County Variance Request Could Serve As A State Model

~ by Rick Langenberg ~

We at TMJ have often criticized many local officials.

But at the same time, we like to offer praise when our elected leaders take the right course of action.

Such is the situation with the recent comprehensive variance request, put together by the Teller County Commissioners, to free our region from many of the stifling state COVID-19 restrictions. The variance request represented an excellent package, culminating much teamwork from a variety of local and regional agencies,

Governor Jared Polis has refused to allow casinos to open

key officials, government staffers, politicians, citizens and more. We certainly hope our fine governor friend, will give this a fair review and doesn’t exhibit unfair bias against a rural area like Teller.

The state had maybe the right idea at the outset of their stay-at-home and then safer-at-home orders to protect Colorado from the coronavirus surge. These social distancing and isolation policies worked on a state-wide basis, but they had some terrible economic and social fallouts.

And now, it appears Governor Jared Polis is trying to play politics too much by impressing his Democratic base (who want more restrictions) while not hurting the state economically. Forget it Jared, and stop watching CNN, which would prefer we reopen the country in the year 2025, with the lectures from Doctor Sanjay Gupta who could make a headache into a national crisis.

The state is now going bankrupt, or leaking serious billion-plus deficits. The state could certainly use that much-needed gaming revenue and other diminishing sales tax monies. Plus, many concerns are getting raised about how the state is now managing the coronavirus situation, with the governor changing his mind on certain reopening plans on an hourly basis.

The social distancing efforts have worked, and people are getting used to wearing masks. Locals have gotten a real healthy dose of area trails, and have spent ample time with their canine friends. That was one definite plus from the extended stay-at-home orders as we got acquainted with our neighborhood recreational treasures.

On the upside, I never realized how great the trail system is in  Green Mountain  Falls, despite living herfe for 20-plus years. Kudos to the GMF Trails Committee, as it is amazing what that group has achieved with a hiking network that rivals anything in any community in Colorado.

Also, many of us never appreciated the opportunity to finally get hair-cuts and fashion upgrades again and not look like rejects from the Woodstock festival. I was told by one staffer that I looked like I attended one too many Grateful Dead concerts. That probably was an understatement.

And last week, a few of us got a chance to Zoom out on Zoom and attend the first in-person county meeting, with a Teller commissioners’ gathering. Talk about a healthy change, and the opportunity to see  people in person and have real interchange. These virtual settings are really hard for public input.

In all seriousness, the variance package put together by the county is quite impressive, spelling out a great argument for reopening the county and placing the onus on where it belongs: personal responsibility and good business practices.

For the first time in years, this variance push is one issue that has truly united our fine high country village. It almost brings back memories of the original campaign to bring limited stakes gaming to Cripple Creek.

Last week, two protests were held, along with a fairly emotional commissioners’ meeting. The same theme was conveyed at every occasion:  Now is the time to reopen Teller County.

No one believes business as usual will resume, as the rules of operation will definitely change, especially for casinos, bars and restaurants.

But as former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura once said, we don’t need stupid rules for stupid people. Of course, Jesse was referring at the time to idiots in Minnesota who drove their vehicles onto lakes that weren’t quite frozen.

But the same argument could be made about continual rules to protect people from plain stupidity.

It seems now that the continual reign of restrictions is colliding with common sense. The rules suggested in the county’s recent variance request for casinos, gyms and churches make plenty of sense and could become a model for the state to follow. They are anything but loose.

Now, is the time to reopen Teller County. Or, at least give us the chance to reopen and determine our own destiny.