At WCC we believe environmental, economic and social justice are connected, which is why we focus on campaigns that promote equity and the physical and economic of health of people as we fight to protect the environment that makes the Western Slope such a special place to live.
As John Muir said, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything in the universe.”
Good jobs and healthy communities are embedded in our campaigns around mining, clean energy and agriculture, but we also do work that focuses specifically on building just communities. We know that economic and social stability are keys to a healthy environment.
- Make sure that people who work in Ouray County can afford to live in Ouray County.
- Ensure that Ouray County remains a diverse and inclusive community that includes people from all walks of life.
Beginning in 2016, ROCC’s campaign has definitely started a vigorous conversation as evidenced by:
- numerous articles in the local newspaper,
- a robust discussion of the topic during a candidate forum for County Commissioner,
- serious discussions in Ridgway government about possible higher density zoning areas for such housing,
- first-ever appropriation of money (though not nearly enough) by all three government entities toward affordable housing, and
- the Ouray County Housing Authority meeting regularly after four years of not meeting at all. ROCC members are attending these meetings, as well as those of planning commissions and town councils, in order to keep the conversation going.
As reported in the Ouray County Plaindealer, Ridgway Mayor John Clark echoed the sentiment of the ROCC Social Justice Committee when he said the public attitude toward affordable housing needs to change. “We are going to have to have heart-wrenching, soul-searching discussions about what this means and how, really, we have to realize that the only way [this community] is going to keep its character and what we all love about it is if…all walks of life can live here.” Hear, hear!
Background: A 2011 regional and Ouray County needs assessment identified affordable housing as a problem. In that assessment 30% of households were living in unaffordable housing.
- Forty employees of the Ridgway School District live outside of Ouray County.
- The staff critical to keeping the power on for San Miguel Power Association live in Montrose County, necessitating needless delay in the event of a significant power outage.
- People in the tourist service industry in Ouray were still commuting from Montrose, but now on the icy roads of winter as well as on the heavily traveled roads of summer.
However, the pressure of the issue, including some pressure applied by the ROCC Social Justice Committee, pushed the governments into providing a base funding for the housing authority of $6,000 at the end of 2016. While this is a start, even members of the Housing Authority recognize that an amount of money much larger than that will be required before the it can begin to be truly effective in providing affordable housing.