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Thomas: America’s expiration date

I love definitions because they help focus the mind. For decades, we are said to have been in a culture war. As in any war, it helps to know one’s enemy.

One online dictionary defines culture this way: “the quality in a person or society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellent in arts, letters, manners, scholarly pursuits, etc.”

One secondary definition is under the subheading anthropology: “the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another.” I especially like that second definition.

So culture is a sum total. It is also about ways of living by more than a few humans, with all of that being willed to succeeding generations.

Those of a certain age remember what their parents or grandparents transmitted to them following the Great Depression and World War II. It was the sum total of values and beliefs they shared, the values held by those Tom Brokaw correctly labeled the greatest generation.

Yes, they were imperfect, just as we are, sinners incapable of saving themselves apart from God’s mercy and grace. But they saved a nation — several nations — because they embodied the things that mattered most in life: duty, honor, and country. They not only wanted to restore such things to Europe and preserve them for America but also sought to pass these down to their children and grandchildren. They had learned them from their parents. It is why they went to war, and although thousands did not come back, their values remained, at least until the self-indulgent 1960s and the generation that followed (as critiqued in my 1994 book, “The Things That Matter Most”).

Today that clash of their culture with ours is stark. My grandmother once admonished me for using words she said nice young men don’t say in public. The words that offended her were toilet paper. Imagine what this woman, born in 1888, would think of the words heard on TV, in movies, and on the streets today.

Return to the definition given earlier and particularly notice the words built up. This suggests to me that the way to change a culture is not from the top down but from the bottom up, not through Washington but through the human heart and individual choices.

It might be too late for that, but it is not too late to make choices for ourselves and for our families, especially where we send our young children to school. It amazes me that so many parents — conservative and Christian parents — see no problem in sending their children to state schools, where they learn they evolved from slime and the reason they like bananas on their cereal is that their nearest relative is at the zoo.

OK, I exaggerate, but not by much. If your child is a soldier, would you be OK if he or she were trained in a country that was the enemy of the United States? Doesn’t the question answer itself? Why, then, would you knowingly and willingly send your child to a school — and then a university — that undermines the values, beliefs, and faith you have tried to teach them?

Don’t answer that you want them to be ambassadors for God. I have met many ambassadors, and none are 8-year-olds. Children, like soldiers, must be trained and indoctrinated with the knowledge and principles of the nation (or kingdom) they are expected to serve. Look up two words in a concordance. They are teach and learn. The verses in scripture that include these words instruct godly parents in what God expects when it comes to children on loan to us for a brief time.

Legions of young men and women taught such things will build up a culture and ultimately a nation. It is the only way to win a culture war.

Neuswanger: How the election might impact the housing market

Since it’s a presidential election year, let’s take a look at how politics might impact home prices.

To build or commit to buying a home is a big step, and consumers need to feel confident that good times lie ahead to make the jump to taking on six digits of new debt for the next 30 years.

Consumer confidence has always been a key factor in the rise and fall of the housing market, and as anyone who has ever bought a house will attest, houses need stuff. From carpet and paint to shower curtains and new placemats for the dining room, billions are spent by new homeowners who otherwise would make do with what they already have, and that impacts nearly every segment of the economy.

And as one’s level of happiness with the current president of the United States probably impacts one’s level of consumer confidence in the future of the economy, it is now proven that the fortunes of real estate ride on the coattails of the president’s popularity, at least during the Trump years.

A recent study from analysts at the financial services firm BTIG looked at the number of building permits issued in counties where Trump carried that fateful day by winning more than 50% of the vote versus those counties that Hilary Clinton carried 50% plus. The study also compared job growth and wage growth between the two groups.

Where Trump won, building permits increased by 11%. In counties where the voters resoundingly chose Clinton, new building permits dropped by 9%. This, despite job growth and wages being close to equal between the two groups.    

In Trump counties, job growth averaged 5.7%. In Clinton counties, job growth averaged 4.7%. This spread might be related to the peripheral impact of economic activity generated by more home construction and sales. However, the jobs in Clinton counties seemed to pay better with wages increasing 10.2%, which beat Trump counties with 9.5% wage increases.

This might mean that if you want to invest in housing companies this year, it might be wise to research which companies have market share in Trump versus Clinton counties. And depending on the outcome of the next election, you might want to move your portfolio around some.

And, as Hilary Clinton did actually win the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, it is safe to say that the above statistics likely point to a great deal of anxiety amongst her base and those consumers have likely reigned in purchases of other major consumer items.

Financial Focus: New rules for retirement plan contributions, withdrawals

If you’ve had an IRA or 401(k) for a long time, you’re probably pretty familiar with the rules governing withdrawals and contributions — because, for the most part, they haven’t changed in years. And you may also know what’s going to happen to your IRA if you leave it to someone as part of your estate plans. But we are about to see some changes — and you should be aware of how they may affect your individual situation.

Here’s the story: Congress recently approved legislation called the SECURE Act, which, among its many provisions, includes several that should be of particular interest to IRA and 401(k) investors.

The first of these changes deals with the money you take out of your IRA and 401(k). As you may know, under the old rules, you were required to start taking withdrawals — known as required minimum distributions — from your traditional IRA and your 401(k) when you turned 70.5. Of course, you did not have to wait until that age, but if you didn’t take your full RMDs on time, the shortfall would typically be subject to a 50% tax penalty. Under the Secure Act, the RMD age has been pushed back to 72.

This higher age could benefit you by giving your IRA and/or 401(k) more time to potentially grow on a tax-deferred basis. On the other hand, by waiting until you’re 72, you could be forced to take larger RMDs, which are calculated by dividing your account balance by your life expectancy, as determined by IRS tables. And these RMDs are generally taxed at your personal tax rate.

The second big IRA-related change concerns the age limit for making traditional IRA contributions. Previously, you could only contribute to your traditional IRA until you were 70.5.  Under the Secure Act, however, you can fund your traditional IRA for as long as you have earned income. So, if you plan to work past what might be considered the typical retirement age, you have the opportunity to add a few more dollars to your IRA.

Another SECURE Act provision deals with early withdrawals from your IRA and 401(k). Usually, you must pay a 10% tax penalty when you withdraw funds from either of these accounts before you reach 59.5. But now, with the new rules, you can withdraw up to $5,000 penalty-free from your IRA or 401(k) if you take the money within one year of a child being born or an adoption becoming final.

The new rules also might affect your loved ones who stand to inherit your IRA. Under the old rules, a non-spouse beneficiary could stretch taxable RMDs from a retirement account over his or her lifetime. Now, most non-spouse beneficiaries will have to  delete the entire account balance by the end of the 10th year after the account owner passes away. So, this change could have tax implications for family members who inherit your IRA. You may want to consult with your estate planning or tax professional regarding this issue.

Keep the new rules in mind when creating your retirement strategies. The more you know, the better prepared you can be to make the appropriate moves for you.    

This article was written for use by Edward Jones financial advisors. Edward Jones and its associates and financial advisors do not provide tax or legal advice. Chuck Smallwood, Bret Hooper, Tina DeWitt, Kevin Brubeck, Charlie Wick and Jeremy Lepore are financial advisors with Edward Jones Investments and can be reached in Edwards at 970-926-1728, in Eagle at 970-328-0361, 970-328-0639 or 970-328-4959 and in Avon at 970-688-5420.       

Goldberg: We’re paying for Trump’s refusal to be presidential

I’ve long argued that Donald Trump’s presidency will end poorly because he’s a person of bad character. I still think that’s true, though I very much doubt the impeachment trial now underway will result in his removal. Regardless of its outcome, his impeachment illustrates the damage bad character can do to the presidency, the culture and the constitutional order.

In monarchies and other systems built around one-man (or one-woman) rule, the leader’s quirks, obsessions or inadequacies cease to be any of those things, instead becoming fashionable attributes of greatness. Bad jokes that emerge from his or her mouth become hilarious; rudeness, strength. Mispronunciations become fashionable locution. The story of Castilian Spaniards replacing the “s” sound with a “th” sound (“therveza” instead of cerveza) to accommodate King Ferdinand’s lisp is myth, alas (or “alath”). But the moral of the story stands.

We’ve seen something similar happen to large swaths of the GOP. Because Trump is unteachable about how the presidency and our constitutional system are supposed to work, politicians and media figures have dropped their long-held views on foreign policy, the national debt, trade and even the need for basic civility in order to get in sync with the president.

Arizona Sen. Martha McSally’s outburst on Thursday is just the latest example. When asked by a CNN reporter whether she’d support allowing witnesses at the impeachment trial, this once sober-minded politician called him a “liberal hack,” creating a viral social media moment perfectly suited for cable news preening and digital fundraising.

A new book by Washington Post reporters, “A Very Stable Genius,” recounts in alarming detail how early members of the Trump administration struggled to teach the president the rudiments of the job of commander in chief, only to be rebuffed as “dopes and babies” because they didn’t see our international alliances and military assets as an opportunity to turn a profit. Two years later, he’s surrounded by a coterie happy to let Trump be Trump.

The impeachment drama itself stems from the fact that no one can convince the president that the presidency is more than the whims, desires and ambitions of the person occupying the job.

Unfortunately, the responses from Democrats, much of the media and opponents of the president, although emotionally understandable, have often compounded the damage.

My American Enterprise Institute colleague Yuval Levin has written tellingly about the Trump era: “My rule of thumb … is that every scandal will proceed in whatever way is maximally damaging to public confidence in our core institutions. Each twist and turn and revelation will give everyone on all sides of our politics … just enough reason to believe that their side is in the right, the other side knows it but is corrupt, and the only way to get justice is to recognize that there is no alternative to stretching the norms and rules of our politics a little in this particular case.”

The Washington establishment’s rush to get ahead of the evidence on Trump’s unproven collusion with Russia; the constant exhortation that the only reasons someone might agree with Trump policies are racism, cultism or indebtedness to Vladimir Putin; and the often-voiced determination to impeach Trump before impeachable offenses had materialized might sound like brave resistance to those already converted. But to the unconverted, such rhetoric sounds like evidence of bad faith, warranting more bad faith in response.

Our problems with partisanship and polarization predate Trump’s election, but his presidency has been gasoline on a fire. Trump could have avoided impeachment countless times. Most obviously, he could have not done what he obviously did vis-a-vis Ukraine. Or he could have admitted his error, apologized and taken the steam out of the impeachment train’s boilers.

Instead, because of his low character, he opted to stand by his claims that his actions were “perfect.” As a result, Republicans must now further deform their character to accommodate his and scramble to protect themselves from hearing the truth at his impeachment trial, on the accurate but embarrassing pretext that the Democrats didn’t expose the truth the right way.

Trump could have avoided impeachment had he governed, from the start, as a servant of all Americans, whether they voted for him or not. But that option was no option at all because his character would not allow it. Now we are plunging further into dysfunction because the presidency was never designed for a man who could not comprehend what it means to be presidential.

With help from The Community Market, CMC Vail Valley campus opens no-cost food pantry for students

Thanks to a partnership between The Community Market and Colorado Mountain College Vail Valley, students can now access nutritious food at no cost to them without having to leave campus.

Tuesday, Jan. 14, marked the opening of The Community Market at CMC, a quaint but fully stocked food pantry on the main floor of the Edwards campus.

The Community Market, a project of Eagle Valley Community Foundation, strives to “improve access to healthy food” for everyone in Eagle County.

Bridget Bradford, development assistant and office administrator for EVCF, said the pantry’s opening will help them come closer to meeting that goal.

“Students and staff have been very excited to have a food pantry available,” she said. “We saw lots of smiles and felt the appreciation.”

Filling a need

Over 100 students visited the pantry in the first week alone, Bradford said.

Dr. Marc Brennan, vice president and campus dean of CMC Vail Valley, said the first week’s numbers show that administrators made the right decision in providing additional resources and support to help make the pantry a reality.

“Clearly this is an issue that is affecting our students and, you know, our faculty and our staff are just so totally on board with this because they can also see it’s an issue for our students,” Brennan said.

For now, the pantry will be open Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 3:30-6:30 p.m. in room 114. Brennan said these hours were carefully selected to reflect the times when the largest number of students are on campus at once.

Piper Scherr, daughter of Diana Scherr, the regional development officer for Colorado Mountain College Vail Valley, stands with Susie Davis, director of community impact for the Eagle Valley Charitable Fund.
Special to the Daily

“On Wednesday nights we offer our English as a second language classes,” he said. “So there’s an opportunity there as well to reach more members of the community that we potentially wouldn’t otherwise.”

Fresh and healthy

True to TCM’s values, “about half of the groceries in the pantry are fresh produce, prepared meals and healthy drinks” with non-perishable grocery items making up the other half, Bradford said.

Brennan said he was surprised to learn from The Community Market team that approximately 16 percent of Eagle County residents experience food insecurity. He said that this statistic, combined with the fact that almost all CMC students at the Vail Valley campus live locally, made him realize how important it was to take action.

“To be honest, I was totally surprised,” he said. “When you hear that kind of information, it’s a call to action, isn’t it? And you really want to help in whatever way you can. And realizing I think, at that moment, what an impact this has on our students … it’s huge.”

Dr. Marc Brennan is vice president and campus dean for Colorado Mountain College Vail Valley at Edwards. Brennan said he was surprised to learn from The Community Market team that approximately 16 percent of Eagle County residents experience food insecurity.

The presence of food insecurity amongst CMC students came as no surprise to Bradford, who was a student there herself. She said that, for students, the cost of textbooks and classes is compounded by the heightened cost of living in the valley.

“As a CMC sustainability studies graduate, I’ve experienced and witnessed the need for an on-campus food pantry,” Bradford said. “This gap has been visible for a long time, and thankfully the infrastructure is now in place to feed the need.”

Making connections

Bradford said students were elated to partake once they learned more and met members of the TCM team.

“Students have expressed gratitude, surprise, and even offered themselves up as willing volunteers,” she said. “Several students were already familiar with our warehouse in Gypsum and were happy to see our presence on campus.”

From left, Michael Gonzalez, CMC student and TCM volunteer, stands with William Schmick and Bridget Bradford at the opening of The Community Market’s food pantry at CMC.
Special to the Daily

One such student volunteer is William Schmick, who has been volunteering with The Community Market for quite some time. Schmick said he is happy to serve as lead volunteer and liaison to the CMC community, walking fellow students through the fresh food options in the pantry.

Brennan and Bradford agreed that Schmick has been an important asset to the operation.

“Someone is always there when it is open and Billy [Schmick], one of our students, is often there as well,” Brennan said. “One of the great things about that is it’s just a really great opportunity for making connections.”

Schmick described his role with The Community Market at CMC as “chief encourager to take more,” and agreed with Bradford that the need amongst students goes deeper than many may realize.

“Students are hungry, often between jobs or classes, and purchasing food often means sacrificing health for convenience and affordability,” Schmick said.

Achieving The Community Market’s ambitious goal of improving access to healthy food for everyone in the valley means making healthy food just as affordable and available as the cheap and greasy alternatives, Schmick said.

“While the Community Market does an excellent job reaching throughout the valley, students may find it difficult to arrange their school and work schedules around finding a bus to one of our markets,” he said.

TCM hosts weekly free food markets across the valley from Avon to Dotsero. Placing a similar market in CMC is an innovative way to make good food more accessible to students who need to be properly nourishing their bodies so they can reach their full academic potential, Brennan said.

“The stress that is associated with being hungry or worrying where your next meal will come from is not going to help you in your studies at all,” Schmick said. “We know that people come to CMC because they want to change their lives or improve their lives so we’re just trying to remove any barriers to doing that.”

‘The problem is distribution’

For Schmick, his studies at CMC center around sustainable business. He also works with the zero waste team at Walking Mountains Science Center. Schmick said his passion for green business practices gives him a unique perspective on food waste as it relates to food access.

“I found that, like many places in the U.S., there is plenty of food in the valley. The problem is distribution,” he said. “As a sustainable business student, the externalities resulting from distributional inefficiency interest me.

“The idea that food is scarce is a fiction created by the people wanting you to buy it before you need it, keep it in your fridge and, after it goes bad, throw half of it away.”

According to its website, the majority of TCM’s food is “rescued” from local farms, grocery stores and restaurants where it would have otherwise been wasted.

Volunteering gives Schmick an opportunity to work at the intersection of food systems and food justice, learning from the TCM team and looking for potential solutions in his own community, he said.

“Until the means of producing fresh and healthy food is regarded as a public good and guarded by an understanding that food is a basic human right, The Community Market at CMC will continue to redistribute the valley’s leftovers,” Schmick said.

Schmick said he encourages anyone interested in learning more about these issues to consider volunteering as a way to broaden their sustainability knowledge while also engaging with fellow students and community members in a meaningful way.

“Vail is an incredibly welcoming environment, and it did not take long for me to realize that many of the people that have helped me here need help themselves,” he said. “We all need help — to give it and to receive it, and we all need food, and I think volunteering in an environment where those needs are met is a good and worthwhile use of my time.”

Student volunteers are welcome to reach out to info@eaglevalleycf.org to find out how they can help create a more sustainable culture on campus, Bradford said.

Kelli Duncan is a marketing and volunteer coordinator with The Community Market, a project of Eagle Valley Community Foundation.

Thistlethwaite: Ballots not bullets

Abraham Lincoln famously wrote, in a passionate defense of the Emancipation Proclamation, “It will then have been proved that, among free men, there can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet; and that they who take such appeal are sure to lose their case, and pay the cost.”

The ballot won in Virginia in the fall of 2019, and the thousands of gun-rights advocates who packed the streets around the Virginia Capitol on Monday carrying weapons, bullets, and flags and shouting slogans will not stop the passage of sensible gun legislation in that state.

By large margins, voters in Virginia say they support requiring background checks on all gun sales (86 percent to 13 percent) and passing a “red flag” law to allow guns to be temporarily removed from someone deemed a threat (73 percent to 23 percent), and by a smaller, though still significant margin (54 percent to 44 percent), they back a ban on assault-style weapons.

Moms Demand Action and other groups who favor sensible gun legislation put in the time and they made their case to voters in Virginia. The vast majority of Virginians don’t want to have to live with the fear of gun violence in their state.

Gun rights advocates failed to make their case at the ballot box, so this Monday they tried intimidation instead.

Make no mistake, this was not a “rally” in the sense of citizens marching and voicing their views before the legislature convenes. These attendees meant to show weapons in order to intimidate.

“This sends a strong visual message,” Brandon Lewis — who drove down from Bergen, N.Y., where he owns a shooting range — said, patting his rifle.

Yes, it does. The point of bringing all these weapons to the Virginia Capitol and marching around with them was to bully and intimidate the legislators who will be drafting and voting on this popular legislation.

The many news headlines that said the rally was “peaceful,” therefore, were incorrect. Intimidation in the thousands is not physical violence, it is true, but it is structural violence. Structural violence is the kind of social organization that disproportionately gives one group rights and privileges, while disprivileging other groups. It is also a kind of “psychological warfare” that induces fear.

The crowds at this Virginia “pro-gun” rally, according to observers, were overwhelmingly white, male and older. Can you imagine the police response if thousands and thousands of heavily armed African American men marched on a state capitol? African American men and boys who are unarmed are still shot and killed by police in this country.

It was a travesty to me that this “rally” took place on the holiday dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King led a nonviolent direct action movement for civil rights that was genuinely peaceful as the demonstrators were always unarmed and often were singing religious hymns. And yet Dr. King and the members of this nonviolent movement were routinely beaten, battered with fire hoses, threatened with dogs, arrested and jailed by the police.  

Large numbers of older, white men carrying guns was the “visual message” as Brandon Lewis rightly said, and the message was one of intimidation and the attempt to induce fear. If intimidation was not the goal, gun advocates could have just carried signs advocating their views. Carrying giant guns and lots of ammunition speaks in a different voice. It speaks volumes and what it says is, “Be afraid of us.”

Here’s a recent Vail Valley example. I was shopping in a local food store and came upon a man open-carrying a large gun on his hip. I took my half-filled cart up to the front, informed management why I was leaving, and I went to another store. I felt threatened. I think I was supposed to feel threatened. Suppose he got angry because his bologna was cut too thick and he opened fire? Who knows when a gun is right to hand what could happen, and that includes an accident.

Moms Demand Action has successfully negotiated with larger food chains to ask their patrons to not open-carry guns in their stores. This was announced after several Walmart incidents. I have asked the check-out people at a local food store if they have seen any sign this is having an impact, however, and the few to whom I spoke said not. And one woman who has a relative who works at Walmart mentioned how afraid her relative is these days of the potential for gun violence in stores.

The Virginia legislators have pushed back after this rally. “You will see sensible gun violence prevention legislation pass this year,” Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington), said before heading into a party caucus.

That must be the case. The ballot must win over the bullet for us to have a meaningful democracy.

Romer: Child care’s unintended consequences

Child care is a worsening problem and challenge in Eagle County. The local business community continues to express concerns on the impact of child care on employee retention and attraction, with 57% of local businesses indicating it was a “major problem” or “could be better” in our latest workforce study. Why is this an issue for the broader community?

The long-term benefits of providing affordable, quality care for the children of working parents — and by association, local businesses — cannot be overstated. The 7% to 10% return on early childhood investments create better outcomes in education, health, economic productivity and reduced crime — it makes “good dollars and sense,” according to The Heckman Equation.

Middle-skill workers are core to Eagle County’s economic stability and growth and are in short supply. Approximately 44% of Eagle County workers are considered middle-skill employees. Middle-skill jobs are generally filled by individuals with education and training beyond high school, but do not require a four-year degree. Numerous professional-level jobs fall in this category, including numerous health care, information technology, computer support, and finance industry jobs. In other words, it’s not a tourism industry problem; it is industry agnostic.

Local businesses across the industry sector are challenged to retain current workers and fill open positions. Eagle County’s unemployment rate is under 2%. This unemployment statistic only considers people looking for work or available to go to work. It does not consider individuals who have placed themselves outside the labor pool for personal, educational or other reasons. Without broadening the pool of capable workers, employers in Eagle County are in the position of recruiting employees away from other local employers. 

As a result, local child care shortages contribute to the broader workforce shortage. Limited access to child care often keeps available workers from seeking a job. It is estimated that 1,500 children are without access to the child care that would allow a parent to work. As a result, employers are ultimately paying a price for this child care supply and demand issue.

Consider the excess time, effort and money spent filling open positions in addition to the overtime pay when open positions aren’t filled and the turnover and missed days of work due to childcare issues. In its report, The U.S. and The High Price of Child Care: 2019, ChildCare Aware of America indicates 45% of parents miss work at least once over a six-month period due to child care breakdowns — missing an average of 4.3 days of work.

The good news is that business and community engagement can make a difference. Strong business and community leadership improve the inter-relationship between child care and a stable workforce by creating a broad awareness that child care is an essential service for the current and future workforce.

The business community can help guide Eagle County through the supply and demand challenges of child care as a workforce support. Businesses must recognize and assist with child care’s under-developed business model as it affects working families and child care providers because child care is too expensive for many families — averaging $2,637 a month for two children (e.g. an infant and a toddler).

Join the conversation around child care in the Vail Valley on January 28 from 3:30-5 p.m. at the Miller Ranch Community Room. Learn why this matters and how you can take steps forward in supporting local child care efforts. We’ll hear from an expert panel of human resource professionals, early childhood professionals, workforce experts, and elected officials to identify ways for the business community to engage in this effort — and positively impact your workforce in the process.

Trust Our Land: Does the Poop Fairy hibernate during the winter?

The Tooth Fairy’s cousin, the Poop Fairy, has a much less pleasant job. Traveling far and wide, flying under the cover of darkness in local parks, neighborhoods, and schoolyards around the globe, the Poop Fairy is said to follow behind all dogs to pick up what they leave behind. The mythical fairy’s existence has reassured many pet enthusiasts that cleaning up after one’s dog isn’t worth it.

Unfortunately, both the number of poop piles and community complaints has grown, leading to three potential theories: Either the Poop Fairy isn’t doing its job well, it is hibernating for the winter, or there is no Poop Fairy at all (gasp!).

Dog waste doesn’t biodegrade in the same way that wild animal waste does. We feed our furry friends food that is fundamentally different from the food of their wild counterparts. Because of this, our dog’s waste biodegrades at a much slower rate than wild animal poop. This abundance of feces in our community has many unfortunate impacts.

Dog waste pollutes many of the ecosystems we enjoy on a daily basis. While slowly decomposing, dog poop contaminates groundwater, creeks, rivers, and entire riparian areas via snowmelt, spring run-off and summer rains. Dog waste also attracts hungry wildlife to our sidewalks, street crossings, and backyards, increasing the chance of negative human-wildlife interactions. 

There is no Poop Fairy. We, as community members, are responsible for picking up after our animals.

“It may be unpleasant, but doing the right thing and picking up our dog’s poop, even when nobody’s looking, helps protect the lands and rivers that sustain our community,” said Jessica Foulis, the new executive director of the Eagle Valley Land Trust.

So, remember to bring a bag whenever you walk your dog, pick up your dog’s poop, and throw it away with your trash. Unfortunately, there isn’t a fairy that will collect and throw away bagged poop from the side of any trail in Eagle County, either.

Just as important, please encourage others to pick up their dog’s waste. If your dog happens to do its business near an abandoned poop that the mythical fairy missed, consider channeling your inner conservation warrior and scooting over to pick up that abandoned poop too.

This good-karma acquiring process is paramount at parks and dedicated open spaces that are seeing more and more use every day.

“Empowering our neighbors and all residents of Eagle County to hold each other responsible for cleaning up after our pets is one way to tackle this stinky situation,” said Peter Suneson, the outreach and education specialist for Eagle County Open Space. “But we’re always accepting applications for the local Poop Fairy position.”

Conserving the lands, rivers, and natural resources that our community cares so much about is a big process. Dog poop, though it seems innocent enough, can undermine the time and resources that our community has invested in protecting our natural environment. Will you join us in dispelling the Poop Fairy myth and protecting the lands that our community depends on?

The Eagle Valley Land Trust is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the open spaces, wildlife habitats, and scenic vistas that we love … forever. To learn more about EVLT’s conservation work, visit www.evlt.org or email info@evlt.org.

School Views: In pursuit of dreams

Public education has been under political attack arguably since the 1950s. Several ideas came together in the minds of politicians and big business that concluded arguing over education could win elections, enrich shareholders, and influence the future.

Our nation’s founders saw the potential harm in this reality and intentionally held education apart as a local control issue for states and communities to decide. Today, layers upon layers of federal and state requirements and programs place an administrative load on schools that increase operational complexity well beyond the art and science of teaching. It complicates the answering of a simple question: “What is the purpose of school?”

I’m going to argue that our purpose is to be dream makers. Yes, our work is on reading, writing, and arithmetic. We teach science, art, drama, and sports, history, languages, and music. We take children from all walks of life, create high expectations for their individual success, and guide them through 13 years of education and social development so they can succeed. We ignite curiosity, fuel confidence, protect innocence, create joy, feed intelligence, soften sadness, stimulate creativity, all while preparing children to cross the threshold into adulthood. We want them ready to pursue their happiness.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character — that is the true goal of education.” His words were prophetic.

Today, we’re still working on both characteristics — developing intelligence and character. Our efforts to increase culturally responsive teaching and foster equitable youth stewardship focus on character. Dual language education is all about intelligence — building better brains.

AVID, an instructional program aimed at first-generation college prospects, addresses both, so students are ready to meet the mental demands of college with the persistence and navigational knowledge to succeed in the institution. Our International Baccalaureate schools embed character development into their curriculum to teach the whole child.

Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) programs use project-based problem solving that works better from some learners. Teachers and support staff members are doing amazing work in support of the holistic growth students experience between the ages of 5 and 18.

But, back to the “why.” Our founders had a dream. It wasn’t perfect and benefits from continuous improvement. MLK improved on that dream — that all people would one day have access to the American Dream, to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

As a nation, we’re still working on Dr. King’s dream. Let’s neither overlook how far we’ve come since 1963 nor deny how far we have yet to go in 2020. Dreams have a way of overlapping and intersecting. MLK’s dream, the American dream, the dreams of millions of students right now.

And, our valley has its dream: “What a community can do out of love for its children.” You see it in our philanthropy, the nonprofits serving kids, and the support of tax initiatives to fund and operate our schools.

Our Founders had the idea that everyone should have the fundamental right to pursue their own dreams in accordance with their own unique skills, abilities, and efforts. Since its framing, we’ve recognized that their original concept of “all men” was incomplete, and as a nation, we continuously work to be more inclusive.

The dream is what fuels the nation. Education is what fuels the dream. Let’s never forget that we’re dream makers, and that is the immeasurable purpose of our work.

Dan Dougherty is the chief communications officer for Eagle County Schools. Email him at daniel.dougherty@eagleschools.net.

Noble: Every vote really does count

My friend Danielle ran for Northglenn City Council in 2017. I followed her campaign on social media as she knocked on doors and connected with voters. What I knew of Danielle I learned from a class we took together and she impressed me as just the kind of person I would want as an elected official — smart, informed on the issues, kind, and caring. Hers was a race that taught me that the phrase “every vote counts” is more than just a cliché.

When the votes were counted she and her opponent tied at 642 votes each. A recount did not change the results. A slip of paper fished out of a bowl determined that Danielle’s opponent was the winner. Thus it was chance that decided the outcome of the election, not the voters.

Danielle’s was not the only race decided in a similar manner. That year the Virginia House of Delegates race between Sarah Simmonds and David Yancy, with more than 11,000 votes cast also ended in a tie. It was Yancy’s name that was drawn to break the tie. Simmonds again challenged Yancy in 2019 and this time prevailed thanks to the will of the voters, not the fates.

Admittedly, examples abound of inaccurate claims where one vote swayed the course of history. A visit to Snopes.com debunks many of the most persistent of these claims such as one vote gave Oliver Cromwell control of England in 1645 or that one vote resulted in America choosing English over German as the national language. However, close tallies do occur, even in presidential races.

While we have never had a tie in a presidential election, we have had presidential races that were amazingly close. In 1960 John F. Kennedy beat Richard Nixon by 120,000 votes out of more than 68 million votes cast. Who could forget the saga of the hanging chads from the 2000 matchup between George W. Bush and Al Gore? Gore would garner approximately 500,000 more votes nationwide than Bush, but lost in the electoral college 271-266.

Which brings us to 2016 and how Donald Trump managed to win the White House while losing the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes. Four states that went for Obama in 2012 flipped to red in 2016 — Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida, and Wisconsin. In each of these states the margin was close — less than 2%. In fact, the election of 2016 was effectively decided by about 107,000 votes, less than in 1960 despite the number of votes cast nearly doubling to more than 128,000,000 votes.

Colorado has an engaged citizenry with one of the highest voter turnouts in the country. In 2016 Colorado had the third-highest voter turnout in the nation, with only Wisconsin and Maine edging us out. Mississippi was dead last. What might account for the difference? Generally, states with the highest voter turnout make it easier to vote, while states with the lowest voter turnout make it difficult.

Consider that since 2010, 25 states have made it harder to vote. Restrictions include cutting back on early voting, more onerous voter ID requirements, and fewer polling places. What did these states have in common? Virtually every single one is a red state. Fortunately, we live in a progressive state that does just the opposite. Mail-in ballots in addition to polling places attempt to accommodate everyone’s schedules and preferences.

The first ballots of the 2020 election season will be mailed in just a few weeks. We have the opportunity to vote three times this year — on March 3 in the presidential primary, on June 30 in the primary for state assembly and federal congressional candidates, and in the general election on Nov 3.

Elections have consequences that impact everyone — whether it is environmental legislation, infrastructure investment or judicial appointments. The right to vote has evolved since the founding of our nation. While it did not make it into the Bill of Rights, it was subsequently mentioned five times in other amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Eighteenth-century statesman Edmund Burke observed, “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.” It may only be one vote, but your vote counts, now more than ever.