Brief by Marcia Darnell
Regional action – September 1999 – Colorado Central Magazine
Action 22 sets a regional agenda
by Marcia Darnell
Compromise and wide-angle views were the order of the day as the committees of Action 22 got down to specific issues on Aug. 14.
The political collective, patterned after Club 20, was formed at a flag-waving, band-playing, check-writing shindig in February. The group aims to increase the legislative pull of 22 counties in central and southern Colorado by creating “a single unified voice on issues of mutual concern to Southern Colorado counties.”
In June, county caucuses met to elect board members and decide on specific issues for the committees to consider. The original committees — economic development, tourism, transportation, and agriculture/public lands — met, as did the new ones, natural resources, education, and health and human services.
I signed up for the transportation committee, because I’m irritated that my town, Alamosa, has an airport capable of handling 727s, yet if I want to fly anywhere besides Denver, I have to drive three or four hours before getting on a plane. A flight to Las Vegas takes far less time than getting to the airport.
Of course, I wasn’t the only one at the committee meeting with a single-issue agenda. Two members of the railroad workers’ union were there, as were mayors, county commissioners and others worried about highways.
And highways were the main course at the meeting. The committee had listed 26 issues to consider, all but one of which concerned roads. The railroad guys lobbied for more track, pointing out that a line from Trinidad to Colorado Springs (Hey, there’s already track there!) would not only cut down on l-25 congestion, but provide an affordable way for farmers to ship their crops.
After the initial flurry of we-want-this stumping, the committee took a broad view. Obviously, focusing on a few issues gives Action 22 more lobbying power. Taking a leaf from Club 20’s book, we’ll prioritize and re-prioritize every six months. Every issue will be pressed with the legislature, in time.
After two hours, the committee hammered out a five-point plan of attack:
— U.S. 50 should be widened to four lanes from Kansas to Action 22’s western border (Gunnison County). The intersection of U.S. 50 and 1-25 should be redesigned and rebuilt.
— CDOT funding for U.S. 285 should be reinstated.
— The railroad line mentioned above.
— Increase air service to rural areas (not just ski areas).
— Research and funding of intermodal projects. (In other words, highways, rail and airlines).
The meeting ended on a good note. Issues were defined, decisions made, and members took a broad view that may actually get things done. We also decided to get representatives from CDOT and the state transportation committee to future meetings, to define how decisions are made and priorities are set.
Richard Nagley, board member from Costilla County, seemed impressed.
“I’m surprised by the progress that’s been made thus far,” he said.
Clarke Becker from Teller County helped start Action 22 and serves as its chairman-elect.
“I think the important thing that people learned today is to focus on a more general view,” Becker said. “Central Colorado cities themselves couldn’t get anything done. Collectively, we can.”
Becker, who lives in Woodland Park, added that Central Colorado will benefit from this session’s key issues.
“Highways 50 and 285 are the main routes through central Colorado,” he said. “If we can get some attention to those corridors, that will benefit Central Colorado.”
The issues will be presented to Action 22’s board of directors by Sept. 3. The board meeting and membership meeting for this legislative session will be Sept. 17 and 18 in Colorado Springs. For information on the meeting or Action 22, call Cathy Garcia at 719-561-1496 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marcia Darnell lives and writes — and would like to fly to and from — Alamosa. She’s a member of Action 22.