Letter: The child care situation
Dylan Anderson’s recent in-depth articles on the child care crisis in Routt County make for some bleak, but important, reading. The things that a society chooses to prioritize — truly prioritize, not just discuss and say are important — reveal its true values. Our collective values look pretty unimpressive right now.
We have agreed as a society that things like police, firefighting and education are public goods and will be provided by the government for the benefit of its constituents. These departments aren’t expected to turn a profit or support their own operations financially. We always find a way for them to have the necessary employees, facilities, equipment and funding to operate. This is because they’re essential to a healthy, prosperous society, and so we are glad to support them with tax revenue.
Why is child care any different?
While I would never intend to denigrate the hard work that our elected officials have put in on this challenging issue, I found many of the obstacles noted in their comments to be deeply solvable.
Don’t have land for a child care center? Buy some. There are endless vacant or underused parcels in and around Steamboat Springs. Or consolidate operations in existing public buildings and use the freed-up space for child care. The courthouse downtown could be a great option; the Howelsen Hill lodge is mostly unused in the summer. Get creative and stop finding roadblocks everywhere you look.
Participate in The Longevity Project
The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
Construction could take years, and even so, workers have nowhere to live? Immediately declare a public emergency: Issue an order that construction companies operating in town have to prioritize the timelines of certain types of essential projects over discretionary private ones. Or bring in prefab buildings and plop them down. Let’s go.
No workers? Pay actually competitive salaries for these important and challenging jobs, to attract and retain qualified employees.
How do we pay for all this? The same way we pay for police, firefighting and other education — taxes. Levies on hotel rooms, vacation rentals and second homes could be structured in a way that is legal and provides the revenue needed to support the workers on which that tourism-driven economy depends, which includes child care workers.
This won’t be easy. But if we truly care, and I really hope we do, this is solvable with the proper resolve from our elected officials.
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On Tuesday, Peak Health Alliance, a nonprofit, locally-led insurance purchasing alliance, gave a presentation to the Routt County commissioners. We attended the meeting (remotely), and this is what we learned: