We seem to be a people who delight in fright. Americans have a yen for danger, much of it poorly substantiated. We love to live in fear, proposing the direst circumstances, getting worked up about … well, about anything. The national electronic media, in particular, feeds and, in fact, thrives on producing the scare du jour. Television hosts weep and moan about the end of the world as we know it, and people buy into it. Radio hosts pontificate and, eventually, seem actually to believe the nonsense they originally concocted to lure gullible listeners.
Politicians are leading us to the brink of disaster on a daily basis. The economy is going to crash and our personal fortunes are doomed — and, after all, it is our personal fortunes we worry about the most, regardless of the pretty rhetoric we use to express our other concerns. There is an outbreak of flu in Mexico. Could it be, as one television news network asked, the next Black Death?
News networks continue to churn out the blabber, competing for viewers in a 24-hour format. Talk show hosts continue to envision looming disasters to ramp up the dialogue, to create scenarios that act like magnets, attracting undiscerning listeners. All the while, owners of the networks admit they would gladly switch their political perspectives, if the money were there.
People call in to shows and write letters, expressing bone-deep fears about the nation, about the species, about the planet. Most, if not all are content to yammer about abstract, oversimplified ideological matters. Few, if any, are willing to step up and serve.
Fortunately, there are those who do step up and serve, and we find many of the best of them at the local level — individuals dedicated to public service and making a substantial difference in their community.
And what do they face?
Rarely is it a Doomsday scenario. Seldom is it something that, though dire on the surface and in the short run, cannot be fixed.
So it is in Pagosa Country. The problems are real, immediate, not created by self-serving info jockeys and partisan parrots. And there are projects at hand — problems that must be solved in ways not shaped by the black-and-white, simplistic thinking that dominates television and radio shows, and letters to the editor.
Here, the problems depend on which entity is examined.
For the town: creation of a viable economic environment, and meeting state demands for construction of a new sanitation treatment plant,
For the county: continued mending of a bruised budget, and roads, roads, roads — with the prospect of borrowing money, then asking the taxpayers for a bond issue to provide more funds.
For the schools: securing necessary funding, and managing to educate in an environment dominated by state and federal laws and a standards-based system.
For the fire district: expansion to include the entire county, with construction of new facilities and purchase of new equipment.
For the water districts: dealing with the chicken-and-egg predicament of a new reservoir and its link to residential growth.
For the health services district: creating a rural health care clinic and increasing hospital services.
For the community: discovering how to best utilize the allure of the area to pull visitors here, provide them with a wonderful experience, and send them home, without adding them to the permanent county population.
For all local government and districts: creating impact fees that both satisfy revenue needs and keep the window open to development — especially high-quality commercial development.
Thankfully, we have people among us who, unlike the fear addicts and blowhards, work earnestly to find solutions to these problems. If there is anything positive about these current times— they are it.