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Keep Colorado a land of opportunity

Summer’s winding up with the start of back-to-school sales. Delicious Western Slope produce is showing up at the grocery stores and roadside stands. The last wave of summer visitors is cramming in as much fun as they can before heading home.

All of this reminds me of the many hard-working people in southwest Colorado for whom summer’s not as much a time for play, but a time to earn their bread and butter to get through the leaner months ahead. For those who work in retail, agriculture, construction, public safety and the hospitality industry, summer’s a very busy time indeed, and they make our area what it is for many others.

I’ve spent much time this summer in meetings, large and small, getting input from my constituents about how things are going for them. There’s a general sense of economic improvement, but still considerable concern about what the future holds. I share that concern. There are many changes passed at the state legislature last year that will have financial impacts on the average individual and family.

While I welcome being wrong, I don’t see the promised savings materializing to balance the new costs as Obamacare is implemented. People in my district already struggle to see a doctor or other provider, period.

Access to healthcare is much more than carrying an insurance card in your wallet and, if you doubt that, ask those already on Medicaid, Medicare or Tricare who can’t find a doctor. Funding healthcare reform by reducing provider reimbursements is going to exacerbate that problem, not fix it. We’ve got work to do.

New laws and regulations with costs are going to start making themselves known to the small businesses in my district, at a time when our economy is struggling to keep its (our) head above water.

Around here, business owners are your friends and neighbors. Feedback tells me that employers are very worried about increasing costs for utilities, health insurance and other bottom line expenses, afraid that the next step could be layoffs or reducing employees’ hours just to keep the businesses open.

I don’t mean to be depressing, but am urging that it’s really important for you to be aware and involved with those you elect, at all governmental levels. I can’t promise sunshine and roses each time you are in touch with those in government, but successful representative democracy requires engagement from the electorate as well as from the elected. If those elected fail to listen, remember and vote accordingly at the next election.

In the late 1800s, my great-grandparents traveled westward by wagon and homesteaded in northeastern Colorado. Tough environmental conditions for raising sheep made their effort unsuccessful and they returned east to farm there. Nearly a century later, I arrived in Colorado at the optimistic age of 21, with literally nothing more than a duffel bag, hiking boots and a willingness to work hard, so I could stay here. I’ve worked many jobs along the way and I don’t want Colorado government, at the city, county, state or federal level, to become the new barrier driving people out of our state.

We need to remember the contributions made by all in our communities, young and older, and make sure that we don’t turn Colorado into a place where only the already-wealthy can stay.

This story was posted on August 8, 2013.