Opinion | Erin Young: Listening to the voices of working-class people
Summit County commissioner District 3 unaffiliated candidate
- Occupation: Red Buffalo Coffee & Tea owner
- Years in Summit County: 25
- Family: Husband and son, age 7
- Civic involvement: Summit School District Board of Education, Colorado Association of School Boards board, Early Childhood Options board, Summit Chamber of Commerce chair, Minimum Wage Work Group member, Silverthorne Elementary dual language expansion volunteer
I am a Summit County local, and I am running for county commissioner. I have lived in the county since I was a child. I am a mother of a second grader and the wife of another lifelong Summit County local. I am not running on a political party’s platform; I am running on my community’s platform. While I have issues close at heart, my experiences speak louder than policy. I want to be elected to represent all of the voices and the needs of all of our community.
I attended University of Colorado Denver where I studied political science, public administration, environmental management policy and law. After university, I spent several years as a competitive skier and currently judge World Cups and other freeskiing events. In 2007, I was elected to the Summit School District Board of Education. During my two terms, I served as the vice president to the board and the representative on the Colorado Association of School Boards. I wrote the district policy on environmental stewardship and spearheaded the District Sustainability Management Plan. Additionally, I worked to increase solar panel installation and initiate the equal access programming. In 2010, I opened Red Buffalo Coffee & Tea, a community-oriented coffee shop focused on providing excellence in coffee, a welcoming atmosphere and a commitment to the environment. My business has won a multitude of awards including Best Small Business and Environmental Champion by the Summit Chamber of Commerce.
The COVID-19 pandemic changed everything we know and do. It forced businesses and nonprofits to make hard decisions about organizational efficiencies; every line item was cracked open and evaluated. Every program and contract had to prove its worth. But these are lessons Summit County government can learn from, too. These are practices that should be conducted on regular intervals to ensure transparency, responsibility and efficiency.
As a small-business owner, I have been involved in several work groups with the county. These ad hoc work groups are meeting in response to legislation or crisis, thus placing the county in reactive positions and out of touch with regular needs of the working community. Like other candidates, I believe an economic and business advisory group will allow the county to have a proactive response to the needs of its unique businesses and workers. I rarely see a service worker or tradesman in the county work groups. This group should have representatives from not just business owners and CEOs, but from workers across industry and cultural groups.
As someone who has had to work three or more jobs to afford rent, I understand the challenges facing the working class. To be more effective and support the whole community, economic action needs to include these voices. We debate attainable housing or minimum wage plans, but at no time are the beneficiaries of these programs present in the discussion. This is not just limited to working-class voices, but the voices of our growing diverse population. Twenty years ago, my sister and I were two of four Asian kids at Summit High School. Since then, the number of Asian families in the community has increased. This is an example of how we are changing. We have different faces, different cultures and different voices. When we omit voices from the table, we have only partial solutions and less effective results. Effort needs to be more targeted and adjusted to fit the needs of these groups to ensure the inclusivity of their voices.
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People reside in and visit Summit County because of our spectacular outdoors. Clean water, ample powder and intense wildflowers are top-selling drivers in our economic tool box. We need to not only protect our environment, but increase marketing campaigns that encourage our visitors to do the same. Additionally, we should reconsider our recent dependency on using county open space and federal land for continued development. I believe that we can find more innovative development and building options that make use of developed sites versus converting irreplaceable open space into buildings and mining operations. We need to strengthen our commitments to waste diversion and energy alternatives. We need to make it understandable and accessible for residents and visitors to use. I want to ensure that the community I leave for my son will be just as magnificent as the one I inherited.
Erin Young is an unaffiliated candidate for Summit County commissioner in District 3.
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