My Candidate Platform, March 2020
Updated: Mar 5
A platform should answer: what do you plan to keep, fix, replace and/or repair? My platform is below and I will refine it as the campaign unfolds. I have been a candidate since 2/19 and have attended over 125 meetings and conducted 46 listening sessions. So, these plans and proposals are based on much listening, research, and thinking. I will work for a better quality of life for everyone. What "quality of life" means is very different for each of us. I define it as healthier people, pocket books and place.
1. Grow an Economy that works across La Plata County
We need to grow and bring good jobs to La Plata County. People define a "good job" in many ways. I define it as a job that contributes to a good quality of life. The County cannot and does not grow our economy alone. Therefore, effective participation and linking with organizations currently working on these issues is crucial including but not limited to: La Plata Economic Development Alliance, Region 9 Economic Development District, local chambers of commerce, SCAPE, Local First, Fort Lewis College’s new Innovation Center, and the Small Business Development Center. If elected, I will:
o Ensure the County’s current focus on an updated Land Use Code is successful, implemented, and refined as necessary. This includes supporting the concept of "growth hubs”, areas for streamlined and smooth economic development compatible with surrounding areas. This also includes ensuring businesses are able to navigate the planning process in a much less cumbersome and costly fashion. Getting to a "yes" or a "no" should happen in an efficient, transparent manner while respecting all interests or legal issues involved.
o I support the work to establish area(s) for light industrial and manufacturing. Far too many businesses cannot grow or expand because our county lacks appropriate places for this type of development.
o We must keep our airport strong and vibrant. I am closely following the current planning process to upgrade the terminal. Read a recent blog here: https://www.marshaporternorton.com/post/safe-flying-this-season-a-blog-about-our-airport
o I support the Southwest Council of Government's efforts, as well as those taken by the private sector, to expand broadband internet access. Too many county residents lack basic internet access.
Through these solutions and more, we must find ways to diversify our economy. The natural gas sector is here and is not going away but production is not what it used to be (i.e, 50% a decline from '10-'18). The tourism sector is strong. We need to grow jobs for the future in the creative arts and outdoor recreation sectors, agriculture and forestry product development, light-clean manufacturing, needed health care services, and renewable energy.
And finally, documented shortages in workforce housing, health care access, transit and childcare dramatically impact economic development. These challenges are not the County's alone to solve but where the County can play a feasible role(s), I will support doing more.
2. Provide Adequate & Excellent County Services
With our county projected to grow to 70,000 people by 2030 (Source: State Demographer), we must plan for the future and determine how to provide the County Government services that will be necessary.
I will work with my fellow Commissioners to engage residents in budget policy questions. This is especially important since two recent ballot questions have failed that would have raised the property tax mill levy, currently the 4th lowest in Colorado.
We must find ways to engage with and hear from residents regarding what levels of services they want from County Government, and what they see as choices and options for the future. It is also vital we keep the work of the Long Term Finance Committee front and center. All revenue ideas should be kept on the table along with expense cutting ideas although the County has done substantial trimming in the past years as market forces have resulted in less natural gas production.
3. Ensure More Affordable Housing
Many in the workforce, young people and seniors on fixed incomes are getting priced out. Close to 50% of county residents lack enough qualifying income to buy a home. We need to put more tools in our tool kit.
o I call for an updated county-wide Affordable Housing Plan to be completed within one year of me taking office (note: this will require a positive vote of the Commission + identifying funds and capacity). This plan, I hope, can involve the municipalities, the Tribe (if they wish), housing groups and economic development interests, and residents.
o This plan can detail ways to put more “tools” in our tool kit; set benchmarks; and should encourage targeted, realistic action and collaboration. It can also sum up, in one place, what is happening now (which should be noted and applauded).
o The issue of homelessness in our county is related to housing and many other complex factors. I support the strategic plan recently completed that was funded by the City of Durango and La Plata County. It's a good framework for action.
o I will speak up for affordable housing in as many ways as I can. It’s a pressing need, some say a crisis.
4. Increase Safety & Respond to a Changing Climate
Southwest Colorado is getting hotter and drier impacting everyone. We need to increase our capacity to respond to droughts, wildfires and flooding. We also need to address forest health in our watersheds since that is where our water comes from...
o I support the Wildfire Adapted partnership, a group that helps residents prepare for wildfire and mitigate their properties.
o I support the County assisting, where feasible and possible, implementation of action items in local Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPPs).
o The County needs to continue its effective work to help residents impacted by flooding. The tools currently being used can be used in other areas if they are ever impacted by burn scar flooding (i.e. such as near Hermosa).
o The County needs to continue to engage in collaborative discussions, including with land and water management entities, about water availability and quality and also engage in important groups such as the Bonita Peak Superfund Project (through the Citizens Advisory Group), the Animas River Forum, and the new Rocky Mountain Restoration Initiative, etc.
You can read my blog on wildfire here: https://www.marshaporternorton.com/post/wildfire-all-hands-on-deck
5. Be a model for Modern/Clean Energy
Our society is moving to renewable energy very quickly as the costs come down. Most most people have a desire to reduce carbon. My vision is that we become the leader among all Western Slope communities in this area while recognizing a need for energy reliability and diversity. In the midst of the range of ideas and issues, I will:
o Look for ways the County can get more involved in this issue and be a voice for a cleaner, modern energy future. I welcome all ideas.
o As funds are available, the County can make its buildings and fleets more energy efficient. This could include, like what other counties are doing, placing solar panels on county buildings in a public/private model.
o The land use permitting of renewable energy facilities (i.e. solar, hydro or wind), is another action step and should be as smooth as possible while honoring nearby neighbors, land use plans and safety.
o I will ask the question (often): How can we move the energy conversation to growing good jobs? It is important to note that natural gas is a long-term bridge fuel necessary for renewable energy expansion so that sector plays a significant role.
6. Take Care of Land, Air and Water
Public lands, water and landscapes are valued by all. Protection and stewardship of these resources is a priority and I will:
o ...stand stand up for public lands, and clean air and water. As things come before the County, I will utilize my background in this area as a professional facilitator with skills in forging common ground to make good decisions, to be fair, and to recognize the varied interests at stake.
o I support reduction of the methane cloud above our area. It is a threat to public health.
o I support the latest policies the County passed to ensure new developments prove adequate water.
o I support an updated Land Use Code and will look forward to the new code which I hope is done by September of 2020. It will place more tools in our tool kit for managing growth while also respecting property rights and neighborhood values. I have read the new and newly-updated 10 District Area plans. They are not perfect and the process could have been smoother. That said, they are important advisory tools for informing land use decisions.
7. Healthy people = healthy communities
I will be a voice and an advocate for things that help us all be healthier including supporting the San Juan Basin Health Department, the La Plata Senior Center, and the Veterans' Services Office. As a 10 year 4-H Member in my youth, I know the programs offered by CSU Extension are vitally important for our youth. I will support funding for organizations that address crucial needs provided the funds are used wisely and outcomes are documented. Below and on the "My Blogs" section of my Web site, you will find much more detail. For example, I have published blogs on public health and law enforcement (i.e., Sheriff's Office). And, look for new blogs on affordable housing and homelessness soon.
Getting things done requires experience, proven leadership, and a demonstrated ability to work with all kinds of partners and sectors. A County Commissioner does not work alone. There are two other elected Commissioners, a County Manager, 12 departments, and over 40 boards and commissions, and a County Attorney. There are also six other elected officials including, the Assessor, County Clerk, Sheriff, Surveyor, Treasurer, and Coroner. There are numerous citizen groups too and this county has a very engaged public. Let's get to work!
Note: I will update this blog with new ideas and proposals so check back.
Marsha for Commissioner Proven Leadership! You can help me work for healthier communities and a good quality of life for all by joining my campaign.
Want to learn more about my positions and thoughts? Check out my past blogs:
1. What does a Commissioner do? https://www.marshaporternorton.com/post/so-what-does-a-commissioner-do
2. Law enforcement and the Sheriff's Office: https://www.marshaporternorton.com/post/healthy-safety-and-welfare-job-1
4. Elections and the County Clerk's Office: https://www.marshaporternorton.com/post/the-county-clerk-s-office-more-than-meets-the-eye
A note on pictures: All pictures taken by Marsha Porter-Norton unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved. Including a picture does not indicate an endorsement.