Some words from Marsha

To the editor,

I am running for La Plata County Commissioner. I am prepared to serve our citizens on day one because I have extensive experience in issues the county deals with every single day, from land use to budgets to transportation. I am ready to get to work because my career as a facilitator and mediator has given me the skills needed to bring people together to find solutions. I am also ready because, before developing a platform, I conducted 50 “Listening Sessions” at a kitchen table in Hesperus, a living room in Vallecito, a home in Hermosa, and in meeting places all over the county. Here is what I learned: making it here is tremendously hard for young people due to low wages, housing costs and a lack of diverse jobs. Next, the land use code and planning processes need to be continually improved and trust must be restored in our land planning systems. People said they are sick of partisanship and bickering. And, because of the pandemic, people told me about their high levels of anxiety about their health, businesses and kids’ educations. What binds us together is that we love it here. We love the land, water, people and community. Each of us, though, is concerned that if we are not thoughtful, our county may become unrecognizable in the future. 

With tremendous growth predicted (73,000 in nine years!), we have to look to the future. First, we need a countywide plan for affordable housing. I will lead an effort to develop an action strategy. It needs to place more tools in the tool kit, lay out action-able projects and have measurements. This has to go beyond talk to actual housing.      

Next, the new Land Use Code went into effect Oct. 1.  It’s easy to take pot shots at the new code, which my opponent does. It’s another thing, given the tremendous amount of time and energy expended to bring the code to passage, to give it a chance to succeed and improve where necessary. We need smart growth and equitable funding for infrastructure. The code needs to help small businesses but also protect neighborhoods and avoid sprawl. 

I am the only candidate who has named “renewable energy” as a priority. Our County should participate in the energy revolution in solar, wind, hydro, battery storage, etc.  The truth is, the renewable energy sector worldwide is doing quite well. Why shouldn’t we benefit from this? The County could play a role in making buildings and fleets more energy efficient. We should team up with solar companies on County-owned roofs. We should train our youth for jobs in this sector. How can these opportunities translate to jobs, farmers and ranchers having another source of income, educational opportunities and the like? 

Did you know that much of what the County does is basic: plowing roads, keeping people safe, offering essential programs, funding public health, etc. I will work tirelessly for basic services and will standup for safety-net programs for seniors, families, kids and veterans.   

I will protect public lands because they are under attack. My background for the last 14 years has focused on this area. I will stand up for clean air and water and will strengthen partnerships with state and federal agencies who manage our natural resources.

Diversifying our economy to work for everyone is my priority. We can do this through finding locations for light/clean manufacturing, supporting value-added and sustainably harvested timber products, helping agriculture stay strong, shoring up broadband and keeping our leading-edge airport strong.   

This race isn’t about how long I’ve been here. It’s about what I’ve done while living here. I believe my background as a mediator of public issues (tough ones!) is much better suited to the responsibilities of commissioner than my opponent’s. And, I think you cannot fix a problem you do not see. We moved here in 1994 with a modest bank account and our dreams. This place has been good to us. I am now ready to take this experience and put it to work for you. Vote like your future depends on it, because it does. Visit: MarshaPorterNorton.com

– Marsha Porter-Norton, candidate, La Plata County commissioner