Commissioner Padgett Represents Ouray County and Colorado at 2010 NACo Legislative Conference
Ouray County BOCC Chair, Lynn Padgett, attended the 2010 National Association of Counties' (NACo) Legislative Conference along with 47 other Colorado county commissioners, council members and county employees in Washington, D.C. March 5-10. The Colorado contingent were attending as representatives of their local county governments which are all members of Colorado Counties, Inc. (CCI).
Conference attendees from Colorado helped shape NACo's policy positions, shape federal legislation to benefit local governments, heard the latest federal legislative updates, attended several workshops on federal policy and programs presented by federal agencies and partners, and visited every member of Colorado's congressional delegation.
NACo represents 2,350 counties across the country and has been important in educating and lobbying the federal government and legislators on key issues affecting counties. It has been the voice of America's counties since 1935. In the last 75 years it has been effective in promoting the concerns of counties on federal issues.
This year, Colorado's counties had a strong presence in NACo's 11 policy-setting steering committees. The committees met March 6-7, and wrestled with everything from their position on cap and trade legislation to immigration reform. Colorado representatives introduced and successfully passed 4 resolutions on matters important to Colorado and their communities. Colorado commissioners led discussions about federal wilderness legislation and supporting the process used by Congressmen Salazar and Udall to solicit local input in developing their bills, as well as unintended consequences of recent efforts to assess and control fire risks on public lands. Colorado’s strong presence and key role was also noted in a discussion about the reauthorization of forest payment funding (PILT). Colorado's conference attendees also briefed Colorado's congressional delegation on 6 priority issues during meetings on Capitol Hill on March 10.
Commissioner Padgett attended a day-long advanced leadership seminar "Leadership in a Changing World: Keeping Local Government Relevant." This seminar focused on community networking strategies, working with stakeholders, managing the budget process and prioritizing, fostering productive relationships between elected officials and staff, and finally maximizing community resources by utilizing citizen advisory boards effectively. "I was impressed that all of the professionals at my table had at least a decade of experience as elected officials or staff. Two-thirds of the attendees were elected officials, mostly commissioners, and one-third were county administrators and county managers. This allowed for a range of seasoned perspectives from the lenses of elected officials who are policy makers and staff who are implementers. Everyone in the seminar was extremely dedicated to their role as public servants and wanted to remain engaged and challenged."
Commissioner Padgett participated in steering committees, which policies are framed and voted on, for CCI, and the Environment, Energy and Land Use Steering Committee. Steering committee membership is considered to be a serious commitment. Members are expected to be active participants in discussions and work to influence federal policies being developed by the Administration and Congress.
Commissioner Padgett also attended several educational sessions held March 8-9, on topics ranging from regional planning and development with emphasis on sustainable communities programs, transportation issues, budget issues, TANF reauthorization, USDA programs, energy, and climate change. "I took a lot of notes and collected key web sites, fact sheets, CD-ROMs, and contacts to bring home to our commissioners, administrator, and department heads. I strengthened our relationships with the other counties that attended. The San Juan Mountain region had a strong presence on the Public Lands and Environment, Energy, and Land Use Steering Committees and workshops. These are the two steering committees with the most controversial subjects, and perhaps the most difference between east and west, small and large. It is important that we are able to speak up for arid, small and really rural counties with significant public lands. I listened at one workshop where a federal agency described rural as those counties with less than 500,000 people. Maybe that is rural in Ohio, but not Colorado or many other of our western states.
It is important for the federal agencies to know who is not going to be able to qualify for grants and incentive programs that have that kind of definition of rural. Between commissioners from the San Juan region who represented Ouray, San Miguel, and La Plata counties (Elaine Fischer, Art Goodtimes, and Wally White), and others from counties like Garfield, Clear Creek, and Summit--we definitely spoke up for the small, rural, mountainous, water-challenged, and public lands-rich counties and advocated for federal policies that would be favorable, not detrimental, to us. The Colorado Big 11 counties, like Boulder, Denver, El Paso, Douglas, and Broomfield are great, but they shouldn't be the only ones at the table. Many times their frame of reference and realities are very different from ours."
Commissioner Padgett spent over 9 hours in congressional meetings on March 10. A multi-partisan group of 20-30 Colorado county representatives met with Senators Bennett and Udall, and Representatives Polis, Salazar, Perlmutter, Coffman, Lamborn, DeGette, and Markey. Padgett reports, "It was a very productive and long day. We listened to our Senators and Representatives, and spoke on our list of the top 6 subjects voted on by Colorado counties. I also discussed the proposed Red Mountain Initiative with our congressional representatives and their staffers. This initiative would bring $20 million in improvements and deferred maintenance projects to the National Forest lands in our county. The components of this initiative would enhance our local economy by promoting and expanding recreational opportunities in our Red Mountain district area--thus attracting new visitors; and also by immediately providing local contractors work constructing the improvements to camping facilities and the Crystal Lake Dam, restoring historic sites and creating interpretive materials."
The 6 priority issues discussed were based on the results of a CCI survey of member commissioners: 1. Transportation, 2. Renewable Energy, 3. Public Lands, 4. Clean Water Act, 5. Cap and Trade/Climate Change Legislation and 6. Unfunded Federal Mandates.
On transportation, the Colorado county representatives advocated for stable and long-term transportation funding. Commissioners also highlighted concerns over deficient on-system and off-system bridges and the challenges small and medium sized counties encountered trying to satisfy the 'shovel-ready' project criteria required under the stimulus bill. On energy, they highlighted successful renewable energy projects occurring in their communities. They also stressed that if Colorado wants to be an exporter of renewable energy, the state must have an adequate transmission infrastructure. On public lands, representatives delivered a message of 'thank you' to our congressional members for fully funding PILT until 2012. The Colorado commissioners emphasized the types of projects they support using the $28 million/year in PILT funding that Colorado's counties receive.
On the Clean Water Act, the Colorado commissioners recognized the differing opinions that exist among CCI's member counties on this issue yet expressed concerns about the implications of broadening the purview of the Clean Water Act. A similar message of respect for the varying opinions among CCI's members on cap and trade initiatives was relayed. The Colorado commissioners stressed, however, that counties want to be at the table for conversations regarding cap and trade initiatives and that CCI opposes legislative actions that are not based on sound science and fail to protect the competitive position of American producers.
Finally, CCI members reminded the Colorado Senators and members of the House of Representatives of the longstanding opposition of county governments to unfunded mandates. To emphasize this point, commissioners cited caseload growth in human services and the impact stimulus funding had in providing benefits to eligible clients without the corresponding financial support for counties which must process and administer the increase in applicants.
"Because both our Colorado County association, CCI and NACo, are such strong organizations it is important that Ouray County and counties with similar characteristics and issues are at the table. The only way to shape federal and state policies which have direct effects on county government is to participate in a very active and informed way. We must be seen and heard. The knowledge, energy, and passion of the commissioners and staff who attend this conference from across the country is a huge resource. It is impossible for commissioners and staff to know all of the cutting-edge approaches to budgeting, planning, communicating, and governing being utilized across the country. This is a great way to meet counties with similar challenges and innovative solutions. Peer collaboration, that is using networks to concur on critical issues and lobby together, gives us the best odds of having decent, not detrimental, legislation, policies and programs that will impact local governments and citizens. Name recognition is another benefit. More than a handful of new acquaintances I made on this trip say they will be planning a trip to Ouray County sometime in the near future."
March 2010 News
March 2010 Letter to Citizens
March is going by fast! I went to Washington, D.C. for a little more than a week. You can read all about my adventures on this press release.
I have been keeping busy trying to keep our BOCC workshops on Section 9 (Visual Impact) of our Land Use Code moving along. You can see the latest hand outs and a GIS presentation I gave on March 16 on this site.
I have been working with a group of county commissioners, administrators and local Public Health department heads on forming a new Colorado Association of Local Boards of Health. This would be an organization dedicated to providing resources, education, technical assistance and advocacy for Local Boards of Heath across the state. In Colorado, the Board of County Commissioners often sit as the Local Board of Health. Many of us do not have public health backgrounds. The last thing any County Commissioners want is another organization that will require significant dues from the County and significant time to attend meetings. This organization is being formed to be respectful of both of those difficulties. Meetings would be held in conjunction with other conferences (summer and winter) that are most likely to be already attended by commissioners, administrators, and public health department heads across the state. Dues are anticipated to be only $50-70/year for the county.
This organization would fill 2 gaps: 1. gap of resources and information for Local Board of Health members to make informed decisions and wade through very a very complex regulatory regime, and 2. gap of an organized voice of County Local Boards of Health to weigh in on specific legislation being contemplated by our State legislature. We need a direct conduit to the state decision makers and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
I am trying to get more up to speed with the numerous programs being rolled out by the U.S. Department of Agriculture aimed at sustainable and livable communities and rural economic development. I am also looking into a very exciting prescription discount program which would be free for all county residents.
Also in March, I helped facilitate a very interesting discussion between our local Forest Service District, the county, and citizen groups who hold events such as snowshoe tours or a running race on county roads surrounded by U.S. National Forest. We had this discussion with other county commissioners in Montrose at the Public Lands Partnership meeting.