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“The Colorado Blueprint”, the bottom-up economic development plan that Governor John Hickenlooper campaigned on and prominently mentioned in his inauguration speech doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it does seek to better market it. The blueprint, which was released yesterday, is the foremost initiative of Hickenlooper’s first year in office. It’s a broad scheme that relies heavily on conceptual changes to the way that government interacts with business statewide. The plan lays out objectives for regulatory reform, opening gateways to financing for businesses, tailoring education to demands in the workforce and boosting the state’s appeal as a relocation site for employers. Input from each of Colorado’s 64 counties and dozens of public meetings that began last January about what government currently does to help business and to hurt it gelled into regional plans. Those areas where consensus exists throughout Colorado became the building blocks of the statewide plan. The blueprint has six basic goals: create a business-friendly environment; recruit, grow and retain businesses; increase access to capital; create and market the Colorado brand; educate and train the workforce of the future; and cultivate innovation and technology.

Mike Blenden of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who submitted a report in absentia yesterday to the Rio Grande Water Conservation District meeting in Alamosa, called the Baca National Wildlife Refuge “dry as toast”. Others who reported to the water district board yesterday echoed similar sentiments. Ken Watts with the U.S. Geological Survey said some of the wells in the USGS monitoring network had ceased flowing this year. District manager Steve Vandiver said San Luis Lake was so low that “We are not able to pump at the pumping plant anymore”. He said the lake level has dropped significantly, and the streams that feed the lake are dry including Big Spring Creek. Colorado Division of Water Resources Division III Engineer Craig Cotten shared a report with the RGWCD board yesterday similar to the one he gave to the Rio Grande Roundtable water group last week, which reflected changes in estimated annual flows on the Rio Grande and Conejos River systems resulting in higher obligations to downstream states and subsequently higher curtailments of ditches this irrigation season. Cotton said he hopes the curtailments won’t have to be adjusted any higher.

Stressing that Washington needs to start spending within its means like American families and businesses, Representative Scott Tipton called for a common sense, balanced approach to the debt ceiling and spending problem. Tipton said that this is not a democrat or republican issue, but an American issue. Tipton said we have an opportunity to cut, cap and balance, and to chart a sustainable course in this country, rather than just cut and run. The Cut, Cap and Balance Act of 2011 seeks to cut $111 billion in spending in FY2012 and $5.8 trillion over the next ten years, cap federal spending to under 20% of GDP by 2017, and pass a balanced budget amendment for passage by the states. While house republicans have passed a budget, and put forward solutions to curb Washington’s runaway spending and prevent Medicare and Social Security from going bankrupt, the president and senate democrats have not yet proposed any plan.

The Spanish Peaks Arts Council in La Veta opened its doors for the 24 outstanding clay artists of the Clay Continuum VI on July 19th and runs through August 20th. The official opening reception will take place this Saturday, July 23rd, from 5 to 7pm. This juried exhibition marks the 6th year in a series of gallery showings devoted only to works of art in clay produced by artists from Colorado and New Mexico. For more information, call 719-742-3074 or visit www.spanishpeaksarts.org.

Branson, Colorado’s, Community Yard Sale will be held on Saturday, July 30th, from 9am to 3pm, on Highway 389 and at other spots around town. There will be thousands of books from 25 cents and up, clothing, housewares, this, that and the other. Come to shop, to swap, to treasure-hunt and to enjoy lunch from the grill. Sellers are welcome and there is no fee. Proceeds will benefit the Friends of Historic Branson, the old schoolhouse/church project and the Louden Community Library. Everyone is welcome.