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Weekly Article from the Gilpin County Manager, Roger Baker

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County Corner, December 31, 2015
By Roger Baker

When I was researching some of the other grants Gilpin County has received from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (and despite our disagreements about the Gaming Impact Grant Program, DOLA has a number of other programs which we sometimes utilize), I ran across a legal notice in a newspaper from 1986.

The short notice was about a public hearing for a Community Development Block Grant through something called the “Smart Cities” program, and the money mostly went to the Clear Creek Economic Development Corporation.

What particularly caught my eye, though, was the column immediately adjacent to the notice in the newspaper, titled “It’s Almost Like Christmas,” and written “by Roger Baker, Gilpin County Library Director.”

I come across such blasts from the past occasionally, but this one was particularly timely not just because of its caption, but because it reminded me that New Year’s Day, 2016, will mark 30 years since I started with the Gilpin County Public Library.

That started me thinking not only about the changes the Library has experienced in those 30 years (and they have been huge), but the changes in the County as well. And as is often the case when I examine such occurrences, I began looking at some numbers to put things in perspective.

In this case, I noted that the column 30 years ago was much shorter than the ones I write today — probably about half the length. So I’ve apparently become much more verbose than I was 30 years ago (though not nearly as wordy as the current Library Director, I must say).

And since my current pieces in this newspaper run about 600 words, these old ones — written over the 10 years I was Library Director — would have added up to about 150,000 words. By comparison, the book I wrote about the City of Black Hawk — which wasn’t a small book, by any means — was around 135,000 words.

That in turn started me wondering about my more recent output. Since I’ve been writing this column from the time when I started as County Manager, about 12 ½ years ago, that would mean another 350,000 words, more or less — another couple of good-sized tomes.

Surprisingly, coming up with material is rarely difficult; the County is a large organization, with lots of things happening — many of which can benefit from some explanation or clarification.

Of course writing about the goings-on at the Library was always a little easier; when there weren’t events to publicize, there were always new books to review. And as long as I didn’t take any positions that were too controversial — complaining about a particular writer’s style rarely raised anyone’s hackles — the columns were usually pretty unobjectionable.

Writing about County activities, policies or goals, however, is somewhat more complicated. I am sometimes trying to explain decisions made by Commissioners who may not agree on everything among themselves, much less with all the other elected officials. Even unanimous votes can mask significant policy differences. And there’s a fine line between an explanation and a rationalization — just as there is between governance and politics.

That 30-year-old legal notice was a good example of why I have written these columns for all these years; it might have met the statutory requirements for such notifications (albeit in very tiny type), but it really didn’t help folks understand what was actually being proposed — much less why, and what the implications might be.

It benefits all of us in Gilpin County when discussions about events — whether past or future — can be based on all the relevant information about the issues, and it’s hard to get that in a bland notice written in legalese and buried in the back of the newspaper.

Democracy works better when we all know what’s really going on…