimate act of cowardice. Too afraid to face life and then end it to avoid having to deal with it.

There are some experts who now believe that as many as half of all fatal car accidents are, in reality, suicides. They are normally described as either a one- car or two- car accident in which one vehicle drives into oncoming traffic for no apparent reason. Another tip-off involves a car with one occupant driving into a wall or a bridge abutment.

Think about the poor truck driver who is hit head on in some poor soul’s death drive. The suicidal person is dead but the truck driver will live with that image for the rest of his or her life.

But some would disagree. Like this gentleman.

Suicide sometimes proceeds from cowardice, but not always; for cowardice sometimes prevents it; since as many live because they are afraid to die, as die because they are afraid to live”: Charles Caleb Colton

There are alternative suicides. . I have often joked that my choice would be to go to Hawaii and lie on a beach until I develop skin cancer. My medical friends are quick to point out how long and painful that disease can become. Maybe that is not a good idea.

The fellow who wrote Jonathon Livingston Seagull said this: “Anyone desperate enough for suicide...should be desperate enough to go to creative extremes to solve problems: elope at midnight, stow away on the boat to New Zealand and start over, do what they always wanted to do but were afraid to try.”: Richard Bach

This writer spoke for many would- be suicidal persons:

I just couldn’t live with myself knowing I had just killed myself.” Anonymous

I couldn't commit suicide if my life depended on it”: George Carlin

This is worth repeating:

Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

We never chose our life but we can choose our death.

As I said in the beginning of this column, you need to know that if you ever have any thoughts of suicide you should get help immediately. Contact Colorado West Mental Health. They have people on call. Get in touch with your pastor or priest. Call a close friend and tell her what you are thinking. Make a plan to get involved in therapy until the suicidal thoughts go away and you have dealt with the problem.

Again, if you don’t know how to call then call me and I can put you in touch with someone who can help. 970-453-5298 or 970-485-0295.

Monday, July 24, 2006

July 24, 2006 Roadless

Consider This for July 24, 2006--Roadless

Roadless does not mean roadless.

Welcome to the wonderful world of words in government.

A few months ago I attended a meeting in Frisco where the head of a very large west slope organization was talking about issues. He started by explaining about how the roadless plan would close all roads on public lands.

I immediately stopped him and exclaimed that !@#$% roadless did not mean !@#$% roadless as he had proclaimed. He immediately sat down and shut up.

For my regular readers I will apologize now because I have written about this before.

Each of the National Forests has a Forest Plan. The Forest Plan includes a lot of parts. It includes how the forest is going to be managed and the many uses for the forest. Each forest is a little different, so there are different plans for each forest.

Here in the central Rockies and in my House of Representatives district there are two major forests. The Pike San Isabel is in Lake County, and most of Summit and Eagle Counties is in the White River. The White River is the most visited National Forest in the nation. This is primarily because of the ski areas. There are seven ski areas in my district.

In the late 1990s the White River Forest Plan was rewritten. That is a story in itself. Summit County was presented with a large cardboard box containing the plan and told that we had one month to read, review, and comment on the plan. Of course we did not accept this, and in the final analysis, seven years later, the plan still has not been approved.

I laughed when I read an article this week about how the travel plan was still in process. That was a big part of recreation in the White River and was very contentious as the “Gear Heads” fought against the “Tree Huggers” in the process.

Part of the plan included several “roadless” areas. There are roads in these roadless areas, and none of them were ever marked for closure. The roadless designation just meant new roads could not be built in those areas.

Colorado ski operators object to this designation because they believe they might want to build roads in those areas at some point in the future.

Roadless areas by definition are areas where new roads will not be built. It does not mean that any roads will be closed.

President Clinton, as one of his final acts in office, approved making roadless areas mandatory in forest plans. This created a furor that has continued for the past six years.

The two biggest objectors are the Mining Association and the oil and gas producers. They feel that prohibiting the building of new roads will inhibit their ability to extract natural resources.

They are right.

This past session I tried to run a Joint Resolution from General Assembly to Governor Owens and President Bush to keep the roadless area designation in place.

In an unprecedented move, my resolution was assigned to the House Agriculture Committee where it was killed. I say unprecedented because in the entire two years I was in the legislature, I was never aware of any other resolution being assigned to a committee. Most of the time they go right to the floor for an up or down vote.

During that committee hearing the oil and gas producers brought in photos showing long winding roads connecting wells in various areas. This was their argument to allow new roads in roadless areas. Bad example. Their photos showed exactly the point in question. The landscape was torn up by the new roads they had constructed.

Even though I testified to the contrary, there were several members of the committee who seriously believed roadless meant no roads. They had bought into the deception by the industry.

It reminded me of the gold mining groups who testified opposing the county not allowing cyanide heap leach mining a few years ago. They showed photos of large areas of scorched earth as examples of how cyanide did not hurt anything. Another bad example. I knew we would ban the process as soon as I saw their photos.

The Mining Association testified at the House hearing also.

Regardless, my resolution failed.

The Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge and the Roan Plateau here in Colorado are both examples of how what is happening in some places in Colorado can happen there too.

There are ways to mine and extract oil and gas without tearing up the landscape building roads. Somehow we need to get that message to Governor Owens and President Bush.

Monday, July 17, 2006

July 17, 2006 Immigration

Consider this for July 17, 2006—Immigration

Posturing, pandering, positioning and pontification best describe the special session of the General Assembly that ended late last Monday night in Denver.

When I first heard that the governor was thinking about calling a special session I doubted he would do it. He would have to use up too much political capital. He would have to put too much on the line in asking for a process that may or may not have any viable result.

I was so wrong. Just when I thought he would not pull the trigger, he did.

For a special session the governor must release a call indicating which topics he wants considered for the session. His call included several immigration topics and one concerning common law marriage for children.

Yes, children. The courts had ruled recently that Colorado law allowed 12- year- olds to be part of a common law marriage. You can sleep easy again knowing that we changed the law to reflect that you must be at least 18 to enter into a common law marriage.

Back to immigration.

The governor was most upset about the court ruling that a ballot question contained two subjects: Should we restrict immigration and how should we pay for those restrictions?

The governor wanted the legislature to put the issue on the ballot this fall. The governor’s request failed but a statutory law affecting the same thing did pass.

There will also be two ballot issues this fall on immigration. We will all be able to cast our votes. One will authorize the State of Colorado to sue the federal government for not enforcing immigration laws. The second will create a penalty for hiring undocumented workers.

It was a way of getting legislators to commit to a position on immigration at a cost of at least $15,000 a day of your money. I personally believe that the actual costs are much greater than are being reported.

In my opinion every issue is already covered under state and federal law. The real issue is enforcement. We have more than enough laws; we just don’t have enforcement.

If we are going to demand enforcement then gives the authorities the resources, the money, and let them do their jobs. They are more than willing and able to enforce existing laws without creating new laws.

The proponents of some new laws are in favor of these new programs to deal with the problem while, at the same time, they support less government and fewer taxes. They need to make up their collective mind. (sic)

No one has been able to describe services that foreign workers are receiving or how much it is costing if they are getting any services.

Everyone needs to consider the following concerning foreign workers:

They pay property tax that pays for schools through their rent.

They pay for state services though their sales tax.

They pay for roads through their HUTF (Highway Users Tax Fund) gas tax

They do not get free medical care.

There are 250,000 undocumented foreign workers in Colorado. If we arrested all of them we would not have anywhere to incarcerate them.

If they are put in the county jail local county property tax would pay the bill. The state and federal governments do not reimburse counties for jail costs.

According to the General Accounting Office, 40% of all undocumented foreign workers are not from Mexico. That is almost half.

The prenatal care they receive is for an unborn child who will be a United States citizen. Who would deny prenatal health care to an unborn American citizen? Or for that matter any unborn child regardless of their citizenship?

Some legislators complain that the majority does rule and they do not agree with the majority. When their pet issues are defeated at the polls they complain that the voters are stupid. Not that they could ever be stupid themselves for making a comment like that.

Some legislators do not believe in our form of government and reject the opinion of the State Supreme Court because they do not agree with their position. The same legislators feel the federal government is completely incompetent and should be abolished. I think that some states tried that back in the 19th century. We had a war over it and they lost. I am sure there are countries which would welcome them with open arms. Can you spell posse comititus?

Putting matters to a statewide vote of the people is a very poor way of governing. Elected officials are charged with making decisions. If you disagree with the elected officials then vote them out of office.

One member even went to the microphone to comment that all the crime was being committed by Mexicans coming north and joining gangs. He was booed off the floor and referred to as being racist.

There should be a sign at the lectern in the well on the floor of the Colorado House of Representatives that says, “Nothing but nothing you say at this microphone, at this lectern, will ever, ever change the mind of one person in this room. Be under notice that anything you say is only for your own edification and has no meaning to anyone else. You are wasting your own time and everyone else’s time.”

There is strict protocol at the Capitol. One must refer to someone else as “Senator so and so” or “Representative so and so”. Shortly after beginning my first term over two years ago the staff, my peers and the other legislators began calling me “Gary.” I felt that was an honor. It meant that everyone considered me a real person and not just a legislator.

They call this place the people’s house. Many have forgotten that during this special session. The people includes everyone, even those you may not like.

Monday, July 10, 2006

July 10, 2006 The Fourth of July

Consider This for July 10, 2006—The Fourth of July

Fourth of July in the high country is and always has been a great holiday, and this year was not any different.

Thousands of people in the mountains and hundreds of things to do. Because it occurred last Tuesday, our friends and property owners from the Front Range had a couple of extra days to come to visit their second homes or to huddle against the cold in a tent in a campground.

The actual permanent population of Summit County is around 25,000. Planners will tell you there is room to sleep over 150,000 on any given night. They refer to it as the number of pillows. Beds. Some place to get horizontal by yourself or with a loved one.

Last Monday all 150,000 people were trying to drive between Frisco and Breckenridge in both directions. The elapsed time from my house six miles north of Breckenridge is normally around ten minutes. Last Monday it was closer to an hour.

I remember a former Colorado Department of Transportation engineer telling me in 1995 that Colorado State Highway 9 had exceeded its capacity ten years earlier. They had a telemetry system that counted all the cars every minute of every day.

That counter is long gone. I guess they thought it would explode with all of the daily data.

“Beware of what you ask for. You are liable to get it.”

For the county, the town, the ski resort, and the businesses, there can never be too much traffic.

I am sure that our neighbors in Kremmling and Grand County would like that kind of traffic. Leadville still has not recovered from the mine closing, and I know that they would like more traffic.

Highway 24 has been improved over the past couple of years, so a trip over Fremont Pass and into Leadville is much more pleasant.

I went to the dedication of the renovations on the Red Cliff bridge two years ago, and it is a work of art. It is worth the drive to Leadville and then south to Minturn. Stop at the overlook and take a long look at the bridge. It is an engineering marvel.

On your way, you could stop at the 10th Mountain Division Memorial at Camp Hale. It is very inspirational.

Recently I had a friend report on the progress at the Tabor Opera House in Leadville. That building is a treasure and is being remodeled and repaired by some wonderful folks from Leadville. I can’t wait for it to be finished. People will come from all over the world to see it.

Lake County Commissioner Ken Olson owns and operates the railroad in Leadville. You can take trips from the city of Leadville to Climax during the summer and fall. I can’t imagine how beautiful that ride would be during the turning of the aspen.

State Representative Rafael Gallegos, State Representative Mark Larson, and State Representative Tom Plant all have railroads in their districts. Rafael has the Cumbres and Toltec Railroad that runs from Antonito to Chama, New Mexico. Mark has the Durango to Silverton Railroad that maintains national prominence. Tom has the Georgetown Loop railroad in Silver Plume and Georgetown.

Hey, I guess I have a railroad too, and you should go check it out.

A friend remarked the other day that the history of Colorado is only 130 years old, and the history of the United States is only 230 years old.

Imagine towns and cities in Europe considering our history when their history has covered hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

Preservation Colorado has done a wonderful job of working with the State Historical Society to catalog historical sites and buildings in our wonderful state.

Why not plan to visit the nearby places first? Breckenridge, Frisco, Dillon, and Montezuma have very long and interesting histories.

I know that there is something going on every day during our eight-week summer season in Summit County, but also try out Clear Creek, Park, Lake, Eagle, and Grand Counties as a break, and then maybe my drive to Breckenridge will not take so long.

Monday, July 3, 2006

July 3, 2006 Cone Zones

Consider This for July 3, 2006—Cone Zones

A few weeks ago there were nine of them in Clear Creek County.

There has been one at the Summit County Justice Center and Park Avenue now for a couple of years.

Cone zones.

Every time I write or say those words I think of Dan Akroyd on Saturday Night Live playing the husband in the family of cone heads.

We need to consider traffic cones in a positive light. They prove your tax dollars are hard at work. Your dollars down where the rubber meets the road. Right there where the asphalt meets the concrete.

My House of Representatives district covers all of Summit County, Lake County, and Eagle County, excluding the Basalt, El Jebel area in the Roaring Fork Valley. That is in Representative Kathleen Curry’s district and is about as large as many states.

I have two Transportation Engineer districts in my district. Region 1 headed by Jeff Kullman out of Aurora has everything to the west side of Vail Pass. Region 3 led by Ed Fink out of Grand Junction has everything else, including all of Lake County and even part of Fremont Pass down to Copper Mountain. Both of these men have a huge amount of responsibility keeping track of all the new construction and maintenance on I-70 and hundreds of miles of state highways.

They are the people who decide where the cone zones are located and what happens in those zones. They have some great crews of men and women on those projects along with probably hundreds of private contractors.

It is almost like having to invade Normandy every day. D-Day every day during construction season.

The most distressing thing that can happen is when an employee or worker is injured or killed on the job.

In recent years we have seen the signs indicating that fines are doubled in the construction zones. Double the fines, double the points, double the pain and aggravation.

From what I have seen, I think we should make it four times the penalty.

In Clear Creek County a 40-mile-per-hour limit is in place along the construction area. For some reason, drivers don’t seem to understand. All I see are cars continuing to drive 65 miles an hour until they get behind someone driving 40.

Then they get right on the rear bumper of that car all the way through the cone zone.

I think this is a form of road rage.

I see drivers shaking their fists and giving the one-finger salute to drivers who abide by the law.

It is those times that I wish I was back in a patrol car so I could do something.

I did do one thing. I put the Colorado State Patrol on speed dial on my cell phone. It works great. Call *CSP or *277 on your cell phone and you get the dispatcher right away. Road rage is one of the things they love to deal with. Road rage is not only annoying but deadly.

Eric Mamula was rightly concerned about the intersection of Park Avenue and Airport Road near City Market in Breckenridge. He warned that bicyclists were in jeopardy. I agree with him.

I also think that mankind is in danger.

The other day I saw two cars crash together as they raced to be the first car through the intersection. They both lost. What a mess. I am sure there might have been some road rage involved, but their stupidity ended the rage very quickly.

Think of the orange cones as your friends. Think of them telling you to slow down and not run over a worker or hit another car as our roads are being repaired this summer.

Gas price update: As of last Thursday the cheapest gas in Summit County is at the Sav-O-Mat in Silverthorne at $2.87 a gallon. You can buy a gallon for a penny less at Loaf and Jug in Frisco with a pump price of $2.89 but with your City Market Discount Card or King Soopers Discount Card you can get three cents off making it $2.86. Right now the cheapest gas I can find in Denver is in Golden where the 7-11, Conoco at Highway 58 and Washington are at $2.71. That is 18 cents a gallon cheaper than the average price in Summit County. You can save 10 cents a gallon all the time in Georgetown at $2.79 but the other day both stations were out of gas. I guess the secret is out.