This month marks the one-year anniversary of me taking over as the south metro editor for Colorado Community Media. These are 11 newspapers spanning over Arapahoe and Douglas counties and, to some degree, Elbert County.
I say to some degree because we have a great member of our staff, Scott Gilbert, who deserves credit for going above and beyond as he took Elbert County duties to a high level this year. Let’s put him and his work with freelancer, Chancy Gatlin-Anderson, in the good column for all of 2022.
Beyond my office, as editor, I have seen a lot of great things happening throughout the Denver metro communities.
I continue to be thoroughly impressed with Littleton and the work the council and community do. It is a good community, setting a great example in many areas. Littleton’s council operates with the kind of forethought all our communities need.
I love their board that makes recommendations on the environment. To answer world problems, local work has to be done in our cities and towns. It’s not all about Washington all the time.
Another major example for Littleton is the fact that the city buys into the concept that affordable housing is in crisis mode right now and programs must be approved to move forward and keep working-class families in the communities. When a teacher cannot afford to live in the community in which they teach — it is a tragedy. When retail, restaurant and everyday workers are hard to find — a lack of affordable housing is the reason.
From supporting federal measures to creating their own programs locally, Littleton is thinking about sustainability, growth and stability. That is a good thing to have right now.
In Douglas County, affordable housing is becoming even more scarce. I think Parker Chamber CEO T.J. Sullivan said it well when he brought up the fight against apartments and rentals. Without people working and living in our communities — they cease to function well.
One of my reporters recently talked about teachers in Douglas County driving through the metro area along I-25 and passing the neighboring district Cherry Creek knowing teachers there are paid more money. They drive past the higher-paying district to Douglas County where they make less to do the same job. That is not good and not worth it to that teacher.
I was surprised that both the district’s ballot measures to bring in more funding failed. If we continue to pay teachers like crap — we are going to keep losing the best teachers and quality is going to continue to decrease.
In the area of transparency — I have to say Castle Rock and Littleton are fantastic. Castle Rock creates websites that are informative, easy to maneuver and make me feel like they care if their citizens know what is happening.
Their staff is also top-notch. Led by Melissa Hoelting, Castle Rock’s communication operations are great. They are proactive and when asked for interviews, information and their time, they are receptive.
The same can be said for Littleton.
Now the bad — law enforcement. One of my pet peeves since joining the media in Colorado is that common response — “It’s under investigation.” I fully agree that information must be protected to do the work good detectives and police have to do. However, when the public information officer uses that “It’s under investigation” loophole to the point of abuse — I get completely frustrated.
The public’s right to know and the laws protecting that are there for a reason. When a police department says there is no further information and nothing further is happening with a case — I cannot really support the “It’s under investigation” response.
Trying to get information on the Charles Hay Elementary closing due to a potential threat in Englewood is a perfect example. Waiting and stalling to get the information we finally got is not necessary. Work with us — we work with you.
In Centennial and Arapahoe County I have loved watching the growth and commitment to dealing with homeless issues, even appointing someone to lead the efforts. I love it because this problem is not going away, cannot be ignored and cannot be shrugged off.
To end, I must say in regards to mental health issues facing our area and nation — it’s a mixed bag. In Douglas County the program is fantastic. Seeing Community Response Teams up close — I love the work and goals they have.
Arapahoe County is also following suit and improving mental health response operations.
However, after participating in the Douglas County Youth Congress program this year, I can say — we are not doing enough. These teenagers spoke honestly about counselors being paid but not really listening, about fears of even speaking up and about all the stress and pressure they face without an outlet.
We have to continue the work to do better, since 2023 is now here.
Thelma Grimes is the south metro editor for Colorado Community Media.