Telluride’s annual Fourth of July celebration is a time when the community draws together, along with thousands of visitors and seasonal residents, to celebrate our national independence and the many blessings of our life in this country and this community. Amid the crowds, noise, barbecue smoke, and rockets red glare of ceremonial fireworks, hopefully, we all took a moment to reflect on the things that make living in this community so very special.
The town, like the nation, faces many economic, social and environmental challenges that give skeptics and pundits much to gab about in the media, online and in the coffeehouses. Our local, state, and national representatives wrestle with problems that seem to grow faster than our ability to find solutions. On one hand, our economy and our environment seem fragile to the point of breaking, but on the other hand, history tells us another story of a nation and its many communities constantly and consistently overcoming obstacle after obstacle for more than 230 years in the name of tolerance, diversity, peace and prosperity.
As much as we in Telluride like to think we are unique and independent from many of the problems of the nation and the world, the current economic decline has reminded this community that we are a part of a greater nation. While our isolation and natural beauty allow us environmental luxuries many people can only dream of, we have come to understand our local environment is but a part of a greater concern. The same isolation that allows us an independence of spirit may be similar to the emotions our founding fathers felt as they broke the reins of colonial occupation and felt their way cautiously forward as a new and independent nation.
Typically, the Mayor’s State of the Town Address, required as a part of our town charter, lists the various accomplishments of our local government over the past six months, as well as some of the challenges facing our community. This year, while there have been many accomplishments, and clearly there are many challenges ahead, particularly in the areas of economic recovery and environmental rehabilitation, I feel it is more important to address our community fabric and spirit in what have become very difficult economic circumstances that question the ability of some of our community members to make a living and remain in Telluride.
Recently, many of us attended the Telluride Foundation’s presentation entitled Alternative Futures. We were shown several possible views of the future of our region. It was sobering. We have options in front of us to deal with our immediate future, as well as the future that will exist 20-50 years from now. Doing nothing is making a decision to allow existing development patterns to continue. Working collaboratively with San Miguel County and other municipalities, in creating more proactive land use code changes, will help to protect not only our environment but our ability to be sustainable both economically and culturally. President Obama just made a public statement that is totally applicable for Telluride during these times. He said, “We can either shape our future or we can let events shape it for us.” I believe it is time for us to shape our future!
What does that future hold for Telluride? We need to work in a collaborative fashion with others to resolve the challenges facing us. They are common issues. What we do in Telluride affects people within and outside of our County. For example, the Mayor of Mountain Village, Bob Delves and I joined in the Telluride Renewed Energy Challenge to our regional community. We have asked San Miguel Power Association to sponsor a Mayoral Forum with nine different municipalities that share many of our challenges and concerns. Our goal is to see if we can work together on housing, transportation, food supplies, energy and other similar issues, wherever it is appropriate. It is our hope that the Intergovernmental Meetings, now held quarterly, will become more of a vehicle where we can discuss not only what has happened, but what we can co-operatively work on for our future. We need to move beyond worrying about who sets our agenda and begin to work as a team in solving our economic, environmental, cultural and social issues, after all, shouldn’t these truly be the agenda for all of us?
In time, Telluride will recover from the current economic downturn and will once again prosper. The recovery in our community will not come from checks from Washington, but will instead come from within – through hard work, smart investing for the future, and careful planning. We will assume ownership of our challenges and not expect they will be taken care of by others. It will also come through protecting our community’s core values, by completing new, desirable and affordable housing opportunities for our local workforce, improving our environment by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and expendable natural resources, and by working together politically on a plan that progressively moves this community toward a better economic balance between its own resources and the resources of our visitors and seasonal residents. With the ownership of our challenges, comes the responsibility to deal with them through planning, not just for today, but for all of our futures. It means stepping forward and looking ahead, not avoiding difficult decisions, but rather putting in place the foundation that will provide for stability for all of us, and will also provide confidence for our family members, friends and guests.
As a council we can disagree, but as a council, it is my hope that we can look at the bigger picture and through those wider lenses, work towards taking advantage of everything that Telluride has to offer, as well as what we have to offer our neighbors and our visitors. I would like to renew my pledge to this community, and hopefully my fellow council members will agree, that while the state of the Town of Telluride is challenging right now, we are all dedicated to working hard to help return Telluride to more prosperous times, while remaining sensitive to the inclusive and independent spirit of our community.