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  • Writer's pictureMarsha for Commissioner

On Polarization and How We Fix It: Listening

Updated: Sep 1, 2020

We are living in a time when sadly, political polarization is at an all-time high. It seems that everywhere you turn, there is something happening that rips a person or a group apart. Some polls show that people hate the “other side” more than they love their country. That is wrong and is one of the reasons I am running for office. Check out the video I just released on this topic:

One way we get out of this mess is listening and that is what my profession as a public issues facilitator is all about...I listened to people when co-chairing a 2005 effort to ensure local highways, Fort Lewis College and K-12 schools got adequate State money. This effort was called Referendum C, a ballot question. Because of our local bipartisan coalition, we got the 2nd highest affirmative vote of 64 counties in Colorado when it passed.

I also listened for years to members of the Hermosa Creek Workgroup when our efforts resulted in 11 points of consensus that formed the basis of successful bi-partisan federal legislation in 2014. The picture below is at a community celebration with US Senator Michael Bennett, D, and US Congressman Scott Tipton, R. I hope two members of this group are resting in peace, Ed Zink and Steve Fearn.

Hermosa Creek Workgroup Drafting Committee and Elected Officials: 12/14.

Field trip in 2010, Lower Hermosa.

You can read the full Hermosa Creek Workgroup's report here:

For years, I put a lot of miles on my car and listened to people for a project called the Dolores River Restoration Partnership, which is restoring the river from below McPhee Dam to Moab. "Take the Tamarisk Out!" was an informal motto of our group that involved 6 counties; 2 States (UT and CO); 4 BLM offices; and 100s of scientists, land owners, public lands managers, and youth workers from Conservation Corps.

DRRP Meeting in Moab, 2010.

It took a lot of patience and listening to co-chair the Community Health Action Coalition. Beginning in 2001 and for years, the 'CHAC' did everything imaginable to make sure more primary care was available for seniors. Back then, Valley Wide Health Systems had left La Plata County leaving 1000s without care. We ran a county-wide ballot effort that failed but set the stage and community support to get a Federally Qualified Healthcare Center (FQHC). So now, regardless of your ability to pay or your age, there is a health center available.

I listened for nearly 10 years facilitating the Southwest Trails Roundtable where trail advocates, both for quiet and motorized use, worked together with public land managers to improve trails and trail etiquette, and create partnerships of many kinds.

It also took years of listening and going over Red Mountain Pass once/month to facilitate the Gunnison Public Lands Initiative. The diverse group of interests crafted a public lands bill that as of August, 2020 is headed to Congress for consideration culminating 8 years of work! It balances motorized and nonmotorized uses, protects wildlife habitat, grazing and water development, and, it will help that county's local economy since outdoor recreation is a big growth sector.

Public issues facilitation in action (MP-N lower right). GPLI Meeting.

I have endorsers from all sectors of the county. I think these people are willing to put their name on my Web site because they know I listen. For example, I worked with current Commissioner Julie Westendorff in the early days of the Animas River Community Forum, a group that convened when the river was a sickening orange color from the mine spill.

I earned the endorsement of former Commissioner Wally White because he served on the Hermosa Creek Workgroup when in office. I worked with former Commissioner Josh Joswick when I facilitated the "Eight Corners Solutions Committee" where we got agreement on the highway intersection design. Note: this is in Bayfield where Hwy. 160 and CR 501 meet and yes, if you count, there are indeed 8 corners! As volunteers, former Commissioner Bob Lieb and I were on a group that met for years called “It’s About Kids” and we worked to better the lives of children by advocating for kids to the State Legislature.

Regardless of your party or lack thereof, together, we can unite to solve problems and help the common good. With so many people in La Plata County registered as Unaffiliated, I am dedicated to listening to this group and engaging them as much as I possibly can in our political process. It takes listening and then leading which is much easier to say than to do. But, it's the way we heal our democracy.

I hope I can earn your vote this fall.

Marsha Porter-Norton, D, for La Plata County Commissioner

Proven leadership for healthy communities and a strong economy

Engage, Donate and Volunteer here:

Contact me here: or 970-403-5680

Facebook: Marsha for Commissioner@MPNfortheWIN

Read my platform here:

Vote your Values. Vote for Marsha.

Note: Mention of any group does not indicate an endorsement. All pictures in this blog were taken before COVID-19.

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