Wade Buchanan: Guest opinion | AspenTimes.com

Wade Buchanan: Guest opinion

Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

Backpackers have a saying: Leave it better than you found it.

For generations, Coloradans have done exactly that. Ranchers and farmers, rural residents and city dwellers, businesses large and small, they all dreamed big and invested in themselves and their children’s future – in our future.

They built schools, they built colleges, they built hospitals, they built roads through the mountains, they built dams, they irrigated fields, they built parks, and they built cities.

They built a great state.

Now it is our turn. The Colorado we enjoy today didn’t happen by accident. And it won’t stay a great place to live by accident, either.

So how are we doing? How is Colorado holding up? Are we making the right investments for future Coloradans? What will our legacy be?

This is not ivory-tower, egghead stuff. It’s practical, and it’s real, and every Coloradan needs to weigh in.

Why? Because the Taxpayer Bill of Rights amendment to our Constitution makes Colorado the only state in the nation where the voters must decide these questions. Not the legislature, not lawmakers. That means Colorado voters have more responsibility than voters in any other state.

So we can’t just fight over whom to elect to represent us. We also have to come together in a serious conversation about the kind of state we want Colorado to be and how we get there. The Bell Policy Center, ProgressNow Colorado and Colorado Public Television Channel 12 have teamed up on an hour-long television show, “Colorado, Boom or Bust,” and the goal is to get that conversation started.

The show provides some history about the state we built and some of the financial challenges we face. But most of the show has people – a firefighter from Denver, a Littleton mom with disabled children, a school-board president from Longmont, a nurse from the San Luis Valley among them – talking about their state and their hopes and dreams for the future.

So, really, the show is a kitchen-table discussion about the Colorado family budget. And there are some tough realities to talk about. Over the past decade, our money coming in isn’t covering what it used to. Gas taxes don’t cover road construction and repair anymore. Less local K-12 education funds means that state has to pick up more of the tab, putting a tight squeeze on community colleges, technical schools and universities.

Those are just a few examples. Add everything together, and we have what economists call a structural problem: Even after the economy improves, Colorado’s revenues will not keep up.

So far, our solution has been to make deeper and deeper cuts to our budget – that is, to our schools, our colleges, our roads and our safety net programs. The Great Recession has made that even tougher.

But we can’t just cut our way out of this. That’s why we need to talk about our priorities – to learn about other options.

That’s where the TV show comes in. We invite you to watch the show and learn from a broad array of Coloradans about the state they love and the challenges we face. And then let’s start talking about how we will leave Colorado better than we found it.

And above all, let’s all remember that the folks who came before us faced challenges, too. Wars. Recessions. The Dust Bowl. But they figured out a way forward, and we will, too.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User


Teen Spotlight: Considering short-term solutions for teacher turnover

Aspen School District is not the only district in the country facing teacher shortages as schools across the nation are struggling to find available staff to fill gaps in teacher positions, writes Teen Spotlight columnist Beau Toepfer. Still, the district has faced challenges with teacher retention and replacement this year.

See more