Forum addresses tough conversations

By Annette Brand

In opening the third land use community forum, held at Paonia Town Hall, Elyse Casselberry, the county's community and economic development director, noted that Delta County is made up of six diverse communities.

"We need to hear from all voices, listen to all voices, listen to the 'me-versus-you' conversations, the 'my rights- versus-your rights' conversations," Casselberry said.

"We are setting a new foundation for how Delta County makes changes.

"Delta County is a great place to live. We have been told to expect 2 percent growth for the next several years. We want to plan for opportunities for today's children to stay in Delta County, or come back to Delta County after they have been away for higher education," she said

Casselberry introduced the governmental panel for the evening discussions: Angela Mackey, chairman of the Delta County Planning Commission, Mary Hockenbery, Hotchkiss trustee, and Chelsea Bookout, Paonia trustee.

Members of Delta High School LULAC, described as "an amazing group of young people," helped with the

discussions. LULAC facilitators Noeli Castro and Miriam Aleman were accompanied by their adult sponsor, Heather Chavez.

Ann Morgenthauler, assistant city manager in Montrose, presented outcomes from the civility project carried out by Montrose City Council and Montrose County Commissioners in 2016.

Morgenthauler said ugly problems had developed between the two groups,and they worked to be able to communicate in a more respectful and effective way.

Civility enables more input to decisions and results in better informed decision making, both groups recognized.

In working together to find better solutions to difficult problems, the commissioners and council members developed nine tools for civility -- pay attention, listen, be inclusive, don't gossip, show respect, be agreeable, apologize, give constructive criticism and take responsibility.

The panel members gave examples of what they were most thankful for, as well as the disadvantages of living in Delta County.

To help people feel their contributions are being heard, Bookout advised, "Make sure someone knows they were heard. Say, 'I heard you. Thank you for sharing'."

Hockenberry replied, "Start with listening with respect."

Mackey said, "Remember to try to share feelings and concerns, listen with mind and heart."

LULAC members conducted a survey among the people at their tables. In their surveys they discovered many people felt that often their ideas and concerns were not heard. Among suggestion to make sure all people are heard were: judge on actions, not words ... honesty is the foundation of any relationship ... golden rule ... learning what changes people's opinions ... put pride aside when it comes to civility ... trust, respect, humility.

Delta County Commissioner Mike Lane thanked everyone for coming out, especially the young people. "We will be having difficult conversations about the land use regulations. The community needs to have constructive conversations so we can satisfy as many people as we can. We will settle the dust on what everyone can do," Lane said.

The next land use community forum will be held Thursday, April 25, at the Technical College of the Rockies in Delta and is entitled "Planning 101."

Casselberry said, "In May or early June meetings will be held to share what we are coming up with. We'll have maps and we will really start listening."