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Valuable citizens, valued input

From all reports, Monday’s meeting called by Steve Vasallo of the Community Development Corporation was well attended. In fact, better attended than some had anticipated. The meeting was effectively managed and, as public meetings go, went smoothly.

A list of priority projects was developed and an account of the meeting is provided in an article in this week’s SUN.

One thing we note missing in terms of attendance was a significant number of younger Pagosans — residents under the age of 35.

Any public process that attempts to take account of what the community deems important and what residents desire in terms of its future should include many Pagosans in this age group. In fact, we believe the majority of participants at such meetings should be 35 and younger. They and their children, after all, are the ones who will make their livings here for a good long time; they will raise families and guide the community in years and decades to come.

It is easy to grow comfortable with the idea that Pagosa Country is dominated by citizens of “that certain age.” There are, indeed, many retired people here; the overwhelming majority of officials in local governments and the leaders in the business sector are in their 40s, 50s and 60s. Most residents who are members of the many nonprofit and association boards are in that age group. The numerous committees formed to provide advice to government are dominated by members in their 50s and 60s.

So, where are the younger Pagosans? There are many of them in the community; why don’t we see more participation?

For sure, most of them are out earning a living, taking care of kids —daunting and time-consuming tasks. The number of younger residents taking an active role in local events and institutions grows when we consider school-oriented groups and functions. Want to find younger Pagosans? Go to the town parks and recreation department and ask for a list of parents of youngsters participating in its many programs. There is a measure of participation in church groups.

But, why are members of this age group missing when it comes to other, critically important activities?

Blame apathy, blame a lack of time, blame a measure of disconnect with local affairs. Blame the younger residents. It is, after all, primarily their responsibility to seek out meaningful roles and to fill them.

But, also blame those who are in positions of power in the community, those who organize events and activities, those who seek input. If this community is to set a viable and desirable course for the future, younger residents must be included. It is critical that young Pagosans get involved in the groups and processes centered on creating a vision of Pagosa Country’s future and that they work to alter and strengthen our economic and cultural foundations.

We have, many times, urged younger Pagosans to become actively involved in the local political process — to register to vote and vote in all elections, to run for office and begin to make key decisions for themselves, their families, their peers.

We make the call again: If you are between the ages of 18 and 35, there are groups, with committees, working to determine the manner in which your community will evolve. There are elections coming in November that involve important races: we will pick a county commissioner, a county assessor, a governor, a state representative, a state senator, a U.S. Representative and U.S. Senator, among others. There are crucially important proposed amendments to the state constitution on the ballot — several of which could impact state and local government and school districts for a very long time.

Step up. It is your and your community’s future. It is your responsibility.

Karl Isberg