Routt County commissioners: Newspapers safeguard public liberty
In 1789, on the eve of the outbreak of the French Revolution, Thomas Jefferson, who was living in Paris serving as Minister to France, wrote a letter to his friend Edward Carrington. In that letter, Jefferson wrote if he had to choose between “a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
Jefferson further observed that the people are the only censors of their governors and the only way the people can oversee their governors is through the channel of public papers. Jefferson writes the very basis of our government is the opinion of the people, and that if every citizen has full information of the affairs of their government and is capable of reading them, that will be the best safeguard of the public liberty. Both as citizens and as public servants, we have observed these statements by Jefferson to be true.
Many important things happen at the local level of government and community life. In fact, county government may be the level of government that citizens notice the least, but it touches their lives the most.
Every day, Routt County residents drive and bike on their county roads on their way to school and work. Frequently,residents will visit the historic county courthouse to record a property deed, obtain a marriage certificate or renew their license plates. Occasionally, people need to call law enforcement for help or visit the courthouse for a criminal or civil proceeding.
Each year,residents receive a property tax notice from the county assessor and remit taxes to the county treasurer. If you eat in a restaurant in Routt County, it has been inspected by the Routt County Environmental Health Department. Many Routt County citizens fly in and out of the Yampa Valley Regional Airport, which is operated by county government.
Residents in several of our rural communities actually rely on county government to provide water and waste water services. Residents struggling through hard times or faced with the high cost of living in our county can access the Human Services Department for food assistance, child care assistance and old age assistance. If you ever need to call 911 or, like many county residents experienced this past summer when faced with large wildfires, county emergency management in conjunction with other local governmental entities like the sheriff and your fire districts were there to respond.
County government touches our lives every day but often the media we consume only covers issues occurring at the federal or state levels that, on a day-to-day basis, do not impact our lives nearly to the extent that ubiquitous local government does. We’ve come to believe that the most impactful government is occurring in Washington, D.C., but democracy being played out on a daily basis where citizens can have immediate, impactful influence is happening at the local level.
The Steamboat Pilot & Today serves as the public paper that Jefferson wrote so forcefully about in 1789. Without our local paper, Routt County residents would have access only to fragmented and unverified information about local government resulting in a breakdown of the pact between the governed, the governors and the public papers.
The Steamboat Pilot & Today provides accurate and timely information to Routt County residents about local government safeguarding a state of affairs where the “governors” served the “governed.” We ask you to join us in recognizing the importance of our local paper, the Steamboat Pilot & Today, during Colorado Journalism Week.
Tim Corrigan, Cari Hermacinski and Doug Monger serve as Routt County’s commissioners.
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