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Opinion: Marta Loachamin--An Afterthought Again: Colorado in Disasters

This past week The United States and Colorado began to acknowledge how systemic problems rooted in our country’s racist past have led to a disproportionate number of Latinx and African American populations are suffering and dying from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Typewriter opinion
Photo by Alexa Mazzarello on Unsplash

This content was originally published by the Longmont Observer and is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

Marta Loachamin
Candidate for Boulder County Commissioner District 2

This past week The United States and Colorado began to acknowledge how systemic problems rooted in our country’s racist past have led to a disproportionate number of Latinx and African American populations are suffering and dying from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Boulder County, many of us are not shocked that our communities are making headline news. It has been almost seven years after our last major natural disaster.  Twelve years after our last Recession. Eighteen years after 9/11. And a ton of history before that indicates economic and health disparities in all major community issues. There have been studies and discussion highlighted even this week, one in the Denver Post quoted Jill Husaker-Ryan, executive director of the state’s health department, as saying “We know that social and health care inequities affect outcomes, and that becomes even more apparent in times of disaster. There have been generations of institutionalized barriers to things like preventive medical care, healthy food, safe and stable housing, quality education, reliable transportation and clear air.”

As the saying goes “The more things change the more they stay the same.”

In 2016, three years after the tragedy of the 2013 Boulder County flood I was hired to coordinate a data assessment for the State of Colorado, Division of Local Affairs (DOLA) determining where gaps and barriers existed between monolingual Spanish speaking community residents of Boulder County to their local government, institutions and agencies.  That data from local community members clearly indicated barriers and community recommendations to be more inclusive and show value in tangible ways to folks in our community who had been previously overlooked. The data specifically identified lack of trust of local government as the number one barrier.

I realized this late response and collection of data was an afterthought.  It was 3 years after the tragedy lapsed before our county or state government decided to look into how communities of color were impacted by the flood and hire a cultural broker, connected to the local community,  to tell them where the inequalities existed.

The larger question for Boulder County voters is how will our institutions choose to conquer these issues of systemic racism?  Who is missing in the decision making rooms? Where are the voices of the most affected? Eco-Justice requires that everyone be invited, heard and valued in our systems to address all the major issues of environment, climate, housing, education and so on.  The vital work of diversity, equity and inclusion requires people of color in our community to be employed as leaders, our experiences valued when programming is developed, our international connections be elevated and incorporated when planning begins. Together we will develop solutions never seen before- they have to be new as we have never lived in an equitable world! We know better and we must do better, for ALL in our community. 

That is the work I plan to lead as the next Boulder County District 2 commissioner. This June Boulder County voters can demand tangible change to initiate the hard work of undoing systemic racism/inequity and begin to build an equitable system.  We have an opportunity to restructure trust for and with our local government. COVID-19 is uncovering the layers of social determinants of health that must be addressed as we move forward. We cannot afford to leave any sector of our community behind, as an afterthought, in 2020.

Marta Loachamin

Longmont Resident