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Durangoan goes to Washington, D.C.

Bill protecting Hermosa watershed gives resident hope for nation’s capital
Marsha Porter-Norton poses before she heads into the annual Colorado Capitol Conference, where about 100 Coloradans will participate in discussions with elected officials, academic leaders, journalists and other prominent thinkers and opinion-makers in Washington during the next two days. Porter-Norton applied after seeing a newspaper ad.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Every year, about 100 Coloradans are selected to go to the District of Columbia for the state’s annual Capitol Conference. This year, Durango’s Marsha Porter-Norton is one of them.

Porter-Norton humbly articulated the ideals guiding her work as a neutral facilitator of public processes and her attendance at the conference before heading into the reception dinner.

“I know it sounds kind of high-minded or high and mighty, but we have to know what’s going on back here and make relationships with elected officials, so they know that we are just everyday people out there, and here’s what we’re experiencing,” Porter-Norton said.

She acknowledged Congress’ all-time low approval rating but also that politics are how things get done. Her faith and interest in the national legislative process were most recently renewed at the end of last year with the passing into law of the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act.

After two years, the local working group Porter-Norton was facilitating had come up with a solution that would require federal legislation.

“Some people were like, that’s never going to happen,” she said. “Well, it happened.”

Colorado Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner organized the conference, and they are hosting Wednesday evening’s reception.

“I am excited to welcome my fellow Coloradans to Washington for the Colorado Capital Conference,” Gardner said. “This conference puts attendees in close touch with the elected officials and opinion-makers who make and influence national policy and gives them a chance to learn about how Washington works. It also gives those elected officials and influencers a chance to hear the real concerns and ideas of Coloradans and fosters a better dialogue between people in our state and leaders in the capital.”

The conference runs from opening events Wednesday through Friday. Events include panel discussions, speeches, question-and-answer sessions and tours of both the U.S. Capitol and the Supreme Court.

“Events like these give us another opportunity to hear from people we represent and learn more about what’s most important to them,” Bennet said. “After all, the best ideas for Colorado don’t come from Washington; they come from Coloradans.”

mbaksh@durangoherald.com. Mariam Baksh is a student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Durango Herald.

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