During a noontime lunch sponsored by the Regional Business Alliance, County Commission Chairwoman Amy Lathen delivered a “State of the Region” speech to more than four hundred attendees.
At 4,099 words, the address was only 444 words less than the United States Constitution.
Lathen began by noting that “For all of us who live and work in El Paso County – this was truly a year like no other because the Waldo Canyon Fire was an event like no other. It was the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history. Two people lost their lives, neighborhoods were destroyed, 30,000 of us were displaced, our summer tourists changed their plans and our hearts were broken as we watched the angry flames come over the ridgeline and into the city.”
She described in some detail the tragic events, and gave an hour-by-hour account of the County’s response to the quickly unfolding emergency. Interestingly, she made only passing mention of the city’s efforts to contain the blaze, and omitted any mention of President Obama’s visit to the city. The president wasn’t the only missing person – Mayor Steve Bach and the Forest Service’s Jeri Marr were similarly ignored.
Asked why she didn’t mention Bach, Lathen looked slowly around the room.
“I didn’t mention anyone else,” she said, “and I don’t think the Mayor is here. If he comes, of course I’ll recognize him, just as we’ll recognize every other elected official.”
Lathen noted with satisfaction that the business community had supported both the PPRTA extension and Issue 1A.
“Issue 1A came about with little time” she said, “without the benefit of a well organized committee to put out press releases and hammer in yard signs. There was no real budget for advertising, but it passed because of the leadership and support from the business community and citizens who recognize:
– That safety and security is a core function of county government – serving all citizens of this county including all of our municipalities
– That one deputy watching over 100 inmates in our jail isn’t enough
– That one deputy, on a dangerous call, with no back up isn’t acceptable
– And that Sheriff Terry Maketa wouldn’t be asking if it wasn’t necessary.”
Lathen gave a shout-out to the Regional Business Alliance and UCCS for “…bringing together U.S. Senators McCain, Graham and Ayotte to discuss the damage that would be done to both our national security and local economic viability if the current budget battle in Washington is not resolved.”
She also gave a nod to the many volunteers who help the county, including the goats who graze on noxious weeds in Bear Creek Park.
In closing, she summed up her philosophy as an elected official.
“You’ve heard me say this before – and I promise I’ll say it again – none of us in government can create jobs. CEOs, mom and pops, entrepreneurs – everyone in the private sector – they are the job creators. Government can either support their efforts or get in the way. Here in El Paso County, we know our place and we choose to support the private sector and human liberty and then get out of the way.”